What Do Successful Teams Have in Common?

What do successful teams have in common?

In our sport goaltending is a big factor, but for the most part the
ownership of the team was huge. I’ve been close to some of the owners.
My first year in Montreal, Molson sold the team to the two brothers Edgar and Peter Bronfman.

They were around the rink, but they never interfered. They played hockey on Sunday mornings with friends before we practised. I think the team got the feeling that they would do anything to win.

In Detroit Mike Ilitch is the same way, and that feeling was there even in Pittsburgh with Howard Baldwin. In my first three years with St. Louis our ownership did things that were unheard of. We lost four straight games in the finals but they happened to own a hotel in Florida where for three straight years they brought all the players and their families, as well as the scouts and the coaches.

Success comes from ownership, goaltending, and I’ve always been thinking that you can have a fire-wagon type of hockey but your ability to play good defence has got to surface. The thread that ran through all of my success was undoubtedly ownership’s commitment to win. I’ve been quite close to some of the owners, and the Bronfmans’ passion for the game as owners in Montreal and the Ilitches’ commitment to create a winning team in Detroit contributed greatly to our success.

-Scotty Bowman

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11 Responses to "What Do Successful Teams Have in Common?"

  1. Julian says:

    Verrry interesting. I wouldn’t have guessed that that’s the first thing Bowman would say.

    I heard a rumour that if this current Katz offer gets rejected, he’ll back off for a while. On the other hand, Ritch Winter appears to have said that the EIG approached Katz first, not the other way around.

  2. MikeP says:

    Rich Winter could give Brian Burke lessons in baiting.

    I don’t know that I’d call the man a liar, precisely, but I would say he definitely seems to play things fast and loose, and is willing to blame somebody else – anybody else – for his problems and faults.

  3. danny says:

    Thanks for that LT.

    I think people underestimate sometimes the impact the Ownership has on the appeal of a franchise. IMO, once due to necessity, now mostly through instinct, the EIG have driven the perception of the franchise into the ground. These guys have all become millionaires by conducting business in a smart way that fudges their numbers any way they can, say what they can to get handouts, want all the breaks. it works for securing profit margins etc… but I’m not so sure any company thats constantly in the public relaying financial constraints are capable of attracting the top personnel.

    I’m reading a book now titled ‘Positioning’, its a classic in the field of marketing and public subconsciousness. You can directly apply some of the principles to the EIGs handling of this franchise and its no wonder they have a severe public image issue. then you have Joker Laforge and his epic letter addressing last season. Talk about missing the target. His job should be to secure a better future, not to point fingers as to what went wrong in the past…

    Having a steady sound ownership, such as Illitch has been for Detroit that doesn’t need to fight and cry to the government/public/NHL for help makes a HUGE difference in what the name ‘edmonton oilers’ means to people. Right now, what does it mean to the general public? Nothing like it meant back in the late 80′s when bad ownership first started defacing a once elite franchise.

  4. Big T says:

    Agreed on most points Danny.

    Is Daryl Katz an owner like Scotty Bowman was talking about. He sure seems like a person who enjoys the game.

    Georges Laraque brought up the drama issue on Stauffer a month or so ago. His feeling was that players didn’t want to come here – or that it was a less than appealing destination – mainly because of the constant drama that seems to follow the team. I know I’ll bend over backwards to avoid the drama my girlfriend seems to release. Does Katz as an owner bring anything to the table that remedies this????

    Danny talked about Positioning (great book by the way Danny… very good insite). Under EIG there is always this pressure on the team to make it financially – real or imagined. Perhaps a Katz owned Oilers would be able to shed that stigma??? Dunno???

    T

  5. Art Vandelay says:

    These guys have all become millionaires by conducting business in a smart way that fudges their numbers any way they can, say what they can to get handouts, want all the breaks. it works for securing profit margins etc….
    Whoa there. I’m the first guy to complain about rent-seeking and the first to protest when tax money is used to build arenas for sports teams….however, you can’t make a sweeping generalization that all of EIG’s constituent members – or that any of them – became millionaires because they fudged their numbers (implies they engaged in tax evasion; tax avoidance is legal), or said what they had to in order to get handouts (what evidence is there any of them have benefited from handouts?).
    It is not necessarily EIG’s fault that players are choosing NOT to play in Edmonton. Darryl Katz can’t change the fact that, all other things (ie money) being equal, players consider Edmonton to be in the lower tier of desirability. With apologies to my friends and family, Edmonton is not an attractive city. It just isn’t. It is to NHL hockey what Montreal was to MLB: a player’s Siberia where nobody wants to play if they can help it.

  6. Kyle says:

    Does anyone here have any stats comparing Stanley Cups with types of team owner (ie. individual person (Mike Illitch) vs. ownership group (EIG) vs. full corporation (Orca Bay, MLSE).

    Someone once told me that its individual person owners who almost exclusively win the cup but I’ve never actually verified the claim.

