Category Archives: Sports

Building A Stronger Exercise Culture

Drivers Versus Conductors

About 33% of preventative healthcare is concerned with physical activity with the other 66% being food consumption mixed with other choices and genetic predispositions. Workers in most jobs appear to spend most of their time sitting down. Back in the mid-20th century, doctors would say to patients “what ever you do, do not exercise!” So there was a lot of confusion about the health benefits. Then there were tests conducted in the 1950s, led by Jerry Morris (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Morris), that showed that the conductor in double deckers bus (who would have had to walk up and down stairs) have a better quality of life than then driver of the bus. The conductors had to climb the stairs 1000s of times to check ticket in the upper deck. Cardiovascular activity is critical. It turns out exercise helpful for dealing with heart disease.

Olympics Versus Citizen Wide Exercise

Building a national exercise program is a wiser allocation of funding than building an Olympic stadium according to Simon Kuper. I agree. I love the Olympics, but I love average live expectancy past 90 years old much more (for fellow citizens of my own country and beyond). We need the local facilities while not necessarily commercial viable OVER the Olympic facilities gained through winning a hosting city bid which will rarely get used post games (i.e. take a look at London’s 2012 Olympic stadiums). Spending $9 billion on the Olympics is country brand signalling, cool, but those benefits are notoriously difficult to quantity in financials or otherwise. Expanding the local facilities infrastructure to be all weather in norther countires like Canada, Sweden and the UK is a worthy endeavor. Exercise facilities at work should also be subsidized, potentially by government. Expanding exercise opportunities comes with risk of course; first, what if people don’t show up to use these facilities? It’s kind of crazy that no one has successfully proposed a tax deduction for gym memberships. Being afraid of tax scams is hardly the major concern. There are steps to drive traffic for sure, but the culture of sedentary life is ingrained and a slow moving epidemic we will never “see”. I’m not saying do something foolish like Tennis Canada’s board member who advocated that tennis domes be built in every town under 5000 people. Leave the details to others at this point. But if the federal government were to intervene in any healthcare area (thinking in chunky terms and being blindly cavalier about revenue spending right now) why not look at preventative healthcare via an exercise mandate with teeth.

Civil society in Canada is very weak. On average, people don’t even leave their house if they don’t have to. Health benefits of exercise are massive and then of course, it’ll improve the happiness of people, you will see improvements in actual performance in global competition because you have a healthier population. The subset of people who actually participate in the Olympics is very very minute and it usually upper middle class to wealthy people. Making exercise and sport more accessible to train and compete will boost the quality of life across the income spectrum. Exercise has to be in a physical space: investments are underway, but the next generation needs to be obsessive about social exercise.

Edwards on Success | UofT Convocation

Murray Edwards Oil an Gas Dry Holes

Edwards (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N._Murray_Edwards) has $100,000 + his savings of $100,000 and started an oil and gas company. He had 10% of a 2 million dollar company (Canadian Natural Resources) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Natural_Resources. When he found no oil in the hole he drilled in Saskatchewan…and found no oil. Murray Edwards has a net worth of 2.2 Billion today and owns the Calgary Flames. His three big lessons from business:

  • People: you need quality people around you; collaborative decisions;
  • Plan: you need a clear well defined goals, business plans in details; think big and small.
  • Passion: you need to love what you do…..
  • Pony-Poop: children have access to the toys or pony poop. The kid that chooses the pony-poop will be more successful. Why because that kid is smart; “there must be a pony if there is pony-poop.” Always see the pony and be an optimist.

A Novel Trick: ask the listeners to complete a quiz and email the answer for tickets to a hockey game.

Phil Knight | Appreciate Dedicated Staff 1967

Returning back from Japan with a 3 year contract of Onitsuka, Knight procrastinated in his communicating to Johnson that Nike needed an eastcoast store. Sometimes procrastination is difficult to avoid, Phil kept procrastinating giving Johnson the news that Johnson had to move to the East Coast. So much so that Knight hired a new store manager in Santa Monica to replace Johnson without telling him. When Johnson phoned Knight, however, Johnson accepted because of his lack of confidence. The next day however, he asked for a stake in the company or a profit participation and a raise. Via letter; Johnson threatened to quit with a two part ultimatum, one was to make Johnson a full partner in Blue Ribbon and two was to raise his salary to $600 per month + 1/3rd of all profits beyond the first 6000 pairs of shoes sold or he walks.

Just when Knight has begun to appreciate Johnson’s loyalty as a team player, he is forced into a meeting with his salesman father Owen’s office who was bent upon getting his son a stake in the company. The negotiations end with a fifty dollar raise for Johnson. Despite all this, this is where Knight has begun to appreciate Johnson truly, having recognized the fact that it is near impossible to find someone ready to uproot their life and open up a new office in a new location in such a short time.

