5 Takeaways from the 2023 TD Garden Game Days Seminar

August 2023 Update: Johnson & Wales University enjoyed an incredibly fruitful 5-year partnership as the Official Education Partner of TD Garden and the Boston Bruins. This partnership officially ended in June 2023.

As the Official Education Partner of Delaware North, TD Garden and the Boston Bruins, the JWU community enjoys many unique learning experiences and career opportunities. One of the key components of this partnership is the yearly TD Garden Game Days seminar, which brings industry professionals and JWU students, faculty and staff to TD Garden to explore relevant topics in the fields of food service, hospitality, and sport, entertainment and event management.

The crowd sitting at the seminar in the Legends restaurant in TD Garden

The first seminar in 2019, Eat Well Play Well, showcased our leadership in performance nutrition and helped officially kick off the partnership. After a COVID hiatus, we returned in 2022 for 24/7: The Total Fan Experience, a seminar that celebrated the strength of JWU’s Sport, Entertainment, Event — Management (SEEM) program and explored what it takes to build an incredible experience for fans at events.

This year, we turned our attention to the importance (and ever-growing presence) of technology and cyber security measures at events and beyond with Press Play: The Emerging Digital Culture of Sports and Entertainment. This event was dedicated to the memory of Chef Keith Garman ’21, a JWU alum and the team chef for the Boston Bruins who passed away in October. Watch the full seminar below:

Associate Professor Lee Escklisen, who serves as the department chair for the SEEM program and as a member of the JWU/TD Garden committee, kicked off the event by introducing Michaela Johnson, the in-arena host for the Boston Bruins. Johnson served as emcee for the event and introduced Providence Campus President Marie Bernardo Sousa, LP.D.,’92, and Tim Townsell, the senior vice president of business operations for TD Garden. Townsell’s speech brings us to our first important takeaway from the event.

1. Approximately 200 JWU alums currently work for Delaware North/TD Garden.

The partnership certainly benefits current JWU students, but it also has helped many alums find success in the industry because Delaware North actively looks to recruit JWU alumni. “Whether it’s here in Boston or around the world, we have, I think, at last count about 200 Johnson & Wales alums that are working for us,” Townsell shared as he addressed the crowd. “I’m confident that in the future that number will go up a lot.” 

With another class of talented JWU students set to graduate in May, we have no doubt the number will continue to rise! 

2. Our phones are more powerful than the rocket that brought astronauts to the moon.

The keynote speaker talking to the crowd at the TD Garden Game Days seminar

Sounds a little crazy, right? But keynote speaker Daniel King shared this fun fact during his engaging presentation. “Your phones have 11 times the processing compacity of Apollo 11 — and you carry them in your pocket!” he said. “They are extraordinarily capable and connected.”

King is the Region 1 (New England) chief of cybersecurity for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. His presentation touched on his experience working with CISA, as well as examining the information revolution and predicting the future of digital culture.

3. You should never use your real name on social media.

Game Days seminar panel members sitting on a stage in the TD Garden

The first panel had a lot to say about the cybersecurity risks that come with event technology and everyday life. Moderated by Assistant Professor Peter Reid, the panel consisted of Assistant Professors Douglas Tondreau and Anthony Chavis of JWU’s College of Engineering and Design, as well as the TD Garden and Bruins’ vice president of technology, Josh Carley.

As they discussed the potential threats that exist on social media, Tondreau asked the crowd “Who here puts their real name on their social media?” Almost every hand rose. “Guess what — if I’m a hacker, I love you guys,” he continued. “I can search for your name, and once I search for your name I can put it into a tool, and I can find your address. Then, I can learn who your parents are and from there I can look at their network and see what they do for a living. I can blackmail you and take everything I need from you. Never put your real name or personal information on any social media platform, because then you’ve already given me the first step in what I need to get access to you.”

His hypothetical story serves as an important reminder that was emphasized throughout the rest of the discussion: Our digital culture may be convenient, but it also exposes us to new threats we may have never even considered. We must stay aware and take steps to protect our digital presence.

4. Social media influencers are here to stay.

Game Days seminar panel members sitting on stage at TD Garden

After lunch, the second panel took the stage to dive deeper into the digital trends that have made event experiences more seamless and desirable, and they discussed the benefits of tapping social media influencers and using subscription-based business models. Associate Professor Diane Santurri moderated the conversation between Samia Mahjub, the vice president of business strategy for TD Garden and the Bruins, and JWU alum Aaron Lampkin ’13, the senior director of strategy for ticketing and premium seating for the National Hockey League (NHL). 

The NHL has made great strides in growing the game of hockey in the U.S. and around the world, and Lampkin shared that one of the biggest keys to attracting new audiences has been working with social media influencers.

“In the last three to five years, we’ve really started to see influencers emerge as a driving factor for a lot of our events,” Lampkin said. “With our NHL All-Star event and our recent Stadium Series event, we brought down influencers to practice and they got to engage with the players. It’s a new audience they’re ultimately bringing into the game.”

While some might be tired of hearing about influencers, there’s no denying they can be a great resource for growing a business and attracting new audiences. 

5. The JWU/TD Garden partnership offers students so many cool experiences.

Have you ever hung out in the Boston Celtics locker room? Or walked on the court of TD Garden before a big game? JWU students have. The seminar concluded with a tour of some behind-the-scenes spaces of TD Garden, including the players’ family lounge, the press conference rooms and even the Celtics locker room. Then, students got to head onto the court to take photos. The digital display ring around the jumbotron was lowered for maintenance, which provided an up-close view of its inner workings and a cool photo op for students.

Beyond the Game Days seminars, our students have had so many opportunities to work on projects with the Bruins and TD Garden through internships and Directed Experiential Education (DEE) projects. We’ve had Culinary students in the kitchen cooking meals for Bruins players and developing menu items for TD Garden’s restaurants, SEEM students working with the Garden to promote new premium seating, and more!

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Students standing in the Boston Celtics locker room

Students sitting the Celtics players seats at TD Garden

Students in the TD Garden press conference room

A student with a microphone and lights behind her at TD Garden