The former Columbus Chill president takes the athletics throne at Lake Superior State.
A man once known for his inventive use of frozen chickens now must get accustomed to burning snowmen. David Paitson, the former president and general manager of the Columbus Chill minor league hockey franchise, was recently named athletic director of Lake Superior State University, where students celebrate the end of winter by burning a giant snowman made of wood, paper, straw, wire and paint. It’s a spectacle he’ll appreciate. During the Chill’s first-ever home game, he invited the team’s fans to catapult frozen Cornish game hens toward a net, among many other headline-grabbing stunts in his tenure.
Once the Chill left town to make way for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Paitson served as the Jackets vice president of both marketing and ticket sales before an eight-year run as associate athletic director of Sam Houston State University in Texas. Now, he takes over an athletic department of 12 teams at LSSU, known as Lake State, a school of about 2,100 students in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. “I think it’s a good fit for me in trying to step into this role,” Paitson says. “It’s a smaller school, a smaller department, but I seem to thrive in those situations pretty well. So hopefully that’ll be the case here, too.”
He will be back in familiar territory at the Upper Peninsula school—the marquee sport is hockey. The school’s other 11 sports play in Division II, but the Lakers hockey team competes in Division I, where it won national titles in 1988, 1992 and 1994. Volleyball is hockey’s counterpart on the women’s side, he says, in addition to men’s and women’s teams in golf, track, cross country, basketball and tennis.
Beyond its unique burning snowman ritual, Lake State is most widely known for its annual “Banished Words List,” a tradition started by a school public relations director in 1976. The 2016 list of words and phrases that drew Lake State’s contempt for “mis-use, over-use and general uselessness” include dadbod, disruption, town hall meeting, bigly, post-truth and listicle. Paitson’s choice for the list? “Fake news,” he says.