This is also the turning point where Blue Ribbon actually begins to expand into a company. Hires are made one after the other on the recommendations of Bowerman, new offices are moved into both by Knight and Johnson. It is plain that the failure that Knight had always seen forthcoming and prayed for to come early is held at bay for now. The growth of the company seems positive and inevitable. Woodel was a man of Oregon, whom Knight hired under the recommendation of Bowerman. Woodel was a track athlete who had been injured when a float fell on top of him while moving it with a team of 20 guys.

There is a legal face-off with Adidas over the name of a new shoe, which only serves to highlight that Blue Ribbon is now beginning to affect the big leagues. Although it is early days, the competitive mindset of Blue Ribbon is evident when they name their new show Cortez after Adidas made them back off the name Aztec because the latter was going to use it (Cortez defeated the Aztecs).

Knight’s relationship with Bowerman is also further developed in 1967. Bowerman’s book, a thin volume on jogging, goes viral and changes people’s outlook on running, almost making it seem ‘cool’. Knight is pleased at first, hoping it would add to the company’s success, but when he actually gets down to read it, he finds that Bowerman has clearly stated that running is not about shoes or branded apparel – one can use any kind for running.

This hits Knight badly for the purpose of his business, of course, but also on a personal level as even now Knight is looking for approval from Bowerman. That urge hasn’t gone away, and is the same since his school days. It also reflects on Bowerman’s character that running is something that is above business or profit for him.

Although the chapter is covered in references to the company making-do with less than best facilities – like cracked windows that let in the cold or the noises of the pub that start from four everyday – beyond all of that, the beginnings of big success are evident. From a single basement in Knight’s parents’ home to multiple employees and offices, the company is growing fast and quickly. Even though Blue Ribbon was successfully doubling revenue year on year, it still could not support it’s co-founder Phil Knight after 5 years of operation. But Phil did not enjoy PWC enough and that work was too time consuming so he found a low key job as an assistant professor at Portland State. Phil decided he would focus on his shoe business which was as far as anyone was concerned “jackass-ing around.” Even the equity problem at the bank is staved off by meeting revenue expectations.

As an assistant professor, Phil knew that accounting is about balancing these equations. He met Penny Parks in his accounting class. In fact she turned out to be the best student so Phil hired Penny as a bookkeeper. Knight asked her out on a date and they hit it off and were mattirf within a year.

shoe-dog-by-phil-knightThe above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.nike

Phil Knight | Bluff when you have to & failure is good | 1966

Phil Knights Just Do ItPhil Knight was anxious about the ending of the one-year contract with Tiger and waiting for an alert to either renew the contract or end it. By the end of 1966, Phil had sealed a three-year contract over the head of a better placed, richer competitor. The journey between how this is made possible is a lesson not only for entrepreneurship, but in life itself.

1966 was the point in time when the author actually starts realizing the importance of Johnson. Divorced, broke and hurting from an accident, Johnson managed to reach levels of sales that Knight himself believes to be impossible. Having made a deal with Johnson that after reaching a certain number of sales Knight would allow him to open up the first retail store, Johnson is ecstatic and puts in all efforts to make it the place for runners to be.

Johnson knew best1966 was an important landmark not just in Phil’s journey but perhaps also the history of running. Running for fun or just to keep fit wasn’t common back then, and runners were often made fun of. In the middle of all this, Johnson opens up a place that looked great, but also has essential books on running, some from Johnson’s own personal library and souvenirs for the more dedicated customers. It becomes a place for runners to find solace, to find more of their own.

Phil Knight ExclusivityAlthough Knight does not like to offer encouragement or reply to Johnson’s letters too often, preferring to leave him to his own devices, he is faced with no choice when he learns that a major competitor is angling for exclusive rights for selling Tiger shoes in America. Plotting overnight with Jackson at his apartment, Knight visits Japan to find that everything has changed – from the man in charge to the conference room furniture.

The difference between the last time and this time is evident to Phil – there is more confidence, more poise and much more ease in handling the negotiations. He successfully bluffs his way into making sure he is awarded the contract, but now faces the problem of actually having to erect an East Coast office and paying for a large shipment.

Phil Knight ContractThough always a risk taker, Phil is firmly in the territory of risks. There is no going back from this point. Aware of the possibility of failure, Knight has grown way past his days of fear of rejection and only hopes that if he has to fail, he fails at the earliest so that he may use his lessons from this failed venture in the next. The change from a sheltered, rejection averse boy to a man who can find positivity in the face of complete failure is stunning and is a lesson that inspires the reader. Phil does not fear failure anymore, but welcomes it with open arms, and this attitude ends up winning him a great deal against a competitor who won’t even be aware what hit him.

shoe-dog-by-phil-knightThe above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.nike

Phil Knight | Banks are Risk Averse & the PWC Experience | 1965

blue ribbon phil knightAll along, Phil Knight believed that growth was the end to be achieved for Blue Ribbon, his company importing Tiger shoes from Japan. His bank, however, had a different idea. A conservative banking institution, they did not believe in risk and were only concerned with maintaining equity in case of failure. This is key commentary on the difficulties faced by entrepreneurs back in the day. Entrepreneurs have various funding options, but back then even inter-state financing from banks wasn’t possible. Venture capitalists were a far cry, and investment in startups wasn’t an established subculture. There wasn’t much encouragement given to a new idea.

