Amanda Zanghi, Director of Sponsorship and Ticket Sales for the Connecticut Whale

AMANDA ZANGHI: DIRECTOR'S CUT

All the fans in Cetacean Nation have noticed and appreciated the new sponsors and partners the Whale have added recently. As well as the loyal businesses that have re-upped with the team again this season. That doesn’t happen by accident, and the person responsible for that kind of growth and loyalty for the Pod is Amanda Zanghi. Amanda holds the position as the Whale Director of Ticket Sales and Sponsorship and we had the opportunity to chat with her recently. One of the first things we asked her involved our General Manager Amy Scheer. In our interview with Amy, she said of her hiring of Amanda :

 “So I brought on a woman by the name of Amanda Zanghi, and she is going to focus on revenue for us. Really the day to day of bringing in sponsors. Amanda did some work for the Whitecaps, so I feel like I won the lottery in getting her. I am beyond excited! We’ve had a couple of great meetings already, all of us trying to get to know each other under these bizarre circumstances (Covid) Amanda brings just such wonderful experience to us, we are so lucky to have her.”

We asked Amanda if she had seen Amy’s interview, and she replied

“That was super cool, I did notice that, I did get a chance to read that.. Amy is very open with us and the staff, and she noted that a couple of times, and I’m blushing right now just talking about it. But I am very flattered, and honestly I feel like I’m the one who hit the lottery. Because we really do have an amazing staff that she’s assembled and everything that the Whale have previously created and everything that Dani has done with the league, and how far they’ve come since the inception, it’s just incredible. So just being able to join the movement and be a part of moving this forward is really an honor.”

We had also noticed a passage Amanda had penned about herself, and thought it was quite remarkable: “My passion continues to elevate my vision and leads me on a journey where chasing greatness is consistent, and breaking ground is the norm.” So we asked her to expand upon that for us. She stated

“That’s on my Linkedin page, I really love that sentence. And if I’m really being honest, I wish I could say I crafted that myself word for word. But it was pieces that I read. I’m big on inspirational quotes, and I also love reading books, self-help, inspirational books. Just looking for new ideas and how to be more efficient with my time and how I can make a difference. So I was just piecing together some of the things that have grabbed me along the way. To me that sentence really just speaks to my passion, and why I do what I do. I think it really speaks to what landed me here with the NWHL and the organizations I’ve been able to work for previously. I love challenging the status quo and thinking outside the box. And coming up with new engaging ways to really, I guess, put ourselves in a better position. And mostly, speaking from the platform of women’s professional athletics and women’s athletics in general. I did have some time in the collegiate world, and I definitely value that experience as well. And that is where the careers of a lot of professional athletes start. So that’s definitely near and dear to my heart. But those words just really, I think put forth the passion that I feel coming into work everyday and working with these incredible women. They just kind of illustrate that on paper.”

Amanda as you will see has had quite a varied career to date both in competion and behind the scenes. She hails from up in Buffalo NY and we wondered how little Amanda first got interested in sports? She explained

“My Mom has two daughters, and as a young person she thought we were going to be dancers. So I was enrolled in dance. And I missed an ice cream social due to a dance class and I was super unhappy about it, and threw the world’s biggest temper tantrum. Needless to say, I ended up quitting dance. Which then actually brought me on a journey to sports. So I grew up in a hockey family, my Dad played hockey in high school. And he played for the Buffalo Hornets for awhile, and he coached the Regals for a little bit when I was younger. So I was always around hockey. My grandparents would take my sister and I to Sabres games pretty regularly. So I have some really fond memories in and out of the ice rink. For example, when my Dad was playing in the senior league it was a treat to get to stay up late on a school night and go to his games. I got to carry the hockey sticks to the car and we’d go too Mighty Taco and eat afterwards. There are really fun memories attached to that.” We saw a picture of Amanda in ice skates, and with her interest in hockey, we wondered if she ever played, or skated for recreation. She replied “Just recreational skating. There was a period of time where I wanted to play hockey. I was still young, and because of quitting dance, my parents weren’t sure how serious I was. So being a kid, I picked up a soccer ball and a basketball, and didn’t look back after that. But I did learn to skate at a young age and did that recreationally. I took a really brief interest in some adult roller leagues, but I didn’t pursue it fully. There was a time I did buy a stick and dabble around a little bit, but that is as far as I got. I stool have my stick too, just in case, you never know" she laughed.  "A couple of friends of mine got involved with that and it looks like a lot of fun, I toyed with the idea, but never moved forward with it. So I definitely admire our players in the NWHL and everything they put into the game. I’m just a true fan and true admirer.”