  7. godot10 says:

    The EIG saved the team, and I give them great credit for that. I disagree with most of the flack many Oiler fans give them about being greedy spendthrifts. If Edmonton already had a new arena, I wouldn’t have any trouble with them continuing as owners.

    But the arena project is a half-billion dollar project, and much of that ownership group is not sufficiently capitalized to take on such a project.

    I think their plan is to take the Oilers public, i.e. do an IPO and sell shares, and then ask for a lot of taxpayer dollars to build the arena, which is a nutty plan.

    The EIG has done an admirable public service, but it is time to pass the torch to Katz.

  8. danny says:

    Art Vandelay said…
    Whoa there.

    I’m referring to pretty common business practices where you bend the books, skimp the budgets, paint the numbers as pretty as possible, all in ways to get ahead. I’m not talking about tax evasion or such… theres a million cracks and crevices that business owners exploit to maximize their profits. Ranges from hiring practices, government programs, to trade etc. its no big revelation I’m sure that large corporations are masters at massaging the system, getting the best breaks and capitalizing on everything possible.

    My comment was suggesting that this mentality which is likely pretty predominant amongst the individual corporations of the EIG ownership group, has a resonating effect on how they conduct themselves as an NHL ownership group. Obviously that is just my opinion on the matter, but when you have the 7th highest revenue team in the NHL making statements like “a 39 million cap would mean the world to us” and “we need to make the playoffs to break even”… then they are painting a picture not entirely based on reality, and doing so to position themselves for public and political support.

    I mean they are so adherent to their fiscal charade, that they set their budget to the lowest in the Northwest division last year, on the heels of a hugely successful playoff haul.

    At what point does competitiveness come into play when you can clearly spend as much as your divisional peers considering the revenue numbers available.

    It probably was bad timing for the dollar to soar for the EIG, because they were most definitely trying to get down the path for a heavily subsidized arena. And last season was a continuation of that. Probably would have been the same this year had not Katz made his intentions public… its hard to spin that one.

    In regards to Edmontons image… you speak about the image problem as if the problem was the cause. It’s hard to attract players there the past decade, due to monetary reasons mainly. Players that have come via trade for the most part loved the city. You can’t begin to name 1/4 of the players that hated the city to the guys that used to speak very highly of it. Weight / Guerin are two americans that loved playing in Edmonton.

    Things have changed though, there is a real prevalent negative stigma surrounding this franchise right now. A lack of faith that this organization can pay players or sustain enough payroll to contend for a championship quite likely is a common concern. The way laforge and Nichols make juvenile and abhorrent comments to the press don’t help.

    The financial and public relations nature of this franchise has been its biggest detriments. The city itself isn’t enough to grow such a stigma as far as I’m concerned.

    The mind is a fickle thing. Perception is reality.

    If edmonton can change its perception, things will shape up. Laforge and the EIG have to take significant responsibility for the perception problem that the oilers have right now IMO.

  9. godot10 says:

    danny wrote:
    //Obviously that is just my opinion on the matter, but when you have the 7th highest revenue team in the NHL making statements like “a 39 million cap would mean the world to us” and “we need to make the playoffs to break even”…//

    You are being misleading. They were the 7th highest revenue team in the league last year, after they raised ticket prices after a Stanley Cup finals appearance, and a 15% increase in revenue from when then the loonie was 75 cents to when the loonie was 90 cents.

    They made the 39 million dollar cap comment when the loonie was around 75 cents or less.

    Last year they tried spending more money, i.e. the Pronger money, but they couldn’t find anyone worth it to spend it on. The same thing started happening this year…no UFA would take their money. So they learnt their lesson, and went the RFA route.

    Because they had so many of their own guys to sign last summer, plus Moreau, Staios, and Smyth, and getting Hemsky long term, they were too busy last year to try the RFA offersheet.

  10. danny says:

    They made the 39 million dollar cap comment when the loonie was around 75 cents or less.

    The comment was made in January…


    Last year they tried spending more money, i.e. the Pronger money, but they couldn’t find anyone worth it to spend it on. The same thing started happening this year…no UFA would take their money. So they learnt their lesson, and went the RFA route.

    They had an internal budget lower than everyone in their division. They spent even less than their budget because they were out of the running by the deadline. When your cap is 10% below the NHL cap, then Lowe was forced to enter the season at 15% below the cap to have ‘wiggle room’ and finish the year on budget if he made deadline deals.


    Because they had so many of their own guys to sign last summer, plus Moreau, Staios, and Smyth, and getting Hemsky long term, they were too busy last year to try the RFA offersheet.

    Too busy? I can’t even get that excuse to work on my girlfriend when she wants to go grocery shopping. So forgive my reluctance to accept that as a viable reason for a GM to refrain from spending money.

  11. Art Vandelay says:

    Back to the original topic, the thing successful NHL teams have in common (over the past 40 years) is Scotty Bowman. STL-MTL-BUF(burp)-PIT-DET. Just thought I’d throw that in there, even though I’m not in his fan club or anything.

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