Executives Spotlight stories appeared on this website starting in 2001. Some of the executive's professional experience may have changed since they were published.
Spotlight - April 8, 2008
Senior Vice President of Club Consulting & Services, National Hockey League
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And I'm sorry I could not travel both
But be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth
- Robert Frost
A young soon-to-graduate-from college woman was asked at a recent job fair "What's your career aspiration?" "I want to be a President of a sports team," she replied. Twenty years ago, sports executives would have thought that response was cute, but highly improbable. Susan Cohig, and this of-age breed of senior women in sports, have bended back the reeds on the path to make the dream more feasible.
When asked her career aspirations at 21, I doubt Susan Cohig would have said, "Head of Club Consulting and Services for the National Hockey League." First there was no such job; second, there was no NHL in Denver where she grew up, and third, looking at Susan's slight physique, I'm sure she had never played hockey, a usual pre-requisite for senior management.
Susan, like many other young women, got her start in radio promotions and marketing. Her creative sense in building loyalty to brands and an acute attention to detail brought her together with a gang of employees who were fun-loving and creative, and building family-oriented-events at McNichols Arena in the early 90s. These youngsters led by the charismatic Tim Leiweke and his boyhood friend, Shawn Hunter, brought back enthusiasm for the high altitude Denver Nuggets. The country was intensifying and even more so Denver. High tech was moving in. More jobs. More young people. The city was expanding. Not to be outdone by the announcement of Major League Baseball starting a new team in Denver, the youngsters at the Nuggets announced they had snared the Quebec Nordiques and renamed and re-branded them the Colorado Avalanche. Susan Cohig and her colleagues were converting the energy of the city into loyal season ticket holders and sponsors. The teams were the best marketed in both the NHL and the NBA.
After launching the plan for the new Pepsi Center for the Nuggets and Avalanche on Phil Anschutz' real estate in Denver, Tim Leiweke joined Phil Anschutz in Los Angeles to build a sports enterprise around his new acquisition, the Los Angeles Kings, and hosted it in a new building, called The Staples Center. Susan moved east to New York.
The internet was speeding through the country and the NHL formed an interactive technology department called "NHL Ice" and Susan became an early employee. She also enrolled in law school.
After finishing her law degree, Susan was moved into a 2nd in command position in a 2-person department area called "club services". By this time, her compadres, Tim Leiweke and Shawn Hunter were presidents over two well-marketed NHL clubs -- the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes.
Not quite finding the balance between paying out player salaries and taking in sufficient local revenue, the NHL owners locked the players out, ultimately cancelling a season. It was then Susan was promoted to head of club consulting. With the support of the clubs and NHL senior management, Susan's plan for her department and mission has come to fruition. She has hired and now manages a swat team of about 8 middle to senior marketing consultants poised to bring some of hers and the NHL's best marketing and hiring practices to all the NHL clubs. These consultants, to no one's surprise, are both men and women.
In the last few years, at the NBA/WNBA/D-League Job Fair, young women have attracted the most interest of sales managers as they vie against young men for entry level, low base, commission-enhanced ticket sales jobs. These women have Susan Cohig, and the cadre of other women like her, to thank for this. The path to the top for women in sports shall never again be a road less traveled.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood and I
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost
- Buffy Filippell
"Susan is the consummate sports professional. She is smart, articulate, and understands the business from a variety of perspectives. The respect she garners from within the League office, as well as at the Clubs is a testament to how effective Susan performs her role."
--Ed Horne, President, NHL Enterprises
What I do...
As Senior Vice President, Club Consulting & Services, Susan Cohig is responsible for managing the group that works with Member Clubs in the National Hockey League on sales, marketing and business operations initiatives in order to grow revenue and fan activation with NHL hockey.
HOW I GOT HERE...
NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE; New York, NY; 1996 to present
Senior Vice President, Club Consulting & Services
Group vice President, Club Services
Vice President Strategic Development
Senior Director, Club Marketing
Director, Club Marketing
Advertising Director for NHL Ice.
ASCENT ENTERTAINMENT- DENVER NUGGETS/COLORADO AVALANCHE; Denver, CO; 6/1992-1996
Director of Corporate Sales and Services;
Director of Corporate Services and Special Events
Senior Corporate Account Executive
KYGO RADIO; Denver, Co; 1985-1992
Creative Services Director