Tuesday, 5 May 2020

A Pretty Smart Team

The name may not be familiar to you and the face may not ring a bell, but Jonathan Becher is a man with a plan. Becher is the President of the San Jose Sharks, and he's been working a little overtime during this pandemic in trying to figure out ways for the San Jose Sharks and the NHL to open its doors to fans once it's deemed safe to do so. This something that I've been advocating the NHL to do since they announced the shutdown of the league because one of the major parts of the experience of live hockey is the crowd and the fan experience. Is hockey the same without a raucous, big, boisterous crowd who is clearly enjoying the product on the ice? Not even close. The fact that Becher and the Sharks seem to know who helps them be successful shows that this franchise might be one of the smartest in the NHL.

First off, big stick-tap to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski for doing this piece with Becher because I was starting to think that finishing the 2019-20 season and having a draft were the NHL's only concerns. It's pretty clear that Becher, in a couple of interviews, is passionate about not only the sport, but the people who work for, cheer for, and support the San Jose Sharks hockey club, and I think Greg's ESPN piece does an excellent job in showing that Becher is not only a good businessman, but a pretty grounded dude when it comes to how this pandemic is affecting everyone on a humanity level.

"We're one of those teams that have not done any pay reductions or furloughs at this point. We're paying everyone that's essentially using us as a primary source of income," Becher told Wyshynski. "Even if the events aren't happening, we're still paying these people."

While a lot of the hockey teams across the nation were hesitating to pay their workers with games being "suspended", the Sharks dismissed the idea quickly and pledged to keep their employees on payroll to help them through these times.

Becher told NBCSports' Brodie Brazil on April 27, "Frankly, we're deep in the community. We care a lot, and know the part-time workers in our building that don't work as frequently for us. They may only get a couple hours per week from us. And a couple hours per week from somebody else. They are as impacted by this pandemic as anybody else. Not only from a health point of view, but also a financial point as well."

Look, we can sit here and talk about the business of the game all we want, but there's a human factor to that business in that the Sharks don't have a business without the part-time workers who sell programs, work as ushers, sell raffle tickets, sell merchandise, food, and beverages, and everything else that happens during games. That's all vital revenue for a hockey team, and the Sharks seemed to have realized that early on.

Becher then doubles down in the ESPN article, stating, "We were born in San Jose. We've always been here. Most of our players live here as well, and many of them have houses nearby. Our practice facility is in San Jose. We're a community sport."

It's that last statement - "We're a community sport" - that I feel the NHL and some of its teams have lost sight of during this shutdown. People are the reason that the NHL is successful whether they be fans in the stands, the people directing you where to park, the guy handing you a hot dog, or the usher who gets you to your seat. The revenue generated by these simple actions - buying tickets and watching the game live, getting a great parking spot near the building, buying a hot dog, or getting you to your seat all factor into the fan experience which is entirely crucial in today's NHL.

It should come as no surprise that the Sharks are doing the right thing here, but this should be a lesson to all the NHL teams in that people are still your greatest resources when it comes to your bottom line. Treat people right, give the fans an incredible experience, and keep people happy when it comes to your product, and they'll support you in ways you never thought possible.

I have to admit that I'm closer to being a Sharks fan than a Jets fan right now based on the efforts the Sharks are making in keeping the people who make them rich happy compared to what the Jets have done. That's not a good look for the local franchise when it comes to winning my support. Let me say kudos to the Sharks, in that case, because these efforts to keep your staff afloat will pay off in big ways down the road when it comes to loyalty and support.

Well done, Sharks, with a special nod to President Jonathan Becher and owner Hasso Plattner! You've got a good team in San Jose, Sharks fans, because they know how important the community is!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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