Monday, January 7, 2013

The NHL Lockout–Focusing On Whom You Serve

There are many variations around the expression “Adversity doesn’t change you, it reveals you”.

As the NHL lockout comes to a conclusion, I wonder what it reveals about the the owners and players.

Over the last 10 years or so, I have observed a number of labor disputes in the education and healthcare industries.  The workforce commonly issued many an angry statement about what they deserved, whether it was better pensions, more vacation time, better pay or about how poorly they were being treated.  One example that stood out for me was one doctor who made almost a million dollars a year, worked 5 hours a week, received 8 weeks paid vacation per year (plus sick leave) and cited that his workload was unbearable.

The management in these labor disputes talked about the challenges of balancing the books in difficult times, how hard it was to find skilled talent, how the compensation package offered matched any other comparable group and the like.

VERY rarely did either side champion the student, patient or any other group that they existed to serve.

It was if the people whom they served didn’t exist.

The same is true for the NHL dispute.  We heard a lot about how the owners were struggling to get by as more and more of them demanded their local cities carry the financial risk and burden of building new arenas in order to maximize their own profits.

We also heard a lot from players who are paid millions a year to chase a piece of frozen rubber as they complained that they weren’t getting their share and how difficult it was for them to shift from a busy workload to a life of relaxation with their family.

Digression: Imagine if first responders and military personnel were paid commensurate with their value, contribution and sacrifice.  They'd all be billionaires if we use NHL player salaries as a baseline.

The word “fan” was rarely mentioned in the recent NHL lockout.  The many people who rely on part time jobs in and around the various arenas didn’t come to mind either as they were suddenly forced to find some other source of income before the holidays.

In fact, I’m sure that the only time the word “fan” was mentioned in any boardroom was in the financial accounting of the bag of gold that was being divided.  I wonder how many people stood up during the negotiations and exclaimed “Guys, this is all garbage – what are we doing for the fans?”.

Maybe the fans don’t matter.  If that’s true, then perhaps we can shut down the arenas and allow the league to focus on TV and endorsement revenue.

As this would surely produce a cry of indignation from fans and players alike, it seems that fans do matter.

And since revenue from fans, whether in the stands, in front of the TV or at the local souvenir shop, accounts for most of the money that the owners and players were fighting over, perhaps a little more than a lame apology at the end of the lockout is in order.

As a former season ticket holder myself where I dropped hundreds at every game above and beyond the tickets themselves, I think that the players and owners have lived quite well on our revenue.

Sadly, what we think and feel seems to only matter when it appears we might withhold revenue from them.

It’s almost like mistreating someone for years but suddenly apologizing when the abused has had enough and decides to leave.  At that point, words of regret are empty, meaningless and insincere.

Any organization and the people within, whether they are in healthcare, education, government, business, religion, sports or anything else, must NEVER take its focus off the people whom it serves.

Any organization that does so is either meaningless, purposeless or deserves to be replaced by one that does care about whom they serve.

After all, if the people whom they served don’t need them, don’t get value out of them or don’t get respect from them, then why should the organization be tolerated to exist at all?

As for me ……

The players and owners did fine not thinking about me for the first part of the season.

And they will do fine if I’m not thinking about them for the rest of the season.

In service and servanthood,


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