Inside the Comets: Brittany Usmail
by Don LaibleMay 30, 2014
Since the Comets 2-0 season-ending victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on April 19, things have become rather “ordinary” at The AUD, again. For team Vice President Brittany Usmail, there are numerous positive memories of the club’s inaugural season to get her through the summer months, maybe.
The chanting by a packed AUD crowd as the clock ticked down on the final game of the season is burned into Usmail’s memory. The players skating back out onto the ice to salute their “army”, for a much appreciated performance on that night, and for 75 other game-time performances, also will forever satisfy the fan, and executive in Usmail. A job well done by her and everyone connected to the Comets organization is gratifying.
Usmail, like the rest of the Comets’ front office staff, have been able to exhale a little bit and to appreciate what they aided and abetted in, since the franchise was officially brought to the Mohawk Valley by the Vancouver Canucks. With nearly a year of service to the club, memories are fresh with Usmail of just how far she and her staff have grown in their positions.
“It was tough getting things done,” says Usmail of the original office set-up of the Comets. “When we were all sharing one office, there were like a dozen of us together.”
Returning to Utica after studying at UMass-Boston and serving as a program coordinator with FMC Ice Sports (a company that manages 23 ice arenas throughout the Commonwealth), Usmail reflects on her initial responsibilities with the team fondly.
“I was enjoying working on corporate sales,” Usmail tells. Being promoted to Vice President wasn’t on the mind of the former ECAC All-Academic Conference team member during her four years at UMASS Boston.
Usmail recalls Comets’ president Rob Esche, who at the time was amongst the staff working out of the office opposite The AUD’s Bill Horton room, wanting to have a talk with her.
“Rob said he was thinking of making me Vice President. He respected how I wanted to have a hand in “everything”. To run a company, he said you have to know how to sell it,” Usmail reflects.
Being a leader has been a gradual and continuous process for Usmail, who during her senior year of 2011-12 served as one of the three captains of the Beacons women’s hockey team. The Comets hierarchy, according to Usmail are in sync, in taking the club forward for season two and beyond.
“Rob has so many ideas, then I work to make them happen.”
Usmail is in a select fraternity of women executives in the AHL, which include Chicago Wolves Courtney Mahoney (Sr. VP of Operations) and Tera Black of the Charlotte Checkers (COO/Alternate Governor). With the title would come the expected increase in responsibilities, and all that accompany them.
Community relations and players appearances throughout the Mohawk Valley this past season is what Usmail tells of being most proud of. Not just what goes on inside The AUD but making sure the team and its players connected with issues beyond hockey was a goal met by the team, as Usmail sums up the initial campaign. As an intern with the Boston Bruins, Usmail concentrated on absorbing how fans and franchise bonding is done on the NHL level.
Learning, growing, always pushing to make Comets hockey experiences better for its fan base is on management’s radar.
“Rob and I travel quite a bit. When we went to Vancouver this past winter, that was the turning point. We saw game potential. We want to bring what we saw there, here. We also went to Nashville and Madison Square Garden,” Usmail explains.
Perhaps one of, if not the most popular sub-story of the season surrounding Comets play at The AUD, was the growth of the 50/50 raffle. At one home contest this past season the pot surpassed $15,000, and out pacing NHL franchises as well. As we are speaking last week on this very topic, Diana Biega, wife of Comets defenseman Alex Biega, is texting Usmail. The Biegas are in Miami, more precisely at the Marlins-New York Mets game. Diana is reporting that the 50/50 raffle has totaled $680.00. A total that is passed minutes after the door’s of The AUD opens.
Rapidly the 50/50 story has become legend at Comets games. Everyone wants in. Scouts, and others connected with the game have made it their routine to get their ticket(s).
“We use the same system as some National Hockey League team,” Usmail informs. “We were expecting $3,000. a game, maybe $4,000. on a rare night. The Comets were able to donate $180,000. Jr. Comets volunteers Janice and Tony Martino do a fabulous job in being at the games and taking care of the 50/50.”
Selected for sitting on the Save of the Day Foundation board of directors, the Comets 501C3 charitable arm promoting the needs of youth in the Mohawk Valley, Usmail has great pride in her participation. It’s all part of serving her vice-presidency for the Comets. Diversification and dedication are the green lights being signaled by Brittany Usmail for a second consecutive strong season of AHL action in Utica.