On Management Philosophies and Ownership

by Corey

It comes as a surprise to no one that the current Sabres administration has improved its relationship with their alumni. This is not just in the traditional reach out and maintain contact way, but also in a professional way.

Michael Peca, Jay McKee, and Teppo Numminen have recently been added to the organization in some capacity. I find these hirings interesting as showing a contrast between philosophies on management. Tom Golisano famously claimed that if he could, he would have all of his employees operate on one day contracts. This is a terrific idea from an owners standpoint who never has to worry about being fired without cause or in general being screwed. For regular employees, the idea of job security being non existant isnt a pleasant one. In essence, that line is the reason unions exist.

The Sabres, following the lockout, initially tried to follow this model in signing their players. This system was detonated by the rest of the league (hello Thomas Vanek contract, dictated to the Sabres by the Edmonton Oilers.) The philosophy goes beyond setting up a distinct advantage to management, which any owner is entitled to do. When Teppo Numminen dealt with a heart condition that rendered him unable to play, the Sabres attempted to get out from having to pay his salary while he was disabled.

Perhaps the Sabres were allowed to do this, but the company Christmas party is probably going to be a bit more icy for it. Teppo was a respect member of the locker room and the league. Screwing with him while his heart was imploding aint going to win you any popularity contests or the loyalty of your employees.

Golisano may be a great businessman, but it is appearing more and more that he was an awful boss. There perhaps was lacking a basic understanding of human nature and what motivates people to achieve great things. This is especially true in sports where character and the human element of chance is so prominent.

Sports is not something that can be Six Sigma’d. It cannot be condensed down to a simple set of numbers and statistics with certifiably guaranteed results. In the end the results of the team you own (if you are even truly interested in the results beyond the balance sheet) on the ice will be determined by people, and how you treat those people is very important.

Players notice when you aren’t around, they notice when you talk about how their contracts should last for a day in a perfect world, and they especially notice when you jerk around the player they all respect.

The flood of empathy and support not from fans but from former players speaks volumes both about Terry Pegula but also about Golisano. The enthusiasm about how the team operates now speaks volumes about how it operated then, and it can be seen in flood of former players coming back to their former team for the first time in a while may actually feel like a home.

Welcome home guys.