Amanda continued “So my neighbors actually introduced me to T-Ball and I got involved in the recreational softball league. I realized I really enjoyed sports. The competitive nature of it, being able to work on something, to home in on a skill, was very appealing to me. Then I found out rather quickly that I enjoy sports that involve a little more cardio. And I got involved playing soccer, and I started playing basketball.as well. And for a while there I was doing both recreationally, and for school. Then I was invited to play for a travel team for both soccer and basketball. But I had to,pick one, so I chose basketball and I played all throughout school, I played on a couple of traveling teams and played in high school. I went to Sacred Heart my first two years and transferred to JFK as a junior and senior and graduated high school from there. I got recruited by Niagara County Community College to play basketball. I tore my ACL the October of my freshman year in a preseason game. That’s when I decided to kind of hang up my basketball sneakers, for lack of a better way of putting it.” 

We had noticed that Amanda was listed in one account, where she sank three three throws at the end of a game to send Sacred Heart into a tournament championship game, as a 5’8” guard. Amanda responded “Yes, with the bun on top of my head, I measure 5’8”. But I’m closer to 5’6” she laughed “I always enjoyed those programs at AAU tournaments, I’d always be listed as 5’10” or something crazy. And I was like: All right! I’m one of those who wishes I was six foot tall. I appreciate the extra few inches.”

Amanda’s interest in sports began prettily early on in Buffalo!

“And that’s when (after the injury) I really got interested n the business side of sports, and started pursuing a college career in that. Really taking advantage of my experience as an athlete, and the people that I met along the way to better understand what opportunities were ahead. And won’t forget cross country either! I did track and field and ran cross country, and I absolutely loved it. The mental challenge of being a runner is basically you versus the clock and your mind, and being able to control that. It’s just something I really enjoyed, and it kept me in shape for soccer and basketball season, so it was a win-win all around. I had stopped running after my junior year of high school, my senior year we didn’t have enough girls for a full team. So that’s when I decided to start playing soccer for my school instead. But I definitely kept up with running afterwards. In college and post college I ran a handful of half marathons, and I’ve done two full marathons. I ran the Buffalo Marathon both times. It was a great experience, probably one of the toughest mental things I’ve ever done, as well as a physical thing. But I would love to do another one. I haven’t exactly been disciplined enough to start another training track, but it is something I would definitely like to do again soon. I’m definitely one of those people who like to prepare, I’m a preparer. So I went through the whole training process. I started with 5k’s, did a couple of 8K’s, some longer runs, but it was a build-up for sure." As to her choice of running shoes Amanda told us “I’ve been favoring Brooks, specifically the Ghost 11, that’s been my choice for trainers.”

We mentioned earlier that Amanda has had a varied career in sports, and another sports related experience she had was as an adjunct Professor, and we were curious about that. She revealed

“That was an opportunity I had at Daemen College. So my mentor/boss Bridget Niland was the the Athletic Director at the time, and she came to me and asked if I wanted to teach some classes. So I got to teach Intro To Sports Management, and to co-teach Sports Marketing with our Compliance Director at the time. So it was an amazing opportunity that not a lot of people at that age get to do. But I learned a lot from Bridget and my time at Daemen, and obviously worked with her as an intern before being offered a full time job. So just being able to share my experience through undergrad and grad school with up and coming sports professionals was really cool.”

