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The Petes storyteller: Tamara Burns

What’s in a tweet? For Tamara Burns, who has posted virtually every piece of content on the Petes social media channels and gopetesgo.com since 2015, the answer is “a lot.” For a single post, which usually draws tens of thousands of eye balls, Burns’ process includes consulting team stats, a session (or five) on Photoshop, and a dash of creativity. With all these moving parts, often happening live during a game, that single tweet can be a day’s worth of work done in under a minute.

After originally joining the team in 2013, Burns announced this summer that she would be leaving the Petes in August. She had most recently held the position of Sr. Manager of Communication & Digital Marketing, capping nearly six total seasons with the team in roles that included everything from game operations to launching the team’s e-commerce retail platform.

The Millbrook native’s path to the Petes began in Ottawa at the 2009 World Junior Championships where she worked as a volunteer. 

“I met someone there who was really involved in sports marketing so I picked her brain a bit while I was there. It was my last year of high school.” 

During her completion of a commerce degree from UOIT (now Ontario Tech University), Burns continued to stay active in hockey as she volunteered at the 2011 Memorial Cup in Mississauga, an event that would ultimately return her to a rink in a full-time capacity. 

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Tamara Burns (left) with fellow Petes Marketing Intern Justine Martin (right), 2013

“My [Memorial Cup] volunteer leader was from Belleville and went to Loyalist college and knew Kim Grimes. who started the sports and entertainment marketing program. This was before the program even started. Kim reached out to me before it was even off the ground.”

After consulting Grimes, Burns took off down Highway 62, and became a student in Loyalist’s new sports and entertainment sales and marketing program. While there, she completed an internship with her hometown team – the Petes – providing Burns with her initial taste of working in the OHL. 

“I was essentially the game night lead, Burton [Lee] was up in the press box. I played the role of game operations coordinator but just the game night of it. As I transitioned to office hours in the winter, I got into the planning part of it.”

During her internship Burns worked with charities such as the Canadian Cancer Society to see the legendary Pink in the Rink come to fruition, managed a team of volunteers and staff who were responsible for music and what appears on the video board, and constructed the scripting for the Petes in-game hosts.

2016 Pink in the Rink
2016 Pink in the Rink

Immediately after earning her diploma from Loyalist, Burns joined the Belleville Bulls as a full time employee as Game Night Coordinator and Hockey Development administrator in their final season. Although the Bulls franchise came to an end in 2015, Burns’ time in hockey did not.

“I think it was within an hour of the news breaking where Burton [Petes Executive Director of Business Operations] said he was going to do what he had to get me here. I don’t think I would have gotten that message if they weren’t impressed with my work during my internship.”

“In 2013 she stepped in as a volunteer intern and took over management of nearly every element of the in-game experience. We were so lucky to then get her back to Peterborough in a full-time capacity in 2015,” describes Lee, “and to be clear: when I say ‘full-time’, there are few people in the CHL who worked longer hours than Tamara. She was relentless in her efforts to improve our game presentation, digital media, and other areas of marketing.”

Burns returned as Game Operations Coordinator, from music, to intermission activities, and the layout of the building, Burns led the charge on all entertainment components for two seasons. Although she enjoyed the rush of planning and managing live events, Burns remained intrinsically motivated to take on the communications and marketing part of the business. 

In nearly six total years with the maroon and white, her position evolved from intern to a senior manager, becoming one of the most critical voices for the business.

“When I was in school I never thought of doing anything in game operations. It was my foot in the door into hockey. Not wanting to do sales, it was an opportunity I had to take. I took that opportunity and as the communications role has gone on social media has evolved and trends have changed.”

The Loyalist alumna has elevated the Petes social media platforms through her innovative methods of sharing the team’s most important heartfelt moments with fans, including Nick Robertson’s fiftieth goal in the 2019-20 regular season and Akil Thomas’ conversation with Chris Montador requesting to become the first player to wear his deceased brother Steve Montador’s number.

As she reflects upon her 5 seasons with the Petes, Burns takes pride in getting to tell these stories and be a part of the players’ journeys. 

“I think my favourite thing I have gotten to do is go to NHL drafts. I went from going as a spectator, to helping out a little bit, to going on my own and being solely responsible for everything.”

For the Petes Sr. Manager of Digital Communications, the 2019 NHL draft created a particular layer of excitement as Petes goalie Hunter Jones was selected by the Minnesota Wild and forward Nick Robertson by the Toronto Maple Leafs

“Getting to be a small part of the players’ journeys and being there when they’re achieving their goals, getting to see their hard work pay off is really cool.” 

Beyond the connections built with her colleagues, Burns relishes in the relationships that began in the arena and extend in the community. She is looking forward to reuniting with fans outside of game nights.

“Across my 5 consecutive seasons here the organization has become much more entrepreneurial, much more open to trying new things and gotten a lot better at developing staff.” 

“Sport has been pretty widely affected by the pandemic but coming out of this I think we have a young, driven and pretty talented staff who are raw in some sense but have the potential to be people who make big differences in the OHL, CHL and beyond, so I think the future is bright in that regard.”

tburns

Beyond her colleagues, Burns relishes in the relationships that began in the arena and extend to the community, and is looking forward to reuniting with fans outside game nights.

Whether it be her execution of monumental events like the Petes home opener on the organization’s 60th anniversary or a Tweet connecting the fans with a piece of maroon and white history, Burns hopes that her resilience in capturing the Kodak moments and love for hockey came through. 

“I think from an organization perspective I hope that I did whatever I had to to get the job done and hope that people can reflect on the content and that my passion for the team and the sport came through.”

No one can better assess the magnitude of Burns’ legacy in the OHL, better than the league’s Director of Communications and her former Belleville Bulls colleague, Josh Sweetland:

“[Tamara is a] really stand up person, the number of ways she has been able to contribute to the Petes both in terms of her ideas and execution through digital and social means, she has been able to contribute to the team in a really wide range of ways. Tamara is a perfect example of someone who conducts herself with professionalism. She’s a model employee.”

Burns maintains a reputation of selflessness and work ethic that is unmatched. Her legacy in evolving the Petes brand and thoughtfully conveying the stories of the team will be felt and celebrated for years to come.

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