Ice Hockey and Hospitality – an Odd Pairing, but Consider 'Heart - by John Hendrie

In business we use sporting comparisons all the time, for they provide a very clear picture of the situation – both challenge and opportunity. On Wednesday, June 1, we start the Stanley Cup Finals in ice hockey, where the Boston Bruins will take on the Vancouver Canucks.

LRA Worldwide Beyond the astonishing fact that these finals are being played in the first month of summer with a season which began last September with opening camp, one of these teams was never expected to make it this far – no depth, no talent, shaky history -  the full assortment of maladies and nays.  We are talking the Boston Bruins -  late, very late of the wonderful Bobby Orr Boston team of the 1970’s.

I bring Hockey into the realm of Hospitality, for many of us who were in college Hotel Programs back there in the 1960’s and ‘70’s were very much aware of our college hockey programs, because, of the ten or so Hotel Programs existing then,  several had terrific hockey teams – consider Cornell, UNH, Michigan State, and Denver.  Hockey was the winter sport, and it was all about enthusiasm, excitement and, of course, those elusive college hockey tickets.  We got hooked – college spirit at its height.

Hockey, just like Hospitality, is about the Experience – in this case for the Fan.  The Boston Bruin franchise has pulled the New England community back into the fold, almost up there with the Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox Nation.  They did it in the most extraordinary way, built on year to year disappointment, with Fans yearning for a winner, but always crushed as we approached playoff time – what a grim history.  This year was different, although nerve-wracking, with the Bruins grinding their play-off way through the Montreal Canadiens, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightening.  Finger nails were down to the quick.

The Bruins really do not have the acclaimed stars, they do not have a glamorous style of play (dump the puck and chase), and they have had significant injuries.  However, and this from someone who actually prefers another team in the NHL, they have incredible “heart” - they skate as one, work the hardest I have ever seen, and have undiluted faith, spirit and passion.  They have taken on faster teams, more sophisticated strategies, proven All Stars, and the Bruins have prevailed.  You just have to shake your head in wonder.

Now, take this demonstrated “heart” back into our businesses.  We have just begun to recover from a horrendous recession, which still may backslide.  We have a cautious and savvy Consumer we must please.  Probably, not much has been invested in our product in the last five years.  And, certainly, our staff, those team players, need some encouragement.  Plus, like the message from the Bruins ownership, we must work with what we have – get me results with limited resources.  So, much like the Bruins local management - President, General Manager and Coach – you need to move the organization forward.  This is your leadership challenge, not only with your management team but also with your players.  And, you know what, “heart” does have play – your Guest and Patrons see it (it is almost tangible), your staff is enthused and motivated, your reputation is enhanced, and your Brand can boom.

Who knows how the Bruins will play in this final stanza against Vancouver.  It has been a glorious, bumpy journey so far this season.  What has stood out is the hard work, the adherence to Bruins type hockey, the passion and the fun.  I started with pond hockey, played High School, Men’s Hockey and coached two sons.  It does get in your blood, appreciating the dedication, skill and, most importantly, the “heart”.  In your business, if you do not have that passion to elevate the Experience and enjoy that delivery, it is time to move on.

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