So had Amanda been thinking about a career along the lines of Sports Marketing or Sports Management then? She replied

“So, Fun Fact: when I was in grad school, close to graduation, I was afforded the opportunity to be a teacher. My mom is the school teacher, so I had. some interest in education. And I quickly realized that a lot of my goals around being a teacher was that I wanted to coach a sports team and get involved in the athletic department. That was really a lot of the driving force That’s when I discovered the opportunity to really kind of hone in on Sports Administration and Sports Management. So that’s when I started to pursue that route seriously and got my masters in Sports Administration from Canisius College. So having the ability to teach the classes was really opportunity for me to live that desire to be an educator. And I know just how much I appreciated hearing from other people when I was learning and exploring different opportunities. And trying to figure out what career path was right for me. I really appreciate it when I got to hear from people had been there and done that and now we’re where they wanted to be. So being able to share that with those students was cool. It was a great opportunity I think, especially at the college level, where you get to talk about how things currently work in the industry. But it’s also an opportunity to ideate and see things from different perspectives when you’re dealing with your students. It’s just really eye-opening and definitely challenges you to kind of open your mind and be more accepting of different viewpoints and really think more critically in understanding how things work.“

Amanda added “I actually really enjoyed school, I enjoyed learning. So it was a great way for me to have a source of income, but also kind of give back and help out as well. I mentioned my Mom was a school teacher, so a lot of students I would tutor would be kids I met through some of her programs or other kids in the area. I was just looking for some extra help. I loved school, but I was one of those students who had to study, I had to make flash cards, I had to write things down to memorize them. So I had every trick in the book, up the sleeve, so being able to kind of share that was fun for me. I’m always looking for new things to learn. My recent fascination is with coding.I feel that coding is becoming more of a thing with web development, and part of me says: Hmm, that sounds interesting! So who knows? "

Another interesting part of Amanda’s sports career, still in the Buffalo area, was in the sport of professional soccer, with the Western New York Flash. The Flash roster was chock full of elite talent throughout their tenure, and Amanda experienced part of that while she was there. She recounted

 “So that opportunity came before I started working at Daemen College. I was interning with the Western New York Flash soccer team while I was finishing up with grad school. I was assisting with the General Manager, handling team operations, as well as dabbling with sponsorships and helping to our together pitch decks and platforms. It was a small operation, much like us with the NWHL. So I had my hands in a little bit of everything, from marketing to ticket sales. So the Soccer Operations Manager was stepping down, going on maternity leave, and I was asked to step in. So I came on full time as the Soccer Operations Manager, which was awesome. They was really my break-out point for getting involved in women’s professional athletics. So fun memories of being at the practice facility and Sam Mewis and Abby Dahlkemper are hanging out in the locker room, getting to see them was really cool. So I was with the Flash for awhile before I got the job with Daemen, and I think within that year they were sold to North Carolina, and they are now the North Carolina Courage. It was a big learning experience for me, and I was obviously star struck with all the athletes I got to be around. And then in my last year with the Lynx we actually hosted the US National Soccer Team at a Lynx game when they were on their tour after the World Cup victory. And I was just like so taken aback and flattered, because I went to escort Jess McDonald, Sam Mewis, Kristin Hamilton and Megan Rapinoe. I went and introduced myself, and Kristen Hamilton and Sam Mewis are looking at me like: You look so familiar. And I said, I used to work for the Flash, and they were like: OMG, that’s how we know you! So that’s my claim to fame! “

Amanda with the Minnesota Lynx staff as they were awarded WNBA Franchise of the Tear

We’ve mentioned the Lynx a couple of times, so we wondered how that the opportunity eventually came about? Amanda revealed

“I was working at Daemen College, and I was a homebody. I went to undergrad and grad school in Buffalo, and I was living there. And just about that time I was ready to kind of branch out from Buffalo, NY and experience another part of the country. Typical east coast girl, thinking that she wanted to be on the west coast. Well, I didn’t exactly make it to the west coast, I landed in the Midwest. But I was a basketball player and fan, although Buffalo wasn’t lucky enough to have a WNBA team in town. The closest we had was the Liberty in New York, but I followed the WNBA, and I was a big fan. So there was an opportunity on the Lynx sales staff, I put my name in the pot, got an interview, got another interview, and got a job offer! I decided to pick up and move to Minnesota, and was there for about three and a half years. It was awesome! It was an incredible experience working for the Lynx and the Timberwolves. It is the same organization, so we share the same offices and the same resources. Glen Taylor is just an incredible owner, super involved with both of his teams. He set the precedent that everywhere you saw a Timberwolves logo, you saw a Lynx logo. The team and players were treated as equals, which was really awesome. And him and his wife Becky were at every single Lynx game in their court side seats, didn’t miss a game. It was a great organization to work for. They were definitely invested in the WNBA, it was a great experience.”

