Think your job is cool? Then you probably haven’t met Ottawa’s Cameron Hughes.
From hockey to basketball and sledge hockey, lacrosse and women’s softball, Hughes’ job as a professional fan is to get the crowds excited — and keep them that way.
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Born and raised in Ottawa, Hughes’ career began at an Ottawa Senators game on Jan. 9, 1994, when he got up in the stands “and started going crazy.
“It was a completely spontaneous moment,” said Hughes. “But the crowd responded.”
The big surprise was what came after.
A rep for the team approached him and asked him to come back.
“It was the weirdest meeting,” Hughes remembered. “It was totally unscripted and it wasn’t premeditated. Suddenly, I was coming back for multiple games, then I got paid to do it, then I got a manager and was touring the country.”
Thirteen years and over 900 events later, Hughes’ full-time gig takes him to as far as California, to New York for a Knicks game and the Grey Cup in Montreal last year.
He also does corporate and public speaking — about the impact of being a leader and how to stand out in crowd — and as Pepsi/Gatorade/Hockey Canada’s Join the Cheer ambassador, launched a new national cheer at a World Junior A game in Nova Scotia over the weekend. He’ll be coming to Ottawa this Friday.
Now 38, he’s gotten better with time, he said.
“I’m way better at interacting,” he said. “You’re connecting with people and moving them. It’s a muscle you’ve got to work.”
But it’s not always easy — last night marked his ninth in nine different hotels in a row. Being on the road also takes its tolls on relationships, “and I don’t see my family as much as I’d like.”
The job is also physically demanding — he’s lost his voice completely and has clapped so much that his hands bled.
The secret to being a professional fan? Being fearless. “I’m willing to get up in front of people and go nuts... it’s all about attitude,” he said. “When you get up there, you have to own it. Every time I perform a game, I try to make it feel like that first night in Ottawa.”