Recently, Pete Rose was asked his thoughts on the state of the sport he loved and tallied over 4,000 hits playing. His answer, I thought, bore repeating. Rose said that "experiencing a winter without hockey is worse than experiencing a Christmas without snow by a quantum factor of thousands."
What the? And why in the world was this included in an 8-K filed with the SEC rather than on Disney's
Ah, grasshopper, because we're talking about Peter J. Rose, the CEO of freight forwarding and logistics giant Expeditors International
As I've written in the past, one thing I always look forward to at the end of the month is the Expeditors 8-K. I don't always agree with 'em, and in fact, sometimes I think that they're a bit over the top in their occasionally biting responses. Yeah, not like I've ever been accused of being "a bit over the top" in response to something I perceive as being, uh, not very smart. Let's move on.
Peter Rose, CEO of Expeditors, is Canadian. He's a hockey guy, and like many of us hockey people, he misses the game. (The 4,000 hits refers to Rose's career as a defenseman.) When he was asked his opinion about what the ongoing National Hockey League lockout is doing to the game of hockey, his response was a strong reminder to those running and playing the game to remember what attracted them to it in the first place. His response also has a key element for what makes for a successful business, and what he thinks is a key for Expeditors' remarkable history. I present his response, unedited:
We typically don't address questions that are not "freight-related" in some aspects. However, as we thought about your question, we realized that there is something to be learned from a critical analysis of what has happened to professional hockey that might have some tie in to how we run Expeditors. So, for what it's worth, here you go.
First off, as a life-long Leafs' fan, let's first extend our empathy -- experiencing a winter without hockey is worse than experiencing a Christmas without snow by a quantum factor of thousands. Remembering youthful days past, your heart can't help but yearn for simpler times and a fifteen year old set of ankles and knees.
However, from those experiences, we would say that it is our opinion that to truly love hockey, you have to have played it at some level -- even if it was only at the pick-up level on the outdoor public rinks -- or at least followed it early enough in life to have it become second-nature and synonymous with cold. It is almost axiomatic that you can't create desire and a passion in the hearts of someone who has never felt the euphoria that comes from success -- regardless of what endeavor you may undertake. And, without an understanding, desire, and the passion and will to win, you cannot succeed at the top level in any field of endeavor.
In professional hockey these days, we have what is essentially a Canadian sport albeit played mostly in parts of the United States. Professional hockey relies on the majority of its revenues from a bunch of people who've likely never played the game, probably don't understand it completely, and most certainly do not understand the nuances -- for instance they actually think that a fight is really just a fight and not actually an integral part of controlling the tempo of the game. These fans are drawn to it by the fast action, the skillful skating and a hope for gratuitous violence. Its commissioner is now an attorney from New York who not only has never played the game, but one who probably doesn't understand the game at its base emotional level (for example, can he ice-skate and did he ever play the game as a kid?).
We think that the owners and the players' representatives need to divide up sides, go to an outdoor public rink in one of the old neighborhoods of Montreal or Toronto and re-discover the true magic of why kids play hockey. Gordie Howe and the Hull brothers and Stan Mikita never made the mega bucks and were never celebrities in the sense that today's hockey stars aspire to be. But, they were hockey players, and they knew the magic of it all. While we're on the subject, it might be a good idea to "suit up" the commissioner (if he can't skate -- strap some crampons on those wing-tip shoes, give him a mask and make him play goalie), everyone else would get some therapeutic relief from firing slap shots at him from point-blank range. That might help both sides to realize that while there may not be the money in hockey that there is in the NBA, Major League Baseball or the NFL, you can still make a decent living -- players and owners alike -- by focusing on fulfilling the dream of those kids still playing on the outdoor ice rinks.
The tie in to Expeditors? "You can never be successful if you forget from whence you came." -- or if you have no idea where you should have come from in the first place. Recognize opportunities for what they are, not for what you want them to be and pursue them according to the actual potential for return, not for what you hope may be coming along.
And that's what needs to be said about that. Here's the whole 8-K if you want to see what else the folks at Expeditors have to say. And you should.
Bill Mann's own youthful experience with playing hockey was somewhat impeded by the fact that he grew up in white-hot North Carolina. He holds shares in Disney, and if he hadn't waited for Expeditors to "drop one more dollar" in late 2001, he'd have a cool double in that as well. Nice work. The Fool has a disclosure policy.