Watching the NHL Stanley Cup finals, I am marveling at the success of the first-year expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights.
But I probably shouldn’t be.
That’s largely because I’m starting to see exactly how the success of the Golden Knights is now a success for the entire National Hockey League. Sure, every team strives to win that very special trophy that goes with the championship—but the Golden Knights represent a much farther-reaching form of success.
Much like a unit or division within an organization, the Vegas hockey club is a member of a larger group—the National Hockey League. Had Vegas Just completed a more familiar first-year as an expansion team, their beginnings would be rewarded with a like amount of support, interest and provide a very different impression upon the rest of the league, it’s fans, and its investors.
The Golden Knights have made it to the final round of hockey’s elite playoff, and by doing so they have captured the attention and interest of hockey enthusiasts and casual observers alike. Perhaps more importantly, the league’s rules that allowed the Golden Knights to draft current players in the league for their inaugural team allowed them a genuine opportunity to be successful earlier. This has most certainly reinforced the commitment of the ownership of the team, its fan base, and the league’s partners—namely their television network and advertising partners. But the commitment by the existing NHL owners was equally important, for it showed their wisdom in knowing that success in Vegas is a success for all 31 teams.
It also makes a profoundly strong statement to whoever will seek the next franchise for the NHL, as the Vegas story is proof that you can make a huge financial and operational commitment to become part of our league and you don’t necessarily have to wait to become competitive and accomplish significant goals.
This is quite different from other professional sports leagues and times.
Many will remember the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went nearly two full seasons before they finally won their first game. Even farther back, the 1962 New York Mets, who lost seventy-five percent of its games in its first year, were a modern-day record measure of futility. And the NBA’s Miami Heat, which would one day enjoy championships much later on, actually lost its first 17 games enroute to a first year record of 15-67 back in 1988.
We must be willing to share successes with all of our partners, be they in another part of the company or another part of the community.
Like any organization or any person, the NHL knows well that it is either growing or declining. The growth comes in the form of a larger regional/local and sport fan bases, but it also comes from expansion in which an investor makes the commitment to a community to establish a team in a particular city. This is huge because just as any other business would make a similar decision, the location of a business expansion is a deliberate statement of outreach for employees, partners and ultimately, customers. For example, Starbucks is everywhere it seems, but they aren’t just “anywhere”.
In my arena of higher education, this, of course, means working to preserve an environment in which students can safely attend classes and complete coursework toward their chosen degree as they ready themselves for their careers. It also includes supporting faculty and staff, each of whom presents those courses and a vast array of services that are all part of a contemporary college or university: Key resources that include housing, library and health services, competitive and disciplined athletic departments, and of course the all-important dining halls! Each of these and so many other services cannot truly be successful without a defined and values that are demonstrated daily through ethical performances.
This would be equally true in a hospital, factory, newsroom, grocery store, research facility, government or property developer, to name but a small few.
It’s important to know and understand the intricate relationship between sub-sets of a larger ensemble, and how the successes and challenges of each are critically important to the other. As leaders of our organizations, we must be willing and generous to share successes with all of our partners, be they in another part of the company or another part of the community.