”Making a dent in the hockey universe” – A Strategy Design Journey

In the grand scheme of things, minor hockey is pretty low on the list of priorities right now. However, it doesn’t mean organizations have to sit idle during the COVID crisis. Hockey is big business in Toronto, a $40-million business according to Steve Simmons and The Sun. With over 80 arenas and 35,000 players in Toronto sitting idle, now is a perfect time to get our house in order and re-imagine the game. With the push from Hockey Canada, organizations are starting to understand that the game needs to change. The question is how it needs to change and more importantly how to take the first step in the journey. This blog-series will take those interested along that journey; as we apply a business and human-centered design mindset to a century-old business model that is deeply rooted in history and culture.

Last November, the GTHL held a 2-day workshop called The Transition Game to kick-start the discussion on this exact topic. This summit had speakers from all over the hockey world including Kyle Dubas and, with no disrespect to Mr. Dubas, my personal favourite Marlowe Stoudamire. Marlowe’s speech struck a personal cord with me and his vulnerability inspired me to help my son’s hockey organization. Unfortunately, on March 23rd of this year Marlowe passed away from COVID in his hometown of Detroit at the age of 43. However, Marlowe left all of us a gift with his vision for the game and his challenge for us to make it better. Which is what we are doing, Marlowe’s vision has now become our organization’s north-star. As our first step in this journey, we have put a stake in the ground with our own “Winning Aspiration” based off of Marlowe’s challenge to all of us:

“Re-imagining the future of minor hockey as a fun, inclusive and positive experience that represents the diversity of Greater Toronto while weaving in the best of old and new Canadian cultural dynamics throughout the fabric of the game in a substantial way.”

-The late Marlowe Stoudamire, November 2019

Now that we have a place to start, we have a journey to go on. In the spirit of making the game better for all, I will be sharing our path with those that want to listen. Being vulnerable myself, I acknowledge we might not be able to impact hockey culture across all of Canada. But even if we are able change “our corner” of the hockey world, it will be a success. It won’t be easy and it will take a village to pull this off. But I now have a seat at the table with my strategy design and strategy transformation background. I join a diverse group of talented individuals who are all in on this together. I feel lucky to have a motivated board of directors to work beside, with the best intentions of re-imagining what hockey can look like here in Etobicoke.

Oh, wait before you go…did I mention we go on our journey while working remotely? Yep, from start to finish our entire journey will be virtual. This is our new reality, and it shouldn’t slow us down. We are now connecting virtually using a number of tools that have replaced the traditional whiteboard, markers and Post-its. So take note, strategy design work can be done remotely. In fact, I helped deliver our first strategy session last Saturday morning using Zoom and Mural. As the facilitator I used; i. my past experience, ii. the strategy framework from IDEOU, and iii. the Problem Framing/Design Sprint templates I purchased from New Haircut (btw – shout out and thank you Jay Melone for the additional coaching – you took hours of prep away!).

“…from start to finish our entire journey will be virtual.”

I’m inviting everyone on this journey. Whether you are hockey crazy and are curious where we end up or, you are any other business looking to re-imagine and redesign your current strategy. The world is changing, the question is what are you doing about it? As we all struggle to stay afloat there will be a point where we have to look at how business will change coming out of this crisis. This is where creativity, collaboration and ecosystem will enable you to Ride the Next Wave. This is a journey to prove that this work can be done remotely, it is being done remotely. And maybe, just maybe our collaboration efforts will allow us to make a dent in the hockey universe!