Tiger Shoes 1965Phil Knight renews acquaintance with an old classmate he had met on the tracks one day, Jack Johnson. Johnson reveres the sport of running like no other, and looks upon it as something almost divine. Although enthusiastic and energetic, Johnson is perhaps too much so. Beginning with working part time for the author, he ends up becoming the first full time employee of the company through sheer doggedness, quitting his day job for it. Johnson is relentless in his communication – the author starts getting overwhelmed with Johnson writing two to three letters everyday.

With the bank continuously bearing down on him for maintaining equity and having to wheedle for a loan everytime he needs to order a shipment, Knight applies for the position of an accountant and gets recruited by Price Waterhouse. This becomes a stepping stone for him as he meets the next big influence in his life – Delbert J. Heyes, the leader of his team. Heyes makes Phil look at numbers in a way that makes him feel like an artist. Moreover, this job allows Knight to intricately study how and why different kinds of companies go under, and how the ones that survive flourish. Cash is king in all cases; accounting and cash. Phil starts taking notes for the purpose of his own company.

Bowerman JoggingPhil also begins drinking a lot, courtesy the company of Mr. Hayes and the Reserves. With a full day ahead of him, he begins to handle his job, the Reserves training as well as his company all at once. With so much alcohol in his system, it becomes difficult to handle but Knight rallies on. Bowerman, on the other hand, rises up to help the company while Knight is so engaged. Having received a grand reception in Japan upon visiting the shoe factory offices, Bowerman gets excited about new possibilities and works on endless new shoe modifications for adapting Tiger’s Japanese products specifically for the American feet. Knight also picks up life lessons from Bowerman in ’65 about making the most of twenty four hours in a day. Apart from shoe design and his coaching, at a time Bowerman had multiple projects going on; for instance, trying to make the perfect energy drink for track racers. Bowerman was effectively inventing Gatorade. On top of that, Bowerman managed a family life as well as reveals that he is writing a book.

shoe-dog-by-phil-knightThe above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.nike

Phil Knight | Finding Bill Bowerman & Rejection Matters | 1964

female-lion-images-photos Growing up equipped Knight to deal with rejection, both in professional and personal life, something that was severely lacking in him before. His mother (Lota Hatfield Knight) is an interesting character, who may, as per first impressions, seem meek, but had many layers to her. She was a confident woman who did not hesitate to support her son in front of anyone, whether it was her husband or the outside world. She did not speak much, but proved herself through her actions.

Bill BowermanAnother important figure in Phil’s life is Bill Bowerman. He was a taskmaster during Phil’s University of Oregon stint. Bowerman was frugal with praise and known for churning out successful athletes. Phil yearned for his approval, but knew that it was not something that he’d get much of. Having finally received his shipment of shoes from Japan, Phil Knight sent over two of the pairs to Bowerman, expecting him to praise the shoes. Bowerman asked to meet Phil over a deal to buy more shoes and it goes even better than expected – Bowerman wants to be a partner in this business. He calls Phil over to meet his lawyer, which causes his some trepidation, but the discussion is brief and settles any fears Phil had.

Phil KnightThe Tiger shoe import business booms, and Phil feels immensely content and happy with his success. However a wrinkle pops up when a competing company wants to sell the shoes he is selling. Unable to take rejection, Knights falls back into old habits, but eventually decides to fight back and makes a visit to Japan. Phil’s character essentially changes – instead of allowing rejection to simply make him miserable, he lets it propel him into success. He flies to Japan and successfully gets rights to sell the shoes for another area in his thirteen states.

Mount FujiIn 1964, Knight also falls in love after meeting a girl while climbing Mount Fuji. It is a whirlwind romance, and they part without any plans of meeting up. One day, however, Sarah lands up at his doorstep and it is here that the love affair actually begins. The family is charmed by Sarah, and the author falls head over heels for her. Eventually, Sarah cools off and this causes heartache to the author, but brings up a very essential relationship to the forefront – Phil’s relationship with his sister Jeanne which till now has not been talked about. She supports him and speaks the first words of comfort that actually reach him, and goes on to become the first employee of his company.

shoe-dog-by-phil-knightThe above notes are based on ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.nike

Phil Knight | Accounting Is A Very Useful Skill | 1963

beat-the-cpa
Phil Knight’s family dynamic has changed upon his return; he finds that something has changed in him – it is not just his scruffy beard and castaway attire that causes his mother to thoughtfully call him ‘worldly’; there is a fundamental change in his spirit. Buddhism had captured him; be one with the path.

accounting-for-phil-knightHaving been betrayed by someone he thought was a business associate and having lost fifty dollars borrowed from his father for the purpose of getting a specific pair of shoes shipped, he comes to the realization that he is actually drifting in life without a sense of purpose. He brings this up with his father, who encourages him to talk to a friend of his, Mr. Frisbee.

