The Toronto Raptors’ Digital Duchess: kat Stefankiewicz
by andrew chapados | A digital star known by the moniker ‘MatterofKat’ on Twitter, Kat Stefankiewicz has been climbing her way from the lower echelons of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) for the better part of 11 years. Now, she has risen into prominence through content creation for some of the most exclusive platforms a professional in her field can aspire to.
Like so many successful personalities before her, Stefankiewicz has remained steadfast for MLSE, elevating herself over the years from a Raptors Dance Pak member to an In-Game Host.
The Sheridan College graduate is simultaneously a Presenter on Fibe TV1 as well as NBA TV/NBA TV Canada; a paid service with a huge audience.
Kat spoke to ONtheGO about the upcoming NBA season, her pre-game rituals and her most memorable experiences:
otg You are back once again as the in-game and digital host of the Toronto Raptors. Walk us through how you prepare for the upcoming season and how you keep the excitement alive for fans all across the country and beyond.
kat It happens every year; as the hype of summer days fade, the excitement for the upcoming season seems to replace that energy. I love the build-up to opening night. To be honest, I receive tweets and texts and timeline posts during the off season about the anticipation for the new season, which proves that you can always count on the consistent passion from Raptors fans.
Their passion doesn’t take a season off which drives me into the next one. And on that note, it’s easy to hype the arena every game because it’s a two-sided project; they energize me just as much as I ask for their noise. I am extremely lucky to work with this fan base and going back to the offseason communication, I have been lucky to develop a strong relationship with the fans having worked for the team for the past ten seasons; first as captain of the Dance Pak and now as a host. And I honestly adore my in-game gig so much! It’s a legit coast to coast #WeTheNorth phenomenon. I’ve stepped on Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax soil with the organization so I’m speaking from experience. They call the Raptors ‘Canada’s team’ for more than just the exclusivity of being north of the border. And we kick off the season every year by visiting different cities across the country for training camp and preseason games. This year, we are in Victoria, BC where our west coast fans are always thrilled to receive a peek at their NBA heroes.
otg How did you land one of the most fun jobs in the league?
kat I worked my way up. After graduating from the Music Theatre Performance program at Sheridan College, I was ready to attack the real world and auditioned for the Raptors Dance Pak weeks later. Was my dream to become a professional dancer? No. But as you enter the extremely competitive world of entertainment, you go after anything that drops in your path, so I used my triple threat skills to break in. With that, I landed one of fifteen spots on an NBA dance team and loved every minute of it. I spent five seasons with the squad, three of those as captain, and one day Raptors TV asked to follow me for a feature. That triggered an opportunity to host my first television show called Raptorspace on the same network. From there, I became a part of the NBA TV Canada family and picked up the mic as in-game host. I have been extremely lucky to have had consistent challenges and opportunities that have allowed me to grow as a performer under the same roof for ten seasons.
otg You hosted the first ever NBA All-Star Game to take place in Canada, during the 2015–2016 season. Tell us what that was like.
kat The entire experience was incredibly memorable. To be a part of such a historic moment for the city was both surreal and humbling. I was very proud to show off how we do things up here in Toronto and to showcase not only our beautiful city but the people and culture we are known for. I still remember those little moments where I was like, ‘Wow. This is NBA All-Star weekend and I’m a part of it!’ An example was waiting for Kevin Hart to finish his skit on court because that was my cue to introduce the next guests, or passing by greats like Shaq and Magic Johnson as they made their way to the court. I don’t get starstruck, but this was a show that I watched in awe from my couch for years and here I was being able to contribute to the spectacle. It was magical and a lot of hard work. It was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my journey thus far.
otg In 2016, LeBron James commended Raptors fans in an interview saying that he has “never been part of something like this.” What makes Raptors Fans some of the best in the league?
kat Just like the stereotype Canadians hold, they’re authentic and their passion is genuine. The moment LeBron was referring to was immediately after the Eastern Conference finals game that put an end to the Raptors’ longest run in franchise history. And the arena was filled with ‘Let’s Go Raptors’ chants as our boys digested the loss. I remember just stopping in my tracks, scanning the arena and bringing my hand to my heart in awe. Raptors fans are proud of their team through it all. #WeTheNorth; it’s a family thing. We’re outsiders and because of that, we’re in this together.
otg What can fans expect out of this upcoming season?
kat With a new season, comes new faces to hit the hardwood which I take as an exciting step to pushing past previous limits. Speaking from an in-game entertainment aspect, fans can expect the usual high energy show that we’re known for league wide; sold out crowds, both fan favourites from the past and new performers hitting the court, and my co-host Strizzzy and I putting our heart and soul into making it a night to remember! I passionately love this gig, fanbase and being a part of the organization and I look forward to another incredible season ahead.