So great in fact, that when we asked Amanda about her favorite sports experience as a fan, she  dialed it back to the Lynx, explaining

“I’ve got to go with winning my first WNBA Championship ring with the Minnesota Lynx in 2017. That was a crazy year! We were displaced from our home arena, the Target Center, because they were undergoing renovations, so we played our season in the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul. And we got displaced to the University of Minnesota because of play-off conflicts with the Minnesota Wild schedule. So we had overcome all of that. So there isn’t an AC unit in Williams Arena, on the U of M campus. There is a WNBA regulation that we have to provide an atmoshere of a certain temperature. So, I worked really closely with my boss Carley Knox, the VP of Business Operations. And she spearheaded this whole project to get an AC unit built outside Williams Arena. I‘m sure you can find pictures of it. It looked like a space ship had landed, it was pretty crazy. But I just remember sitting in one of the suites watching the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The clock ticking down and being like: Oh my god, we’re actually going to win this thing! LA was a huge rival for us, and the streamers falling, the music, we got to go on the court, the champagnes popping, it was just an incredible experience. And then I got a ring, it was amazing!” Fins Up to that!

We also asked Amanda other than her work with the Lynx what she liked about living in Minnesota?

“Well, I will say I was a bit caught off guard. As a Buffalo gal, I can handle immense amounts of snow. Lake effect snow is something I dealt with my entire life. But Minnesota is a different level of cold. It is a whole new kind of cold. So that was the biggest adjustment, for sure. I expected more snow, but there was not as much snow, but man, was it cold! Summers are absolutely beautiful in Minnesota. They truly are the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But parks, water, outdoor activities, you name it, you can find it pretty much anywhere. I really did enjoy that. I also lived in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis-Saint Paul and there was so much to do there. A big, big food scene, if you’re a foodie it’s a great place to be. The theatre and arts district is also amazing., and the music scene. It is definitely a cool place. Fargo was like the initiation process of moving to Minnesota. Everyone was like: You’ve got to watch the movie Fargo! And you’ve got to see Grumpy Old Men. I didn’t understand at first" she laughed "But now I understand.”

Interesting side note:  The town of Fargo was named after William Fargo (the Wells Fargo guy) who hailed originally from...Buffalo, NY, just like Amanda! Fins Up to that! So Cetacean Nation also asked Amanda to weigh-in on the upcoming Bubble Season, and the incredible fan opportunity with the Pod Pass options. She told us

“My thoughts on the Bubble Season are that I am super excited. And that stems from the fact that there is so much momentum behind hockey, especially women’s hockey at this time. And to be be able to have a season, given all the obstacles we’re facing due to the pandemic, I think is an incredible opportunity. It illustrates the commitment of our team owners and investors. They are essentially doubling down their commitment to these athletes and the league, and want to see this league succeed. It was important to them to keep the momentum going. I think you can look at the success of the WNBA and the NWSL had with bubbling. Essentially that slingshotted their league forward and allowed them to get broadcast exposure they haven’t had before to gain their name and brand out there. And to increase investment from corporate partners, which is all essential to creating a successful league. And when you are able to accomplish that, then comes everything else. So I am extremely hopeful and optimistic that we’re going to experience that same success, and we’re going to do it safely, and to the best benefit of our athletes.”

She added  "It’s also awesome we can provide a source of entertainment for our fans for two weeks, even though we have to do it remotely. We can still stay connected, especially through opportunities like the Pod Pass. All around I think it’s a great opportunity for the league and just a really cool benefit for our fans as well. I’m excited about the bubble season, but we are definitely going to miss the atmosphere of being in our home arena in Danbury with our Cetacean Nation. But the Pod Pass is kind of allowing us to bring the Pod home ice advantage to Lake Placid for the team. So we are really excited to be able to give the fans that unprecedented access to the team, but also create this really incredible experience for the athletes.“

We have discussed Amanda’s favorite sports moment as a fan, but we were also curious about her favorite moment of her career as an athlete herself. She chose not basketball, soccer, or softball, but running! She told us

“Weirdly enough, the moment that keeps coming to mind as a participant is cross country my sophomore year(in high school). It came down to qualifying for states. It was the year of the October Surprise (2006), when we got the freak snowstorm that postponed the meet for almost a month. I was a solid four or five spot when it came to the scoring card. One of our top runners wasn’t feeling well, she struggled with some ankle issues, and she just wasn’t feeling well. And I had the best race of my life, and actually ended up sealing the deal for us to go to states that year. So that was super cool. I try to recreate that moment mentally when I’m running, over and over again. I don’t know what happened, it was just one of those days that you’re in the zone and everything clicks. I had a great race, and my varsity basketball coach was there, because she was the head of the Monsignor Martin League which is the name of the private high school league Sacred Heart was part of. So she was there and she handed us our trophy, and she looked so proud, because I was also one of her athletes. It was a cool moment.”