Mr. Frisbee had officially ‘made it’ in life – he was an alumnus of Harvard Business School and had quickly risen to become the CEO of a New York State Exchange Company. This makes quite an impression on Phil. In a meeting with Frisbee, Knight hears a useful philosophy of working, saying that everyone typically changes three jobs before they hit upon the right one.
ledger-phil-knightNow, if you are not adequately educated, your career and earning scale might go down as you progress from job to job instead of going up. Therefore to secure a solid financial return, it is necessary to do two things – get a CPA and an MBA.

portland-state-campusThis though poses a problem for Phil because he hadn’t studied accounting as a major and didn’t have the necessary hours to qualify. He therefore enrolled at Portland State for three accounting classes. Portland State is a far cry from something like Harvard (something that both Phil and his father realize), but the author finishes his nine hours and starts working at the accounting firm Lybrand, Ross Bros. and Montgomery. It is one of the Big Eight National firms, but the offices in Portland are quite small. Knight takes this positively, reflecting that this would give him a chance to learn the language of business.

The author quickly discovers the downside of a small branch. There is no one to take up the slack when the workload increases, which means that everyone is logging in long hours, not leaving much opportunity for the learning process. However the author admires the CEO, Al Reser, who happens to be a mere three years older than Phil.

ledgerThe best example of how important work is at this firm is reflected when Phil is refused a holiday on the day after President Kennedy’s assassination. Of course, the upside to all this is that Phil is earning well. So he buys a car for himself. His life has finally taken a definite direction, and he seems set in his profession too. However, the chapter closes with him often wondering if his travels around the world last year were the peak of his life, and there is nothing better to look forward to…..

shoe-dog-by-phil-knightThe above synopsis is based on notes from ShoeDog by Phil Knight – Founder of NIKE INC.nike

Phil Knight | Travel The World To Get Insights & Chase Dreams | 1962

air-travel-not-as-commonPhil Knight, aged 24, traveled across the world to chase his Stanford paper dream of creating a shoe importing business. In the contemporary era, air travel has been accepted as part of pop culture, what with bucket lists, gap years and travel vlogging becoming the norm. But back in the 1960s, ninety per cent of Americans had never boarded a plane. Most Americans had not travelled more than 100 miles from their home.

Phil or Bucky, as his dad used to call him, felt hesitant to ask his father for money to support his plan to travel the world from Berlin, London, Paris to Tokyo, Cairo, Athens while also exploring his business venture idea in Japan. Phil knew before going into the chat with his dad exactly why his father would reject the travel plan. Phil Knight’s dad is an interesting character. His father ran a local Portland-based publisher and was former lawyer. He was someone whose aim in life is to achieve respectability, and more importantly, to be seen as respectable by the society around him. Respectability demands a stable career, a beautiful wife and obedient children – children who don’t randomly have the urge to travel around the world. However, Phil’s request plays on his father’s youthful regret of not travelling much, and he gets his way immediately.

Travel the world monument conceptKnight decides to enlist a friend for the journey, and his Stanford friend Carter was excitedly on board with the global adventure. They had an amazing beach-drenched time in Honolulu, where the itinerary goes out of whack because they love the place so much they decide to rent a place and find jobs. From selling encyclopedias to securities, Phil finds he is uncomfortable being a salesman, and even more uncomfortable with rejection. Eventually, he moves on in his travels alone, as Carter chooses to stay behind for a girl he found. The journey Knight is on is one of self-discovery, to find out what interests him – and perhaps denotes something we all can relate to at one point of time or the other.

nike-goddess-of-victoryHe describes his travels through various countries, elaborating on the ones he enjoyed the most while the rest are clipped to a couple of sentences. The author searches for spiritualism everywhere he goes – as if he is seeking out a power higher than himself to give him some direction. He does find the teachings of various cultures, but nothing moves him as he expected it to. Greece and its architecture, however, leaves a lasting mark on him. Athena the goddess of victory “Nike” is of particular interest. It might be historical revisionism but perhaps more to tell a great story but that name might come up later…..

onitsuka-co-tiger-shoesPhil Knight creates his first business pitch in Kobe. Japan at the HQ of Tiger Shoes, Onitsuka Co. He was warned by two American ex-occupation military guys about how Japanese negotiating is completely different than the typical aggressive American manner, so Phil practices what he will say and how he will deal with his proposed pitch of the “Crazy Shoe Idea.” In the meeting, which featured top Tiger Shoe brass, Knight ends up speaking from a safe space – channeling the speech he gave at his entrepreneurship presentation at Stanford, something he had studied really hard for (‘58-’62) and which had been then the basis of his “Crazy Shoe Idea.” The basic pitch can be captured in the title of the paper: “Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras?”

