Like most young Canadian boys, when I was growing up I planned on being an NHL superstar. This was before the time of big contracts and endorsement deals, it was before every game was televised and player merchandising ran rampant. I didn’t want to play professional hockey for the money or the fame, I wanted to play because I loved the game. Isn’t that what we all want when we are young – to do something we love to do? Of course getting to be on my own hockey card was a bit of a perk.
I would spend hours every weekend playing street hockey. Living in suburban southern Ontario I was fortunate to have a long straight street right outside my front door that had minimal traffic. We would pretend to be Guy Lafleur from Montreal or Darryl Sittler from Toronto or Bobby Orr from Boston. We did our own play-by-play. The shout of “CAR!” was akin to a timeout and some drivers were a little impatient but for the most part I remember seeing smiles and waves as the cars rolled past. Sometimes the driver would even roll down their window and ask who was winning today? It was just like a player interview between periods but shorter and without the camera.
If there had been a professional road hockey league I may have pursued my dream. Unfortunately for me I am a minority in Canada – I can’t skate. Well let me clarify, I can’t skate well. I know you hear hockey pundits say an NHL player or prospect is a weak skater but seriously, there are 5 year olds that are better skaters than I am. If the NHL was the NRHL I could have been like Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. Probably not, maybe I would have been more like Jon Morris. Who is Jon Morris exactly? That is my point, look him up. I still have his 1991 hockey card.
From a business perspective the professional athlete is the engine of the organization. People buy tickets to see them play and broadcasters pay a lot of money to have the rights to show the games. I don’t know for sure but I am guessing you still see a few Lemieux and Gretzky jerseys around and fans spend a lot on player merchandise. It is the players that drive the revenue generation of the team. They are the product and they are the sales people.
They are the sales people? Sales people are the engine of corporations. Without a sales organization a business has no revenue. The similarities are uncanny, and organizations generally revere and pay their sales staff very well, especially their top performers. I overheard a CFO say that his favourite cheque to write was a commission cheque. In fact it is not uncommon for successful sales people to earn more than their managers.
Wait a minute, I have been in sales my whole career. I am just like my hockey heroes after all, doing something I enjoy, making a decent living, contributing to my organization in a valuable way. All I need now is my very own collector card. Does anyone have the phone number for UpperDeck or O-Pee-Chee?