How Hockey is Like a Startup

"Half the game is mental; the other half is being mental". Jim McKenny

I remember the day I fell in love. It was a cold February evening. Beer in hand because I almost learned the hard way not to set it down on the ledge in front of me. A man flew toward me, intensity in his eyes, beads of sweat piercing against the cold. At the last minute, he dove to the ground, protecting that which he held dear. And took a big chunk of vulcanized black rubber right to the kisser. Damn that must have hurt. But wait…the moment wasn’t over! Bleeding from the mouth, this man, but was he really a man, jumped up and tore toward the offending disk. With the grace of a swan, he expertly maneuvered away from me, pushing the disk in front of him. I knew the odds were stacked against him in this fight. One of his friends was cooling his heels away from all the others. With one final sweep of his arms, my fate was sealed. Bells rang, people clapped, a miracle had occurred.

That’s what I remember anyway. It was Trevor Daley’s first season with the Dallas Stars. He’s still a stud. Who knows if that was the exact play. All I know is that I’ve been in love with hockey since that day.

It’s not a big surprise given the intensity, expertise and teamwork required to play. It’s not unlike startups. Jim McKenny (he played a few seasons with the North Stars, so it’s ok to use his quote) says it so well. You’ve got to be totally on, and totally crazy to play the game and win. Daly is clearly no exception. A rookie defenseman taking a puck to the face, then scoring a short-handed goal is nothing short of insane. Again, I could be remembering it completely wrong, but who cares. Perception is always reality. Don’t tell me any different.

We just announced a Corporate Innovation Network that includes in the first five members, the Dallas Stars. I vetted every member heavily because we’re serious about our commitment and theirs. It wasn’t until I sat face to face with CRO Brad Alberts that I knew his organization would be a fit. I mean, clearly I hoped, but I had to know.

The way their entire organization feels that they are a team is awesome. And in recent years, it looks more like a startup. Recovering from a bankruptcy and league management before the new owner Tom Gaglardi went all in, this team has been through a lot. They’re rebuilding on a great foundation.

Dallas is known for its fair weather fans, and I’ve seen a healthy dose of fair weather investors here as well. They run as soon as it gets hard. That’s where big returns are made. When everyone else is chasing after the latest hot thing instead of watching the new guys battle it out night after night, learning, getting better, until magic brings it all together. It’s why I love startups. It’s why I love hockey. They’re made of the hardest working, craziest people you’ll ever meet.

And so many funny quotes!!

“Hockey players wear numbers because you can't always identify the body with dental records."

"Hockey is figure skating in a war zone."

"Some guys play hockey. Gretzky plays 40 mph chess." Lowell Cohn, Sportswriter

"Is that a beard, or is Niedermayer eating a muskrat?" CBC’s Harry Neale