yenKnight was pleased with how the meeting went. The Onitsuka team seemed intrigued with his US distribution strategy which was peppered with quantitative insights, market sizing and a vision for getting Tiger ensconced into the US mainstream. When they asked what the name of his company was, Knight replied with “Blue Ribbon”. His pitch also hit a nerve as the Japanese management were seeing Yen ($) signs via the US track. Without knowing the outcome of the meeting (as Japanese are stereotypically hard to read), Phil had his father wire fifty bucks to Onitsuka so that they could send over a shoe samples they talked about in the meeting.

classi-tiger-shoe-designWhen Phil arrives home, looking bohemian and travel worn, the first thing he asks his dad is if the shoes have arrived. This part of the ShoeDog story is interesting not just because there is a very beautiful description of every country he visited, but because the reader can see the author’s passion for shoes developing in successive stages – from nothing in Honolulu to noticing the shoes of even beggars and statues. Great minds connect desperate events to create innovation; Knight was already on his way to greatness.
shoe-dog-by-phil-knightThe above synopsis is based on notes from ShoeDog by Phil Knight.nike

How To Make Hockey A Global Sport: Three Modest Changes

Fighting, Body Checking & Pucks

Ice hockey is the national sport of Canada and it’s very popular in other northerly countries. But, it could be more popular than it currently is. There could be better talent in the sport today but the problem with hockey is the current manner in which the sport is played, the way the rules re-enforce certain behaviours and of course, the sport’s requirement of a lot equipment which isn’t conducive to the working class families….

There are several factors that could explain why hockey is less popular than basketball, baseball, football, soccer (football). And these factors could be fixed without completely changing the sport. I think change in certain areas could improve the sport’s global popularity and therefore increase the calibre of players, the level of entertainment and the awesomeness of this the greatest of sports. That’s right, I’m greedy, make the best better…..You might not like these ideas so convince me otherwise on an argumentative basis if possible.

Ban on Fighting in the NHLPunch Me, Grab Me, I Can Assault You….On Ice

One of the hinderances to hockey’s success as a global sport is fighting. Fighting should not be “part of the game.” Um, just to clarify, hockey is not a game, it’s a sport. Everyone gets excited in the stands (supposedly) when they see a fight on the ice. And yet, this regular season game is supposed to be a family outing and sponsored by Tim Hortons, you say??? If there are young kids watching, it’s probably not the best example to set for those kids when two professional/paid hockey players are punching each other in the face, or wildly groping around in order to maximise bodily harm. It is illegal to assault a fellow human being….in you know…the real world under the Canadian Criminal Code. Of course, kids know that this is currently part of the game and kids aren’t taking the fight to the streets, but we can’t expect publically condoned violence to NOT have some effect on people in other contexts.

So, the issue here is fighting is entertaining but it’s kind of an embarrassing part of hockey. If you ask a Western European; a person from the United Kingdom, for example, what they think about when they think ice hockey, they naturally focus on fighting when it comes to this sport. I guess potential fans tend to remember random acts of violence rather than other things like talent & skill.

The NBA of HockeyThe NBA of Hockey

The NBA, the National Basketball Association, used to have fighting in the 1960s when the sport was still in its nascent phases of commercialization….another sport invented by a Canadian (Dr. Naismith)….randomly enough….


Anyway, fighting was phased out as the demographics of the sport changed and the sport matured… Low and behold, Basketball got much much more entertaining. Rucker Park experimentation arrived on the basketball court…fresh players started a new fad called “dunking”. Today, the average NBA franchise is worth 1.1 Billion USD. Just looking at the performance of the NHL here and I’m disappointed with year on year growth, folks; only the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers are worth more than 1 Billion USD. 

Now of course, you can point out that there isn’t much equipment needed to play basketball so the sport is able to grow faster BUT it is strange that fighting was ruled out in the 1960s and now basketball is a global sport….Meanwhile hockey still hasn’t changed from being a predominately caucasian and middle-class sport. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, it’s just that punching people in the face, isn’t as attractive to new entrants as you might think.

When you look at the demographics of Canada, you would think that there would be more non-white players in hockey but there aren’t. There is a pattern with sports that want to go mainstream…they inspire people across demographics to play the sport. Random violence isn’t the only barrier to better & more talent in hockey but I don’t think it helps.

Fighting As A DeterantDeterrence Through The Use Of Lawful Force

Now, fighting is the most obvious, surface level issue about hockey. But, underlying fighting is a deeper problem. Fighting is partly a means of deterring competing players from engaging in the body checking OF HIGH VALUE, high net worth players. If you can bodycheck or slash Wayne Gretzky and knock him out of game seven of the Stanley Cup final then you should go do that because the sport permits exacting bodily harm on fellow athletes. It’s a full contact sport.

So, what ends up occurring in this rational choice scenario is that players actively use body checking to harm others and thereby gain strategic advantage in game situations. But, in effect, what this does is it slows down the flow of the game. There could be more flow in this sport, it could be less about masculinity and blunt force, and more about skill and playmaking BUT body checking is the barrier to creating a sport that is more appropriately led by skilled players. Don’t tell me that bodychecking is a skill, I know it’s a skill, but it’s not a skill that adds to the health and well being of fellow players, bodychecking prevents athletes from reaching their full potential. Eric Lindros is just one of the NHL greats whose career, I recall, was cut short.

