Kirk Kelleher standing outside Wheeling Nailers arena

Internships help land student Wheeling Nailers job

A pair of internships with hockey teams led Kirk Kelleher to a full time job with the Wheeling Nailers.
By: Marissa Carney

Kirk Kelleher has been a die-hard hockey fan since he was a little kid so when a pair of internships opened up for professional hockey teams, it was like manna from heaven.

Kelleher, a 2017 communications graduate of Penn State Altoona, landed a first internship with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2017 spring semester. There he assumed responsibility as the motion graphics/game entertainment intern working closely with the team’s production crew in PPG Arena. He helped promote the franchise by creating motion and still graphics for game, web, and broadcast outlets, which Kelleher says taught him how to follow brand standards but still be creative. He also worked in the control room operating equipment and software during pre-games and observing during regulation.

“Being able to work with three Emmy-award winning motion graphics designers was pretty awesome, and it was very surreal being at the games and seeing my graphics displayed on the videoboard.”

It was exciting for Kelleher to run into current and retired Pens players as well as television and radio game commentators on a daily basis, but his favorite moment was being in the control room for the Pens playoff game win which the team eliminated the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Kelleher says not only did he have a blast interning for the Pens, but by spending so many nights in the control room, he realized his ultimate career goal is to be on the live production team for the National Hockey League.


Kirk Kelleher stands outside the arena where the Wheeling Nailers play

Credit: Penn State

As his time with the Penguins was coming to end, Kelleher discovered that the Wheeling Nailers, the Penguins Eastern Conference Hockey League affiliate in West Virginia, were looking for summer interns. Kelleher applied, hoping to gain more experience that would enhance his resume and skillset. He was offered a position managing the team’s social media channels. Some of his responsibilities included designing and implementing game, print, and web graphics, assisting with the coordination of game presentation, and taking, editing, and posting original photography to Nailers social media. He spent time researching data and analytics for each of those channels, an aspect he was surprised to learn is a large part of social media strategy. Kelleher also created the game introduction video that, once the season begins in October, will run on the video board. The video will air before players hit the ice to pump up the crowd and create an electric atmosphere in the arena. Kelleher was also able to participate in some community events such as signing day for season ticket holders. “It was such a great opportunity for me to intern with the Nailers. The most interesting aspect of my internship with them was seeing how a minor league team operated compared to an NHL team. I had more creative freedom with the Nailers compared to the Penguins.”

Both internships afforded Kelleher valuable professional experience in many ways, from learning how a professional sports team operates on a day-to-day basis, to producing creative products and collaborating well with others on team projects. His dedication to learning and his performance with the Nailers paid off when the team’s video production specialist took a new job and recommended Kelleher as a candidate to take over his position. After two interviews, Kelleher was offered the job and started his new career September 1. He is responsible for creating, shooting, and editing all content for broadcast and web, as well as creating LED content for the ribbon boards inside the team’s home arena. He also serves as director of the video board, which includes managing camera positions and directing overall game presentation. Kelleher says he is thrilled to have been hired on at the Nailers and is looking forward to the start of the season.

“I am most excited to be in the control room and direct the live game presentation. It really is amazing to see my introduction video match up with the lights and smoke and see the crowd’s reaction.”

Kelleher credits much of his success to his time at Penn State Altoona, especially the mentorship of his professors. He says Bob Trumpbour played a huge role in motivating him and was always honest about the advantages and disadvantages of working in sports while Mary Lou Nemanic spent precious time helping him prepare for and overseeing his internships. His classes and extracurricular involvement offered him experience in audio and video production, plus allowed him to man every studio position in the communications department’s live productions, monitor and manage social media networks, and create motion and still elements.

Kelleher is extremely pleased with his academic and internship experiences, saying they combined to teach him confidence and a certain sense of fearlessness.

“I have learned that you should never be afraid of taking on challenges. In the words of Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time, ‘you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.’"

To learn more about internships, please contact Tom Shaffer, academic internship coordinator, at [email protected] or 814-949-5789.