5 Things Hockey Teams Can Teach Startups

1. What’s on the front of the jersey trumps what’s on the back.

“Individual victory is a collective success,” said Michel Therrien after becoming the new head coach for the Montreal Canadiens. One of his first actions was to remove all photos throughout the locker room and training facility featuring single players. He replaced them with photos of two or more players.

Coach Therrien even banned the popular “triple low-fives” celebration between two of the team’s stars, goalie Carey Price and defenseman P. K. Subban. Wins are now celebrated by the entire team raising their sticks to salute the crowd.

2. Always treat fans with gratitude and respect.

Affectionately known as the Habs (short for “les inhabitants”), the Canadiens have created a team that fans believe belongs to them. They continue to innovate and engage with this worldwide fan base in perennially novel ways like Club 1909. Premium Club members get membership cards adorned with pieces of game worn jerseys.  Regular members earn points through in person and online activities. All fans eagerly anticipate the Cirque du Soleil-esque spectacle accompanying the season opener. “Go Habs Go!” is more than a chant—it’s a lifestyle.

3.  There are no excuses.

In case individuals need to be reminded of their role in the collective success of the team, “Pas Des Excuses,” is plastered prominently throughout the Habs locker room.

4.  You don’t have to wear a “C” to be the leader.

Hockey team captains and alternate captains are designated by letters worn on their jerseys–C or A. The Canadiens have opted to go with four alternate captains rather than giving any single player the C.

One of the team’s most powerful leaders doesn’t wear either.  Veteran player (and beloved former San Jose Shark) Manny Malhotra is the first player to stand up in the locker room and give straight up advice and encouragement even when it’s bleak. His admonitions range from ,“Let’s get back to work,” during a beating to “There’s value in remaining calm and being the one person on the team the refs will talk to during an explosive situation.” Oh yeah, he’s also the first one dressed and out of the locker room after a tough loss to meet with a group of visiting cancer kids.

5.  Throw pucks to the net and good things will happen.

Top shelf goals, dirty goals and hat tricks. None of them are possible if you don’t shoot the puck. Passes don’t score points, shots do.

Wayne Gretzky summed it up best, “You lose 100% of the shots you don’t take.”