Here’s a list of talented players whose careers were cut short by injuries:

  • Pat LaFointaine (concussion)
  • Bobby Orr (knee)
  • Marian Gaborik (knee)
  • Peter Forsberg (ankle)
  • Steve Moore (concussion)
  • Adam Deadmarsh (concussion)
  • Matthew Barnaby (concussion)
  • Keith Primeau (concussion)
  • Dean Chynoweth (concussion)
  • Dave Scratchard (concussion)
  • Cam Neely (knee)
  • Dennis Vaske (concussion)
  • Scott Stevens (concussion)
  • Steve Yzerman (knee)
  • George Courtnall (concussion)
  • Stu Grimson (concussion)
  • Pavel Bure (knee)
  • Mike Richter (concusion)
  • Mario Lemieux (hip/back)
  • As mentioned, Eric Lindros (concussion)
  • Insert name of countless friends from your local community who had their NHL dream cut short by an injury.

Marty McSorley- Missed Ban FightingMarty McSorley-Missed

Actually if you look at it, Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers had a set of players who acted as body guards for Wayne Gretzky. These guys would body check opponents and escalate that conflict to 1 on 1 fights in order to establish that Wayne Gretzky wasn’t to be touched on the ice. They were sort of body guards, bullies if you will, and they would use their physical strength to assert themselves and protect Gretzky. In the process, they also had altercations that became fights, true, and they would fight on the ice and punch their opponent’s faces with blood soaked glee. Like mixed martial artists or boxers. But the point of the fight was that it was morale boosting.

More than anything a fight is about saying “Hey, check yourself. You have violated our unspoken law about egregiously harming myself or top players, and I want to equalize that by fighting you.” I guess, the problem is that these types of players are occupying ice time which would be better suited for creative & skill players. Don’t be fooled by the logic that defencemen will not be able to contain the offence because bodychecking is retricted. The game will be more skill based if you have to intercept the puck rather than a player’s body….at least it’s worth considering.

So fighting and body checking are not separable; you can’t remove one without removing the other. At least not without a lot of difficulty.

EquipmentEquipment As A Barrier To Potential Talent:

The equipment problem is the biggest of all problems with hockey. Purists hate changes to their sport but if I was an equipment manufacturing executive I would be for all kinds of changes to hockey. And it turns out, manufacturers have made a killing on contact sports. Circa 1959, Plante gets hit in the face one too many times, good, equipment manufacturers have a new category. Someone gets cut in the neck, sell a neck guard for $25 bucks. Elbow pads aren’t big enough, charge double. Manufacturers are saying today “let’s keep hockey a semi-violence sport so that we can increase our revenue, shall we?”

And looking into the distant past, it’s not like Guy LaFleur was laying out opponents every game…..

Ever notice how equipment manafacturing for hockey has ratched up the gear? Most notably in the 25 years….First there was the mandatory helmets then there was more padding generally. As the sport developed alongside American and Canadian football, these sports informed manufacturers about how best to protect players from eachother. You could split your expensive research & development costs across a bunch of contact sports…With more padding came an increase in physical altercations as part of the game.

Today, the pads take the brunt of the discomfort in laying the hit. It’s hard to ignore the fact that hockey requires so much expensive equipment, meanwhile, purists believe that body checking is integral to how the sport is played. Seems like a perfect accident that these two interest groups have shaped the sport.

Now, it’s not likely that equipment manufacturers have intentionally made it easier to comfortably body check opponents and in so doing made the game less approachable for the working class by making the sport so expensive….in all likelihood, equipment manufacturers were responding to player demand. So I can’t fault the equipment manufacturers for making a living here. However, I kind of doubt that manufacturers would want to restrict body checking as it would mean less profits for themselves….at least in the short-term. Long term, I would expect more sticks to be sold globally.

Lost Legends of HockeyLost Legends That Never Were And I Have No Proof Existed….

So, I’m still talking about fighting, but in truth body checking is the core of the problem with ice hockey. It wasn’t always about body checking because there weren’t pads when you played shinny as a kid. Think of how many players in their youth stopped playing ice hockey around age eight or nine. There are statistics that show that this occurs, that there’s a significant drop off of player talent in the mid-teens as well.

If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point,” you’ll know that obviously people who are born earlier in the year have a few advantages in life.  If you were born in January of a given year, you can still playing ice hockey against people who were born in December but are still considered nine year olds. And the growth spurts of those two individuals could be wildly different, the guy or girl born in January could be several inches taller and larger than the guy born in December of the same calendar year.

