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Devils execs join event staff for a night

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils
Left to Right: Adam Davis, Brad Shron, Danielle Zulauf, Jim Leonard. Photo by Courtney Gfroerer

Devils leadership took a walk on the event side before the team’s January 30 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. As Prudential Center opened its doors on a cold winter’s night, four executives dressed in event-night uniforms stood waiting with warm smiles, ready to welcome patrons.

The experience is called the “Ritz Rotation.” During the 2014 offseason, Prudential Center and the Devils partnered with the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center —the first NHL team to do so— to educate employees about how the world’s leader in customer service treats its visitors and creates a guest-first culture.

Following the three-day seminar, in which 500 employees participated, Prudential Center and Devils management created the “Ritz Rotation” as a way for executives to experience first-hand what a typical game-night employee goes through as the Devils prepare to take the ice.

On their way to orientation, the executives – Adam Davis, executive vice president, corporate partnerships; Brad Shron, executive vice president and general counsel; Jim Leonard, senior vice president, community investment; and Danielle Zulauf, vice president, event marketing – talked about their excitement to meet more members of the game-night staff and put their Ritz training to work.

Walking down the PNC Tower stairs, the Ritz Rotation execs head to the pre-game staff rally. Photo by Courtney Gfroerer

They would soon learn their roles for the night and only one job caused any hesitation among the team. “I’m rooting to not stand at the doors,” Davis said, thinking about the night’s frigid temperature.

After being escorted through security, the team got its uniforms for the night, and headed to the Mulberry and Edison entrance – PNC Tower – for orientation and participation in the game-night staff’s pregame rally.

The team first ran into trouble at dress code inspection. Leonard’s grey pants were not black, Zulauf wore heels instead of flats, and Davis and Shron’s shoes violated the code’s strict plain black instructions.

“Shoes are very important,” Shron quipped, thinking he was in the clear. The inspectors thought otherwise, pointing out the small grey buckle atop each foot, a clear infringement.

The executives then got the assignment they feared; ticket-taking at the doors. Armed with scanners, hand-warmers and bright red overcoats, each executive manned a lane as Devils fans entered.

Leonard’s scanner became temperamental early on, but he earned high marks from his supervisor for his enthusiastic engagement with some international fans as he tried to make the scanner work and eventually waited for a replacement. “The Finish gentleman, it was his first NHL game and he wanted to come see the Devils.”

Joking and jabbing, Event Staff pick apart Davis' dress code troubles. Everyone had at least one violation, and in Davis' case, it was non-black shoes. Photo by Courtney Gfroerer

A few doors down, Davis joked with Pittsburgh fans, asking them how much they would cheer for the Devils or telling them they were at the wrong game. “I told about 30 different Pittsburgh fans ‘you know the Penguins game is tomorrow night, right?’”

Near the end of the shift, Zulauf moved over to the VIP entrance to get a different ticket scanning experience. “You have different kinds of questions…and people who are here for the first time,” Zulauf said. “You have to know exactly what fans are going to ask and you have to be one step ahead with your answers.”

Ultimately, it was an invaluable educational opportunity. “I learned that next time I would wear black gloves and thicker socks…and I think our fans are pretty friendly people,” Davis said. “The best part is the fan interaction.”

“I think what’s most important is learning every part of the business…” Leonard said. “Because if you’re really part of the family, you know all about what your family members do. I think I have a better appreciation for what our line staff does every game.”

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