The New York Guardians are one of eight teams in the newly created XFL. The American football team will play its home games at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the same stadium that houses the New York Giants and New York Jets.
The home opener for the Guardians, coached by former Giants offensive coordinator and former LA Chargers head coach Kevin Gilbride, will be February 9 against the Tampa Bay Vipers at 2pm.
New York Guardians President Janet Duch sat down recently with SportsJam host Doug Doyle to talk about the new league and her role with the Guardians.
Duch spent nearly three years as the Senior Vice President of Marking and Communications for On Location Experiences in New York City. Prior to that she was Senior Vice President of Marketing for the New York Rangers and New York Knicks.
Duch, known as an innovative marketer and brand specialist, worked more than 18 years at Madison Square Garden. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate says sports has already been a part of her identity.
"I'm a hometown girl, born in Brooklyn, raised in Jersey and these were my teams growing up. The Knicks, the Rangers so certainly taking that experience and just being able to understand want New York fans want, what New Jersey fans want, certainly this region is passionate about their sports teams and they really want their sports teams to quite frankly reflect their own core values. And I think in this area, in my opinion, fans want teams that work hard and show up, are authentic, you know give back to the community. For me the opportunity with the XFL was to work on a new team in a league and build that from the ground up. Build that connection with our fans. We're excited to continue to introduce our fans to our players."
Duch says she's enjoyed working with XFL owner Vince McMahon, League President and CEO Jeffrey Pollack, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck and Guardians head coach Kevin Gilbride.
"It's been incredible. You know for us we've had time and resources just understanding Vince's vision and certainly Oliver and Jeffrey Pollack heading up our business side and with really their leadership, their vision, it's been a start-up. So we're excited we're doing this. It's for the love of football and I think if you're a football fan you're going to love what you see from the XFL. Certainly with Coach Gilbride here, you know he likes offense, so it's going to be a fast-paced tempo game here for us. I think it's going to fit into the style of what New Yorkers want to see."
All the XFL games will be televised by major networks. You'll be able to see the New York Guardians-Tampa Bay Vipers game on FOX February 9. ABC and ESPN will also televise the XFL games.
Coach Gilbride is holding the team's training camp in Houston, Texas. Duch says the roster has been changing throughout the process. Former Penn State quarterback and Raiders, Chief and Eagles signal-caller Matt McGloin is expected to be the starter and face of the team.
"Matt and his family have been here a few times in market and I think he's eager to get on to the field, certainly a leader on the team right now. We're excited to have him. There's nothing better than having that quarterback in your stadium. Coach will certainly make the decision as to who his starting lineups are but for us Matt has just been a true leader and champion on and off the field for us."
Duch was a star basketball and volleyball player at Paramus Catholic High School and went to UNC on a volleyball scholarship. However, a career-ending injury her junior year led to a important choice.
"It was that or back surgery and I opted for giving up volleyball at that time. I helped coach the men's club team and I got really involved with the sports marketing department. And what better place than North Carolina Athletics to learn. So for me I was doing promotions, game presentations, local sponsorship promotions and really starting to understand what the business around this was. I just decided with my journalism background and being so passionate about sports I turned it into a career. And 20 years later it served me very well."
While the New York Guardians hope to grab the attention of Giants and Jets fans, there's also an opportunity for new alliances for people in the tri-state area.
"What's been important is you have have in New York, New Jersey, this tri-state area you certainly have people from all over. While they may already have their teams but because they're here in the market this is an opportunity to have a New York-New Jersey team. If you're looking for a place to belong and want to be a part of that sports community we certainly embrace all of those fans coming out."
Duch says the Guardians are hoping to provide a super Game Day experience with designs of getting the fans as close to the action and the players as possible.
You won't face Janet Duch in some press box on opening day.
"I'm going to be in the seats with the fans. That is part of the fun here. That is a moment I've been waiting for since April of just being at our stadium with the team on our field and the passionate fans who have already signed up and are supporting us."
Click above to hear the entire SportsJam interview with Janet Duch.