So, you have created an inequality in the development of the players that is exacerbated by the serendipity of bodychecking at random. Also, more importantly, by the age of nine, you introduce body checking as if it has to be part of the sport. If you’re body checking someone at an early age, they’re still growing, you’re putting their bodies under duress. It’s quite similar to American or Canadian football. These kids get bruises, it’s a brutal sport, it’s a lot of fun to pummel each other with really expensive, heavy equipment but in hockey?….the long-term problem is that it could be harming the development of great skill players. Ultimately, the problem is that body checking may lead many kids to actually just quit and never play the sport again…

Global Hockey LeaguePossible Solution: Create Parallel/Competing League…

So I know these ideas seem ridiculous but I think that these changes would benefit the sport but lets A/B test it first. A/B testing is where you have two versions of a thing you are testing & then you include a new factor into one of the two in order to decide which one is better. There will be a lot of people who will decry any change to the sport because the sport is “great the way it is” just like the horse and carriage is the best way to get around circa 1875, but what these folks don’t realize is the key concept that this  post is about; which is  the hidden costs of the way the game is played today. When the automobile was popularised, there was a transition period. The sport could be better than it is presently but I can’t prove that at present because there is no other league to compare with the NHL.

Of course there was the WHA in the 1970s, teams like the Edmonton Oilers were infact from that league. I’ll put good money on the idea that a new Global Hockey League which would be a 21st century hockey league that, if it restricted body checking/fighting, would dwarf the NHL within 10 years pulling the carpet under the “best” in traditional hockey. Get ready for Moscow vs Montreal, October 15th, 2035. Yes, if you can’t join ’em replace ’em…..Let the free market decide which league is better. Just a thought though.

The Hidden Costs of HockeyHidden Costs Are Expensive

As we’ve seen the hidden costs of body checking and fighting are wide ranging. The equipment issue is probably a bigger problem than anyother but we don’t realise these costs for sure because there’s no alternative reality or parallel league to see these changes in play. There must be 1000s of talented altheletes who left the sport because of injuries. Players competing in Bantam hockey across Canada and elsewhere no doubt hit a threshold of pain that could not be overcome because the sport was wedded to random acts of violence leading to unexpected concussions….all in the name of this being part of the game. Again, hockey is a sport, not game. Checkers is a game.

Money In HockeyTalent = Skill = Entertainment = Intellect = Revenue

You can completely disagree with me but if the sport can be more lucrative, popular and globally respected through these changes then what’s your problem? As I mentioned above, the average NBA team is worth more than the average NHL team by quite a lot. Hockey is a skill sport, a sport of intellect, of strategy, a sport of physical fitness, a sport that requires agility, endurance. There is intellect in body-checking but there is more intellect in playmaking, I suspect. If you look at any NHL game highlights, body-cheking is rarely emphasised. It’s a fantastic sport that has a huge, huge hidden cost inserted into it by the contact component; the body checking within the sport is really expensive from an equipment, injury & skill standpoint.

Canada has the highest post-secondary education rates on earth.  Our heroes should reflect the demographics of Canada not just the best bullies in the playground. I am in no way saying top hockey players aren’t intelligent, don’t miscontrue the argument, it’s just that it’s possible that bully-centred players are potentially crowding out talent from market. There is no way to know for sure because there is no parallel league to compare the NHL to but I’m saying some smarter players never get the chance to play because of the way the sport is currently played. It’s quite possible that hockey fans globally want to restrict body checking but don’t have any means to express their decent. I believe they would spend more money watching hockey if body checking was restricted and I can explain why. But first, we should ask what Mohammed Ali thinks about body checking…..Oh right, he’s sustained too many hits to the head to speak competently about a sport he never played. Maybe body checking should be restricted to improve the lives of current & future-retiring atheletes? Also, hockey is not MMA or boxing. Hockey is better than these sports in my opinion. There is a place for violence in sport. I’m saying that violence shouldn’t play such a significant role in hockey.

WhowillhatethisideaOne Group Guaranteed To Disagree With Me

Now before I upset purists further, let’s agree that those who most forcefully oppose penalising body checking are likely to be the NHL players who have the following problems:

  1. They’re bulky and physically threatening on the ice;
  2. They don’t have the head for strategy play;
  3. They dream about the cheers they get when they lay a huge hit;
  4. They can’t skate worth a damn but can slash you like a champ;
  5. Their shot accuracy, speed, agility & general talent are below average.
  6. If these changes mentioned in this article actually happened, they would lose their jobs as more talented players crowd them out of the league.

So yeah, the people who most forcefully oppose changes are those who benefit from the status quo. My point is not that if you disagree with me you are a ‘dumb goon’ or something, it’s that the sport could quite possibly be better IF the sub-sect of enforcer players were phased out THEN everyone else would benefit. That includes fans, teams, GMs and the overall global potential of the sport.

Body Checking Should Be BannedSerendipity of Body Checking

As mentioned above, Canadian football, American football, for the most part have very coordinated and fairly standardised contact. You have contact where two players pummel each other, directing their physical force in a single direction and the sport is built around anticipating hits. In ice hockey, it’s random, it’s serendipitous, i.e. someone crossed the blue line with their head down and gets a concussion, someone plows into the corner boards headfirst and is a paraplegic for the rest of his life.

