Always a sports fan growing up, former Fredonia resident Alison Wagner knew that some day she wanted to work in professional sports.
After graduating from Fredonia High School as a member of its Class of 1993, and earning a Bachelor's degree in Sports Information and Communications from Ithaca, Wagner, the daughter of Nancy Wagner of Dunkirk, continued her education at the University at Buffalo to obtain her Juris Doctorate in 2000.
"When I first went to college, I really didn't know what was out there," Wagner said. "So I kind of learned about what different sports careers you could have."
Photo Courtesy of University at Buffalo
Alison?Wagner, a 1993 Fredonia High?School graduate, is now a member of the associate counsel for the National Hockey League.
Later in 2000, Wagner began working for ArenaFootball2, before moving onto the Arena Football League. Then, in May 2008, Wagner received a call from a head hunter with a job offer to work for the National Hockey League that she could not pass up.
"It was always my goal to work for one of the major four professional sports leagues," Wagner said. "I was really excited. And I also love hockey, so it was just a great fit."
As one might guess, Wagner immediately noticed some differences.
"When you work for a developmental or minor league, there aren't as many resources," Wagner said. "So you have to do a lot more with less. There are only two or three lawyers at the Arena Football League, so I got to work on a wide range of things. I worked on labor, I worked on sponsorship contracts, I worked on team deals.
"When I moved to the NHL, I kind of focused in on a couple areas as a specialty," Wagner continued. "But everything I did at the Arena Football League prepared me for my job at the NHL."
An associate counsel for the NHL, Wagner works primarily on event contracts, which include, amongst other things, the Winter Classic, All-Star Game, Stanley Cup and the year-end awards show. Wagner, however, has never been drawn to the courtroom.
"I initially went to law school because I thought I wanted to be an agent," Wagner said. "And then I had some exposure to agents and I thought it wouldn't be the right fit for me. It was actually more important for me to get a job in sports and stay in sports than to practice law in a traditional way."
As with any job, Wagner faces certain challenges.
"Being able to multi task," Wagner said. "There are always a lot of events, so I think it's just the amount of work and the fast pace of work. That can be challenging, but it's also exciting too."
Despite working in a male-dominated sport, Wagner said she never put any thought to having to earn the respect of her male peers.
"I really haven't thought about it one way or another," Wagner said. "I think if you go and do your job the best that you can, people expect that a job is being well done and they don't really care if it's a man or a woman. They don't really care. If you're acting with integrity, working hard and doing your job, it doesn't really matter. And that's what I've been able to do and how I've been able to stay working in sports."
Although she is happy with her current position, Wagner, like many goal-oriented people hopes to keep progressing toward something bigger.
"I really like my job now," Wagner said. "I'm still really challenged by it, but in five years I would have hoped to have been progressing more in my career. So I want to continue to either grow in the NHL or just grow in sports and take on further responsibilities."
For those of you who wish to have a career in sports, Wagner has some advice for you to consider.
"There's a lot of people who want to work in sports," Wagner said. "And I would let everybody know that there's a lot of competition and that once you work in sports, you kind of see behind the scenes.
"Don't think you're going to be ready for sports, just because you're a sports fan," Wagner continued. "Sometimes when you're behind the scenes, it kind of takes away the magic of being a fan. I work for the league, so if I go to a game, I'm not really supposed to cheer. I think a lot of times when people say they want to work in sports, they don't realize you're not hanging out with players and going to games all the time. Just be prepared. There's a lot of competition and it's not as glamorous as it seems."