By: Dylan Rice (M.S. Sports Administration, Spring ’15, and current intern with MSG)
Justin Casserly, a 2013 graduate of Georgia State University’s Sports Administration program, always knew he wanted a career in hockey. He is now doing just that as the Manager of Event Presentation for the New York Rangers through the Madison Square Garden Company. From intermission activities to the music blaring through the loudspeakers of the legendary Garden, Casserly is the man behind it all. He also happens to be, at 25, the youngest manager in MSG history.
“Everything that you see that goes on during a game from the time the doors open until the final PA announcement is read, I direct all of that,” Casserly said of his current role. Casserly and his team work out a script of 130-160 elements of programming for every home game, and once the gates of the Garden open he dawns his headset and makes sure the script is executed as smoothly as possible. For this timing is everything. “The biggest thing is the time constraint of the TV timeout,” he stated. “You literally have two minutes so every single TV timeout I have a stopwatch, and I start it as soon as the light goes on. I need to make sure everything I do is fully executed within those two minutes.” While his responsibilities might seem overwhelming to some, he finds working these games to be a truly rewarding experience. He explained, “Overall the games are definitely the most fun, especially when you get to the playoffs. The fact that you are, in a way, controlling the crowd. You’re reading them, trying to see what’s going to best motivate them to rally behind the team.”
Casserly grew up in Florida where he fell in love with hockey at a young age. He remembered, “In 1993 the Florida Panthers were established, and a couple of years later in ’95 they’re making a run to the Stanley Cup Final. My dad is watching every single game. My brother and I were on the couch watching all the games with my dad, and as soon as the season was over my mom got us signed up for skating lessons. In a matter of week we were enrolled into a hockey league and never looked back.”
Casserly’s love for hockey continued into high school, where he attended Marist in metro Atlanta. He landed an internship with the Florida State University Information Office while attending FSU, where he decided to pursue a sports management degree. It was with the school’s club hockey team that Casserly was able to really shine at FSU. He took over as president of the team as a freshman only a month after joining. Once in office he helped the team evolve form a mediocre sports club to the most successful and respected club on campus. The hockey team began pulling in $30,000 a year in fundraising, and Casserly was able to acquire contracts for online video streaming, as well as radio streaming. He also gained a Nike sponsorship for the team, and merchandise sales began to rise. After this great experience at FSU, he knew he wanted to continue his education.
After months of research, Casserly decided Georgia State University’s Sports Administration program was a perfect fit for him. “I really wanted to broaden my network and see what other opportunities were available,” he remarked. “As much as I loved college sports, I knew I wanted to work in hockey, NHL. Atlanta was great because I went to high school there so I had some establishment there. They had the Thrashers, during the time I was applying. There’s a ton of college and professional teams all within a close area, and I just loved Atlanta.” Casserly also noted that the curriculum, as well as the professors, played a key role in his decision. He recognized names such as Dr. Brison and Dr. Pitts through their work at and with FSU, and he knew Dr. Cianfrone from her time at the University of Florida.
After a year with Georgia Tech’s Marketing Department, Casserly decided to shift his focus back to hockey exclusively and began coaching. Coaching and recruiting for one of the top youth teams in the state eventually led to an internship offer with the Rangers. Casserly headed north to spend his last semester of grad school working in New York City. During this period, he applied to new positions every day looking to find anything hockey related. He just so happened to get a call from his old boss with the Rangers saying a management position opened up. Casserly jumped at the opportunity. His hard work as an intern earned him a strong reputation, and the Rangers were glad to have him back full-time.
It was quite a remarkable journey for Casserly to get to this point in his career, and he urges young people looking for that big break into the sports industry to continue to exhibit patience. He attended the NHL Draft after moving back to New York, and had a chance to talk to longtime NHL executive Brian Burke, currently the president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames. After telling him a little bit about himself and asking for advice on getting into the sport on a managerial level, Burke told him that everyone involved in the industry can clearly remember their big break and how they got there. If you do the right things, that big break will come. Casserly experienced this firsthand when his old manager came calling and he thinks this is the key to making it in the sports world. “It’s being patient for that big break because it will happen. If you’re doing the right things it will happen to you.”
In addition to this patience and hard work, Casserly feels that networking is also huge for any sports professional. He said, “The network is so big. It’s so cliché, but nothing is truer than having a good network in the sports industry. It’s how you get further. It’s how you build relationships. And it’s how you can really establish yourself in the industry and continue to move up.” As he continues his work with the Rangers in the fast paced world of the NHL, he realizes there are no easy days. However, he relishes every challenge and enjoys the satisfaction of being dedicated to something he truly loves. He concluded, “When you’re working long days, nights, weekends it can really take a toll on you. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is as rewarding as people think it is once you’re a part of it, but you just have to be able to make the dedication to get there.”
Getting to Know Justin Casserly
Favorite Athlete Growing Up: Joe Sakic
Favorite Band: OAR
Favorite Thing to Do in NYC: Find a nice rooftop or beer garden
Favorite Food: Seafood
Favorite Movie: Forrest Gump