Bill Robertson is a very successful executive for the Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League. The secret to his success is a combination of surrounding himself with the right people and his genuine love for helping others. “This is not the cure for cancer, nor is it brain surgery,” said Robertson. “We provide a service, an entertainment service, and if I can help people along the way, I think we can make a significant impact on people’s lives. This is their free time when they come and watch games, it’s an outlet for a lot of fans and a lot of media folks. So for me that’s a perfect segway into trying to help people.”
The Minnesota Wild were selected as an NHL expansion franchise three years prior to dropping the puck. Once home to the Minnesota North Stars, now known as the Dallas Stars, Minnesota was without NHL hockey for 10 years, and selling a new team to the public was going to take some time.
Bill came to the Wild in January of 1998, two and a half years prior to the Wild’s very first game. Owner Bob Naegele Jr. and CEO Jack Sperling, had the foresight to hire a communications expert right away and put a premium on public relations. “I have not seen any team in major professional sports do that,” said Robertson. “Traditionally they’ll be hiring marketing, ticketing and suite folks first. They (Naegele and Sperling) saw that PR plays a very important role in the development of a franchise before they are ever playing hockey.” It was a chance for Bill to come back to his home state, “and help return the National Hockey League to the great state of Minnesota.”
It looks as if the staff is doing it right. The success of the Wild at the gate has shown that Robertson and his staff are providing the desired fan experience. The Wild sold out all 43 games in their first year (41 regular season, 2 preseason), they’ll be sold out for every game again in year two, 44 total games, (41 regular season, 3 preseason), and their rate of return from season ticket holders is an astounding 97% renewal rate. That percentage is number one in all professional sports.
The 40-year old graduate of California State University – Fullerton, has always known this was what he wanted to do. “Since I was in college, I knew I wanted to work in a team environment.” Another key factor in his success is his love for the job he is doing. “I am one person who gets up every morning and is very excited to go to work, whether it was with the Timberwolves, the Mighty Ducks, the Angels, or the Minnesota Wild.”
Prior to his recent position with the Wild, Robertson helped launch the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989 as a public relations assistant. Before the team took to the court for their first game in history, Bill was named director of media services.
The door to the NHL was opened in 1993 when the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim hired him to oversee the media relations department. Walt Disney Company purchased the California Angels in 1996, and his duties were expanded to include managing media relations, team publications and community relations for both the Angels and Mighty Ducks.
When the Minnesota Wild called to ask about his services, the native of Saint Paul was ready to go home. However, this was not what he thought would happen. “I never expected to leave the Timberwolves, nor did I ever expect to leave the Mighty Ducks and the Angels. I’ve been blessed with some very good opportunities and worked with some very good people over my sports career.” His career however, was not limited to the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball. Prior to joining the Timberwolves, Robertson was a gameday assistant for the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL, and worked in college athletics as well. His diverse background has made his resume very attractive in the world of sports.
Robertson will not take all the credit for the success he has had in his storied career. His crew in Anaheim was awarded the Dick Dillman “Press Box Award”, given to the NHL’s top public relations staff, for four consecutive seasons. Adding to that was the “Top Media Guide Award”, voted on by the NHL Writers Association, for three straight years. His goal is to achieve the same status with Minnesota, and Robertson says his staff in Minnesota is second to none. “I’ve been fortunate to work with some very good people. It is a total team effort here at the Minnesota Wild. I would put our communications and broadcast staff up against any in professional sports.”
Moving around from city to city is never an easy thing for a family, but Robertson said his wife Beth, and children Brett and Brooke, have been very supportive and understanding. “Without having my wife as a guiding balance, I don’t know that I would be able to continue to do this,” he said. “I’ve been out of my bed for a couple of years, over 200 nights a year. She was very supportive in all this, making sure that I am doing everything the right way. I wouldn’t be able to this without my wife and family guiding me the whole way.”
This past year of hard work and dedication paid off again, as he was offered the opportunity to work for USA Hockey at the 2002 Olympics. “It’s a volunteer position. I was honored that USA Hockey asked me to come and help them with the Olympics, but at the same time it’s going to take me away from my family for another month.” Again he pointed out that his wife and kids are by his side. “My wife was very supportive and my children were very excited that I had the opportunity to do this. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
Being a Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting is very rewarding for Bill, but his goals are to eventually move onto bigger things. “The next goal for me is to be afforded the opportunity to run a professional sports franchise and be the President or CEO of a team.” Based on his work ethic and past achievements, it won’t be long before that happens.
Getting into the business of sports was not an easy thing, and Robertson will tell you that persistence is the key to getting what you want. “I knocked on a lot of doors, and had a lot of doors shut on me, but I didn’t give up. As for those people looking to “Work In Sports”, Robertson says “people call me regarding jobs and I tell them do not give up on your dream. The main factor is to make yourself visible and accessible for a franchise. It’s a fun, fascinating field that requires a lot of time, effort and responsibility. If you are organized and want to work hard, there is a place for you in this business.”