Three Work Lessons from the Stanley Cup

I am new to the sport of hockey, and what an exciting game! My family and I started watching the semi-finals when we were in Chicago earlier this month. I have a niece and nephew who are the biggest Blackhawk fans – EVER! – so of course we have been rooting for Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals.

I am glad Chicago won the Stanley Cup Monday night because honestly, I don’t think my heart could take another close, intense, fast-paced game – or anymore overtime. The pace of the game created anxiety that was starting to wear me down. Just when I thought a team might score, the puck would shoot across the ice, and the action would move to the other goal. I sometimes got dizzy just trying to follow the puck and the action.

I have had days at work when I felt like a hockey player, skating after pucks issues at a relentless pace. And I have had days when I felt like the puck, slammed from one side of the rink to another. Unfortunately for us, work doesn’t come in 20-minute periods and overtime is more the norm than the exception. So what can we learn from the Stanley Cup championship series? A lot.

No. 1 fan practices recovery between OT periods in Game 1.
No. 1 fan practices recovery between OT periods in Game 1.

Build recovery in to your work and your day. Hockey teams only get 1 time out per game, which is usually only used in the last few minutes of a close match. When you watch a hockey game, you will notice players moving on and off the ice fluidly, without a stop in play. Ice skating at the pace of a Stanley Cup game can be grueling, and players cannot be at the top of their game for a full 20-minute period, so they take rest when they need it by getting off the ice. As one player moves off, another player skates in to take his place. In business, we don’t always have the luxury of a roster of fresh players on the sidelines, or moving players in and out of the game. So instead, we need to be deliberate to schedule periods of rest, such as after milestones are met and when players show signs of fatigue.

Take advantage of the Power Play. Hockey is intense to begin with, but the intensity of play increases during the power play, when one team outnumbers the other team (usually when the opposing team has a player in the penalty box). Watching for opportunities to move your work forward can be a type of business power play. Business power plays might come in the form of an initiative that aligns with what you are trying to do, relationships with a team that will benefit from you meeting your objectives, or just the good luck of being in the right place at the right time. The key is to be aware of things happening across your organization and identify ways to leverage these efforts in accomplishing your goals.

Involve the whole team in celebrating the win. The Stanley Cup has great traditions of inclusivity in its victory celebrations. Immediately after the Cup is presented to the winning team, it is passed from one player to another, with each player hoisting the cup overhead for a ceremonial victory skate. The tradition continues with “Player’s Day” when each player on the victorious team hosts the cup for 24 hours. The stories abound about how players have personalized their victory celebration day by involving friends and family – you can read about some of them here – and each story is unique to that player and his wild adventure experience. Lastly, the Cup is engraved each year with the name of every player, coach, trainer and staff member from the winning organization. Anyone who played a role in their team’s winning season and championship gets to have their name on the cup. Acknowledging everyone’s contributions at work can be tremendously motivating, especially for a team that is working like every day is the Stanley Cup championship game.

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for a great season and winning the Stanley Cup!

Heather Nelson is a partner with PeopleResults. You can reach her at or on Twitter at @HeatherGNelson1. Sign up to receive the PeopleResults blog at Current.