With hockey the only thing on mind as of late following my Northeastern Huskies, and with the Hockey East semis taking place this Friday at the TD Garden, I'd thought it would be a cool idea to merge the two worlds of music and hockey together and go behind the game a little bit in detail with Tom Matthews, who is the Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator for the Worcester Railers minor league team. In our tremendous chat, we talk a little about the Worcester Railers formation, how big of a role music plays in the hockey watching experience, how social media plays into the equation also, and why you should come out to a Worcester Railers game. Here is the full transcript from our chat:
Give us your name and your role with the Worcester Railers?
Tom Matthews, I am the Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator.
How were you initially approached about this job and did you grow up in the area?
I was born and raised in Worcester, MA. I was working as a reporter for a weekly alternative newspaper in Worcester and the paper made a commercial for the Railers and that is how I met the Railers staff. A month or so later they had a bunch of jobs posted, I applied, and well, here I am.
Just a quick backstory on how the Railers were formed, and did you have a general interest in hockey growing up?
Worcester has been a hockey city for a long time. We’ve had two AHL teams before, the IceCates and the Sharks. The latter left town in 2015 and the city really felt its departure. Cliff Rucker saw an opportunity to bring hockey back to the city, with a focus on the community aspect, and created the Railers. We’re an ECHL team, and the city has been incredibly responsive and has offered great support. Growing up I did not play hockey. My father played basketball and taught me basketball, but I had always wanted to play hockey. I like contact sports. I grew up attending IceCats and Sharks games, so it’s cool to be part of the Railers organization now, and to have been part of bringing hockey back to Worcester.
How big of a role does music play in the hockey experience, and how omnipresent is it at a Railers game?
I think music is a huge part of sports in general, so that being said, it is an integral part of the hockey game experience. The right song at the right moment can do wonders for fan engagement and even get the players pumped up. You need to know what works when. It’s not easy. A lot of times you go to games and the arena just plays whatever is popular at the moment. I don’t think that taps into the fan energy the way a specific curated playlist can. We’re lucky to have a game ops coordinator that recognizes that and plays a diverse rotation of music.
Are you a big fan of music, do you play at all and what are some of your favorite acts worth mentioning?
I am a huge fan of music. Worcester, and Massachusetts in general, has an incredible catalogue of artists. It blows my mind the talent this state has. I grew up going to house shows and VFW shows, and I think the city of Worcester takes immense pride in its music scene. I’m a huge fan of punk and hardcore and luckily have got to witness some of the best acts through the years. Last Lights will forever be the best punk band. As far as bands active right now, The Hotelier, Born Without Bones, Backwards Dancer, and Foxfires are all bands from the Worcester area putting out music that is original, complex, and important. It’s not enough to say their music is “good.” The bands here are conscious and aware, and that’s what separates them from other scenes. I play guitar and usually break all my strings.
What songs are currently in the playlist that are usually played at a Railers game, and do you have any input on what songs get played?
“Rockstar” by Post Malone and “City of dreams” by Dirty South have been in the mix for a while. It’s funny though because as I do this interview guys have been requesting to switch it up. There’s a lot of electronic stuff in warm ups. I’m not the one that makes the list, although I would very much enjoy doing so. It’d look a lot different haha. It got out though that I’m a huge fan of “You Got It (The Right Stuff) by New Kids on the Block and they now play it every game and put me on the video board when it comes on and I try to do the New Kids dance. It’s really bad.
How imperative is social media in interacting with the fans and getting them to come out to games?
Social media is extremely important in terms of interacting with fans. Besides being at the game and actually talking to a fan, it is the closest you can get to them. People are really vocal on social media nowadays, they’ll tell you what they like and they’ll tell you what they don’t like even more. You have to find ways to engage in a fun, lighthearted, but also meaningful way so the fans feel a genuine connection and that you take them serious. I think we do social media in a very unique, and funny way. I think our fans really appreciate the full access we give them through our channels. Just yesterday I Facebook Lived one of our players eating Taco Bell for the first time. That sounds terrible on paper. We had over 20 people watching live and commenting and betting on how long before hot got sick. It’s wild. I think the key is to have fun and not take yourself seriously.
Love the "Tuesdays With Tom" video segments on YouTube, how did you come up with that idea and all the video content we see on the Railer's website and Facebook page?
My boss, Eric Lindquist, came up with the idea. And I was a literal train wreck at first. We watch the first episode all the time and make fun of how bad it is. As far as content, we are lucky to have a bunch of guys on the team that want to be involved and get excited to be featured in our videos, so we just come up with a crazy idea and the answer is always “yes.” We are also fortunate to have access to a lot of resources, thanks to our owner Cliff Rucker, and we can constantly come up with ideas of what to shoot…whether it be something at the Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center, the Worcester Palladium, Railers Tavern, we have had no problem coming up with ideas and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
For people wanting to find out more about the Railers, where can they go?
Definitely head to our website RailersHC.com…check out our Twitter and follow us @RailersHC…If you want to see our ridiculous Facebook Live videos you can find those at Worcester Railers HC. We’re on Instagram as well at railers_hc, and YouTube at RailersHC.
Lastly, why should people come to a Worcester Railers game?
People should come to a Worcester Railers game because it is an affordable fun night out in a thriving city. We put on an exciting show, everything from the lights, music, fan engagement, giveaways, intermission activities, and the on-ice product is top notch. We are a young, tough, physical team that fights to the last second. And what’s better than a hockey game to end your week?
Thanks once again to Tom Matthews for taking some time out of his schedule to do this interview! It's great seeing the passion and enthusiasm he has for his job, and seeing that same spirit in the development of this new team has brought about a sense of excitement to the Worcester community that is just growing as time goes along. Learn more about the Railers by checking them out at the underlined and aforementioned links above.