Give us a little backstory. You had season tickets. You started dancing during a mass exodus in the ’07 season. Simon Gagne scored. Then what? How did you get noticed?
Well it was pretty instant that I got noticed. After I appeared, then Gagne scored, a representative (a sales one I’m guessing) told me that they liked my enthusiasm, and hoped I would return next game. The next game I was there and when I saw the camera I decided to do it again, apparently that’s what they were looking for and it’s grown ever since. I just wanted to do my part as a fan, I know I could entertain and that’s what was needed at that time during that season. I’ve tried since, just to be a complement to the game, in the end that why we’re all there, to see Flyers hockey.
So now you are a local celebrity. The Flyers paid tribute to you. You have your own Facebook fan page. You have your own t-shirt. You danced with the Phanatic. You’ve been on the news and interviewed multiple times before. Has this exceeded your wildest expectations? What was the defining moment of this entire experience for you?
It’s still unreal to me. I didn’t set out to have it grow like this; I was just trying to do my part as a fan. So from that perspective it really has been a mind blowing experience. The T-shirt, and the commercials, and all the “Philebrity” status stuff is really the product of the support of other fans. I’m always thankful of the support I’ve gotten from my fellow fans.
Having the Phanatic come dance up in my section was a pretty defining moment. A Mascot Hall of Famer came to me and followed my lead, it was pretty incredible.
But one moment that has always stood out to me was the 2008 Playoff series against Montreal in Game 4. The Habs just scored two third period goals to tie the score in the third and I still hadn’t appeared on screen yet. As the camera pointed to me during a late TV timeout, but before I appeared on the screen, some people around my section got excited and were yelling “Get ‘em goin Shawn!” and “Do it Dancin’ Guy!” It was such a pressure situation for the team, and a bit of a nervous one for the fans, and it hit me that maybe I wasn’t just a little chuckle during the games, that maybe I could be something that got people cheering for whatever reason.
When that building is loud, it’s the true definition of home ice advantage. It’s why we are the most intimidating fans in the league. Well, here I was, stirring emotions in some way. Whether people wanted to see it or not, the end result was a palpable feeling of energy. Then Danny Briere scored on a following Power Play, and the series might as well have ended right there. It’s easy to dance when the Flyers are up 4 goals, but it’s hard when it’s a tight situation, but this was a feeling that I’m not just being a form of entertainment, I could possibly be a spark. (To clarify, I’m not saying I inspire the players on the bench or anything like that, just that perhaps dancing and getting a chant and noise going was more positive than the same old, same old.)
You parlayed the Dancin’ Shawny persona into a position with the Philadelphia Soul and then with the Phantoms. Tell us about that. How did you enjoy those job? Was it hard to see the Phantoms leave the area?
Well honestly, the Dancin’ Shawny persona and the employment opportunities are actually separate. I got both the Soul and Phantoms jobs independently. It wasn’t as if they hired Dancin’ Shawny. Yes, it was a benefit to be a recognizable personality, but the Soul fan base really didn’t know my Flyers “fame” and the Phantoms made sure to give me a fair shot as “Shawny Hill” and never really used the “Dancin’ Shawny” stuff as a marketing ploy. I’ve always wanted to entertain and always had a love for sports. I never really planned to put the two together. The Philadelphia Soul job was a great opportunity because it was a unique sport and very fan friendly. They took a chance on me and what I proved to them was the reason that I was able to apply for and ultimately get recommended for the Phantoms position.
The Phantoms was sort of a “dream job”. It was hard to see the Phantoms leave the area because they had carved out their own place in Philadelphia. It wasn’t just cheaper tickets for the people around here; it was a team with its own history and legacy. They were a great affiliate of the Flyers, but working with that organization, the players, and the fans, it really was an unforgettable time. Also being able to work for the team during the last year of the Spectrum was beyond words. My father had worked at the Spectrum during the ’70s, and I heard his stories and memories, and I was now fortunate enough to be working at the building myself. I have incredible memories of that season, and also of that building, and I miss it often.
You have a new position now. You work for the Aberdeen IronBirds, correct? What do you do? Did you move out of the area? Will you be back for the hockey season?
I am the Game Entertainment Coordinator for the Aberdeen IronBirds, the single A Short Season Affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles (the Phillies equivalent is the Williamsport Crosscutters). Pretty much I’m the In-Game Host, like I was for the Phantoms and Soul, but I also do all the behind the scenes stuff as well; scheduling inning breaks, writing scripts, coordinating the mascots, etc. It’s an awesome job and it really was a personal test to see if I really wanted to pursue a career in sports.
I moved to White Marsh, MD for the summer, but I’ll be back for hockey season (as of this interview I’ll be officially back in the area)! In fact, during the end of the playoffs I was actually starting employment there and commuting back and forth just about daily, so when the internet went nuts (by internet I mean very small groups of people) with rumors that I moving out of the area and not returning, I couldn’t help but laugh. (On a side note, it was also really hilarious explaining to my new co-workers why I had to have a beard and fro for the first two weeks or so of work).
What is in store for the future of Dancin’ Shawny? For Shawn Hill?
Well the answer is I don’t know, haha. I’m still going to be at Flyers games and still trying to do my part as a fan, and dancing in the third. My summer employment with Aberdeen was just as I said, a summer job, so I’m hoping to find something I can do in the area so I can pay some bills and still make all Flyers home games. I’m also looking into coaching hockey in the area, as a summer in the baseball world has just reminded me how much I love hockey and miss it during the off season.
Long term, I’d love to do something with the organization, as I’m a hockey guy at heart, and the Flyers are my favorite team. If that opportunity ever occurs, we shall see, but mostly I’m just like any other 24 year old, I’m looking for a career path to make money, be happy, and have a good future.