It wasn’t a breakaway attempt or an empty net, but Paige Bednorz is now living her dream in Kelowna after deking through some adversity for the better.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen more and more women working in sports, something that is long overdue as sports is usually a male-dominated industry. But Bednorz has been one of the women helping change as the Kelowna Rockets’ communications and social media director since the start of the 2018-19 season.
“That was always my dream, to work in hockey,” said Bednorz, who also had the dream of a career in radio.
After graduating high school in Edmonton in 2011, Bednorz went to Dodge City Community College in Kansas on a golf scholarship starting with a sports management major, but changed her path after the first semester. In 2013, she graduated college with her Broadcasting and Mass Communications associates degree.
Radio wasn’t happening for Bednorz, who tried for three and a half years everywhere, but just couldn’t get her foot in the door. It was during that time that social media started to really take off, as more people were joining sites, creating accounts, and sharing videos with their friends. Because of that, Bednorz started to weigh her options, and found out that the Rockets offer internships for their communications positions. She had a friend that had completed the internship with the team and had family living in town, so she decided to take her chance.
In late 2016, she emailed the Rockets communications person at the time, Kevin Parnell, who replied saying they were full at the time but could use an intern for January 2017. She accepted and worked that month for the team before being hired to a local marketing agency. While at the agency, Bednorz said she learned the ropes of social media, marketing and more without having to go back to school.
Before the 2018 season, she saw the position had opened for the Rockets to be the full time communications representative. Bednorz applied and was hired, and has been with the team since.
“They just went to the Memorial Cup, and I was so ecstatic to join the team,” said Bednorz.
For the last five seasons, including going through a cut-off season and a shortened season, Bednorz has been the person who puts together the team’s news releases and notes as well as growing the team’s social media accounts.
“If it’s an off day, sometimes I’m just creating content around the team to give people a better idea of the personalities [on the team], and other days it’s doing press releases and getting things ready for the game and doing the rosters and the lineups,” said Bednorz. “It’s a variety of different things just because it is really two positions pushed into one with the communications and the content side.”
Creating content is something every team and organization has had to do for a long time now, but it’s the most prevalent it’s ever been with social media and the ability to have news at our fingertips the second it breaks, or to show our friends a video whenever we want to.
“This position didn’t exist when I graduated from high school in 2011,” said Bednorz. “If I had to choose between radio and this right now, I would definitely choose this cause at that time, it was only radio and television.”
The social media shift changes everyday, and Bednorz said she really noticed a change during the pandemic.
“I think there’s been a massive shift in things since the pandemic started just because how much TikTok has taken off,” said Bednorz. “The way I edit videos is not the way I did it when I started this job.”
Social media is about engaging with fans and giving them an inside look at the players and what goes on around the team, which Bednorz executes with ease, especially with the team’s TikTok account. She makes videos with the players regularly, from asking them random questions, to having them mic’d up at school visits, to grocery store challenges. Since late November, three of the team’s TikTok’s have ‘gone viral’ with more than a million views each.
“I think it’s cool because it gives people an idea of what our players personalities are like outside of wearing a hockey helmet and chasing a puck on the ice,” said Bednorz. “On the flip side of it, I went to school in the States, and I was away from home, and I’m incredibly guilty of not texting my mom sometimes and I knew that these guys probably do the same thing. I’ve heard from parents that it’s nice to see them pop up on social media answering a question or interacting with kids at a school visit because they didn’t hear from them that day.”
With the number of women in sports growing immensely over the last few years, Bednorz is happy to pave the way, along with many others around the Western Hockey League.
“It’s cool being able to be in this position, and other people can see that there’s a lot of women around the league and it’s not as rare as what it used to be,” said Bednorz. “I don’t necessarily feel like a minority in the WHL just because there are so many women on a variety of different sides of it.”
Bednorz went on to mention Portland’s Operations Vice President Lisa Hollenbeck, Moose Jaw’s Coaching Assistant and Sales and Marketing Manager Olivia Howe, Tri-City’s Communications and Public Relations Director Mary Gates, and Victoria’s Senior Manager of Hockey Operations and Player Personnel Dara Festinger just to name a few around the league.
“We all know each other and I think it’s so cool that the next generation that’s coming up can see us in these roles,” said Bednorz. “I think it’s cool there’s a lot more people visible in these roles and that you can see they’re out there and that there is a place for you.”
Bednorz knows she went through a lot, and had to change her direction a little to achieve her dreams, but she knows to enjoy the moment everyday now that she’s here.
“It took me a while to get to where I am and I honestly never thought I was going to get the chance to work in hockey,” said Bednorz. “I’m so incredibly thankful for the opportunity the Hamilton family and the Rockets have given me to live out that dream.”