When the Sabres announced they were hiring a social media manager, Craig Kanalley figured it would be a fantastic job for one of his friends or followers.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for someone, so I shared it out,” Kanalley said Tuesday.
The more Kanalley thought about the job, the more he wanted it for himself. The senior editor of the Huffington Post sent in his resume and started dreaming of a return to Buffalo.
No other applicant could match Kanalley’s social media background. He’ll leave New York City at the end of the month and join his favorite team July 1.
“Not everybody gets the opportunity to come back, so I feel very grateful,” said the 27-year-old graduate of Cardinal O’Hara and St. John Fisher College. “I think it’s a good time for something new. I did New York. I did Chicago. It’s cool, but I do miss home.”
Kanalley is considered a signing coup for the Sabres. He generated a substantial following as the founder of Breaking Tweets, a blog that focused on how breaking news was analyzed on Twitter. He parlayed that into a job with Huffington Post, which has more than 3 million Twitter followers.
Kanalley will take a substantial pay cut in the move, but it’s worth it for a Sabres backer who was named after longtime forward Craig Ramsay.
“It was really like a no-brainer to be honest with you,” Kanalley said by phone. “I think everything kind of prepared me for this step, so I’m excited.”
“Social media continues to be one of the more dynamic and ever-growing vehicles to drive brands in sports,” said Brent Rossi, the Sabres’ vice president of brand strategy and marketing. “Craig has a proven track record of staying ahead of trends in social media and creating a powerful presence in the digital space. We are excited to add him to our team and we look forward to implementing his creativity in our organization’s social media platforms.”
Kanalley isn’t planning immediate, sweeping changes to a Twitter feed that includes everything from game updates to plugs for singers on owner Terry Pegula’s record label. Kanalley promises to listen to a vocal fan base that can be extremely critical.
“Even as a fan the last three or four years, I’ve been glued to social media, and I’m well-aware of everything about that with the Sabres,” Kanalley said. “I think there are some good things already happening with the Sabres’ social media. One thing I definitely care a lot about, even with my experience in the past, is listening and definitely using social media as a way to get feedback.
“Listening to everything is a real important part of social media, everything from crowd sourcing ideas on what the Sabres should be doing or just in general getting a sense of what people think of the team. I’ll definitely be listening at all times, and that includes everything from the Buffalo media to the blogs in the community. There’s actually some really excellent sports blogs and some really talented writers in the Buffalo community. I’m excited for all of that, including the critical stuff.”
The Sabres are teaming up with Buffalo Place for “Sabres Summer Fan Fest,” a combination of hockey and music July 12. The Sabres will wrap up their prospect development camp with a scrimmage at 4 p.m. in First Niagara Center. The action will move to Canalside at 6 p.m. with an autograph session and a concert by 10,000 Maniacs.
Tickets are $10 and go on sale at 9 a.m. Thursday at the arena box office and Sabres.com. Advance sales include the option to buy a discounted ticket for the Buffalo Bisons’ home game July 13. Sabres season-ticket holders will receive a free ticket for Fan Fest.
The Sabres will host a viewing party for the NHL draft at 2 p.m. June 30 in the arena. The free event will feature player appearances, floor hockey events and dressing room tours. Children 12 and under will be required to wear a helmet to participate in floor hockey.