Wildcat Tracks: Zach Cancila ’19

When kids attend a professional sporting event, some are really into the game, while a few may only care about the cool snacks. Very few, like Zach Cancila, will walk away still thinking about what they saw on the big screens. “Since I was a kid, I always appreciated the role art and design played in sports,” said Zach. “Attending numerous Blues games growing up, I was always fascinated by the graphics displayed on the jumbotron and captivated by all the steps that went into creating those graphics.”

Zach is a graphic designer for the NHL team Tampa Bay Lightning. The path to this career began while he was a student at Westminster. “It wasn’t until my 8th grade year at WCA that I started to design myself. Back then, I started designing on my iPad, using Keynote and Canva to create logos and other graphics for friends and family. I did this for a few years throughout high school until my junior year when I got a laptop and Adobe Photoshop for my 17th birthday,” he said. “It was around this time I started creating graphics like the ones below and learned that this passion of mine was an actual career I wanted to pursue. I based my college search around different NHL cities in the US that I wanted to work for and spent my entire senior year creating a portfolio of creative campaigns for each team I planned to show if I ever got the chance to interview. During that time, I also created graphics for multiple teams at WCA, including football, basketball, baseball, and lacrosse.”

Graphics created by Zach Cancila while he was a Westminster student

Zach recalls several teachers who made a difference during his time in high school. “Mr. Burke was my senior year English teacher, one of the greatest teachers I ever had at Westminster. He knew when it was time to joke around but also when it was time to be serious. Some of my favorite WCA memories come from that class during my senior year. Mr. Burke, if you’re reading this, I am so sorry for being so disruptive during your class. However, I hope some of the laughs shared during that year left the impact on you that it did on me. Thank you for being such a great teacher and person,” he said. “Ms. Pierson (now Mrs. Piazza) helped me bring my artistic visions to life. From helping me orchestrate photoshoots to showing me how to work a camera, plus a few Photoshop tutorials, the work I created during my time at Westminster wouldn’t have been possible without her. She recognized what I wanted to accomplish and helped make it a reality.”

“My time at Westminster was amazing. I wasn’t involved in a ton of activities, but I had a great group of friends who are still in my life to this day. Mrs. Thies was my freshman and sophomore year English teacher. Having her two years in a row, she knew my personality extremely well and always made me feel comfortable sharing my thoughts in class. I felt heard and understood, and I will forever be grateful to Mrs. Thies for that.”

Zach’s high school experience laid the groundwork for the fast-paced job he now has in design. “A typical work day for me is from 9-5:30 or 9-10:30 on a home game night. Most days consist of checking our content schedule, making sure all pieces of content for the next game have been designed and approved, such as tune-in graphics, starting lineups, goal gifs, intermission, milestone graphics, and many more,” he said. “If it’s a home game, after 5:30, I’ll get dinner downtown next to the arena and head back for the start of puck drop. I sit in the press box during home games, monitoring our social channels to ensure each graphic is ready to be posted in the moment.” Busy as his days can be, there are perks to working in professional sports. “Being a lifelong hockey fan, getting the chance to interact with players during photoshoots and other events has to be one of my favorite parts of the job. Aside from that, seeing your work displayed in front of 20,000+ fans during a game is incredibly rewarding and a huge honor.”

While working on favorite projects like the Victor Hedman 100th game campaign or other game day posters, Zach can now look back and see how what started as a hobby during his years at Westminster has turned into a successful career. Along those lines, he has some friendly advice for current students. “One of the life lessons I would share looking back at my time at Westminster would be not to let yourself care what others think of you. As cliche as it sounds, it is an important reminder. There are many things I would’ve loved to participate in or do during my time at WCA that I was too nervous to do because of how I thought others would perceive me. So, to anyone reading this, focus on yourself and do what makes you happy. Try new things. The real ones in your life will stick around, and that’s what matters most.”

To connect with Zach or see his work: www.zachcancila.com

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