We agree, and if you have never been to a big cross country meet and experienced the atmosphere there, ask our #9 Kaycie Anderson about that. She’ll fully appreciate where Amanda’s coming from. We also had Five Fun Questions to wrap thinks up with Amanda, and her replies were fun!

What is your usual order at Dunkin'?  “Coconut Caramel swirl latte. Coconut milk and caramel swirl latte. My favorite is iced, but since it’s gotten cold I have started ordering the hot ones and they’re just as good. And occasionally I’ll get a blueberry glazed donut.”

Do you have any pets you can tell us about?  “I do! I have a golden retriever named Macz. I thought I was clever as a kid, and actually it’s an acronym: M stands for MaryBeth which is my Mom’s name, A stands for Amanda, C is for my sister Chelsie, and Z is for our last name Zanghi. I thought it was cool. It certainly trips people up, especially the vet and the pet groomer. But it is pronounced Maxie, like Max. She’s fourteen, she’s been with me since high school, so she’s moved to Minnesota with me, and now to Connecticut. And my partner has a cat named Tucker.”

Here's Amanda with the amazing traveling hound MACZ!

Favorite song to play on guitar? “I took some guitar lessons in high school, and wanted to be like the next guitar player for Led Zeppelin, but that didn’t happen overnight. So I got impatient and put it down for awhile. But I’ve tried picking it back up here and there, and would love to be able to play it. I just need to sit down and take the time to learn it. That’s why I couldn’t tell you what song, because I haven’t quite mastered it yet. And I don’t sing along with it, I’m more of a shower singer.”

Any residual feelings back home in Buffalo from the old NBA Buffalo Braves? “In my house, yes, I was well aware of who the Buffalo Braves were. I actually attended an auction for a co-worker at a fundraiser for a hockey team, and they auctioned of a poster of the Buffalo Braves. I bought it and I’ve had it a number of years, I’ve carried it with me for awhile. So yeah, I’m familiar with them. I would say they are missed. It’s not something you hear about regularly nowadays. But the OG’s of Buffalo definitely know about the Buffalo Braves. One thing about Buffalo fans, if I may speculate, is we are very loyal. We tend to stick with our teams and our people. Whether it’s spoken about, or just an unspoken thing,”

When we interviewed #8 Alyssa Wohlfeiler recently, we asked her: What is something that most people know about you? She answered with a story about appearing in a McDonald’s commercial with Wayne Gretzsky. We decided to ask Amanda the same question, and she replied  “I do think of my self as a pretty private person, but I can tell you I have never shot a commercial with Wayne Gretzsky. I don’t think I’ve done anything remotely that cool. Usually my go to answer for this would be about being a volunteer firefighter. In Buffalo I was a volunteer firefighter with Doyle 1 (Fire Company) in Cheektowaga for about three years. I was a certified EMT and an interior firefighter. A big driving force behind that was being an athlete and I really missed that team camaraderie and that atmosphere. Being a firefighter allowed me to kind of have that again, which was really cool. Each person plays an important role. And especially being an interior firefighter, you never go into the building alone, you always have a partner. And you have to learn to communicate and trust your partner, and work efficiently together. Q is to me, very similar to being on a soccer field or on the ice, or the court, and having to work together with your teammates to accomplish winning the game.”

We thank our amazing Director of Ticket Sales and Sponsorship, Amanda Zanghi for her entertaining and illuminating insights she has shared with the fans. In closing, we remarked that Amanda had compiled quite the impressive resume in sport, and it will be even greater when she adds an Isobel Cup to her accomplishments this year. She replied “There you go, that’s the goal!” Nothing more to say, but Fins Up to that!

Firefighter and EMT Amanda in the dress blues of Doyle1