The hits are not coordinated in anyway and can occur at any time on the ice. It’s random like a car accident or a cancer diagnosis…Obviously, hockey needs to at least restrict body checking. Once you get rid of body checking, as a non-starter fighting is out, it doesn’t make logical sense anymore to have the fighting deterrent, and you improve the total pool of potential players in the sport. Of course, making the penalties for bodychecking harsh and suspending fights would change the game quite a lot.

Just because you make something less appealing doesn’t mean it will stop immediately at first. But I’m sorry, hockey already has enough going against it as a global sport, most notably the fact that it is played on frozen water. But at least, the full pool of individuals who could be playing hockey could grow substantially if you change the sport to remove body checking and fighting from it.

Nail in the coffin

Now, that you’ve read this far along, I need to prepare you for the final blow. Body checking does more harm than good for hockey. Body checking inflates the cost of participating in the sport. Removing it would make hockey more accessible. To prove my point further, I’ve mentioned the NBA several times before. Well, I have just one last thought for you. Can you imagine basketball with bodychecking? Would the sport be better? As a hockey fan, are you strangely drawn to the prospect of basketball with body checking? Interesting, right?

NBA Body CheckingGonna need more padding….

Neon Hockey PucksCommercial Viability of The Spectacle That Is Hockey

Now, here’s where purists take a nose dive & get extremely upset with my argument. I’m happy to separate the following idea from the other two above but if you look at it from a commercial perspective and I’m putting my commercial hat on here, there was a time in the 90’s when the US broadcasters highlighted the puck on the ice, specifically to help fans see the puck. Of course, that was annoying and it was kind of a problem to viewers in Canada. Just a bit of a problem. Many Canadian fans felt that the TRAX PUCK was an affront to the sport, but net revenue and growth of the sport increased in that period. The truth is FOX subsequently dropped this strange highlighted puck solution and because of audience confusion (among other factors) FOX cancelled their coverage; the numbers didn’t add up. But, that failure has a self-fulfilling element to it.

The problem is still that new fans can’t see the puck in some instances. I think the third thing that they should change, and I say “they” I mean commissioner Gary Bettman of the NHL; he should get rid of the black hockey puck and replace it with a neon coloured hockey puck that’s easy to see. Because there is no doubt with even with HD television, you will have situations where it looks like everyone is skating around with no puck. Why am I watching mimes right now? Where’s the puck? They’re throwing around a puck at high speed and you can’t see it. It can be quite annoying for those who did not grow up with the sport. Now, I did grow up with hockey but I empathise with non-hockey fans who could love the sport. In fact, those who grew up with hockey have a vivid imagination as to where the puck is and thus like it the way it is. I think if you made the puck in NHL games neon or green or orange it would have a positive impact. Apparently having an orange puck was common practice in the WHA. Just saying. I know this sounds like an awful idea to have a puck you can see more easily but try it before you fry it. I think it’s worth exploring changes to the sport to penalize body checking, outlaw fighting and change the hockey puck to orange so there you have it. If you’re still not sold on these changes then consider the following……

NHL GamesIncreased Diversity & Increased Skill & Increased Spectacle

An ancillary consequence of these changes could be problematic in and of itself and that would be, potentially, that there would be more hockey players competing for a handful of actual NHL jobs as NHL players, and the quality of hockey would increase and skilled players would dominate the sport. Now why that would be a bad thing I’m not quite sure just yet, but I’m pretty sure that would be the consequence. There would be increased competition because there would be a greater pool of athletes to choose from.  There might be even, dare I say it, women hockey players. Now that’s just crazy….So, diversity is another beneficiary of this change in policy. Anyway, those are my thoughts. If you like one of the three ideas that’s cool, if you hate them all let me know. Convince me otherwise on an argumentative basis if possible.

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Mike Babcock @ McGill University

Foundation: You need to build a fountation for yourself. University is a great foundation for personal development: Bring your best mental self to everything you do.

Potential: Potential is a dirty word if you do not do anything with it. You need maximise your potential. You need to embrace life long learning.

Attitude: attitude shapes your life, it is more important then facts, money, failures or successes. Attitude is more important then appearance and will make or break a company. We have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we embrace for that day, we cannot change our past or the inevitable. 90% of life is how you react to it.

Mike Babcock went to St. James Elementary School, Holy Cross High School, McGill University and King’s College London…he did not go to the London School of Economics…He coached Canada’s Olympic Gold Medal Men’s Hockey Team in 2010. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger Make Exercise & Goal Setting Part of Life

Excercising shapes the body and mind. Schwarzenegger believed in conquering the world, he has done that pretty well. It wasn’t luck, it was willpower (self-discipline). Although, he’s made some mistakes in life, he was driven by strong principles. He created goals for himself and then did what he could to achieve those goals. But achieving your goals is about harnessing not just your body but most critically the mind. The ability to reshape the mind is critical for success in any field you choose. A polymath like Schwarzenegger conquered body building, film acting and government life through sheer effort and an iron will. Understanding how willpower works in conjunction with excercise is critical to your success in life…..