Former CEO of the Montreal Canadiens on Managing Superstars

May 17 2014, 12:35pm CDT | by

Former CEO of the Montreal Canadiens on Managing Superstars
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

Today is start of the Montreal Canadiens vs the New York Rangers series to decide which team goes on to the Stanley Cup final. This is a big deal in Montreal – we are a hockey mad city! It was last in 1993 that we had a cup grace our town. In this blog post I am delighted to speak with Pierre Boivin who spent 11 years as the CEO of the Montreal Canadiens and is now CEO of Claridge INC., the Bronfman Family office here in Montreal.

Yesterday I spend an hour with Pierre in preparation for a 3 day course I am doing with Cornell University in New York City in June on Business Leadership Lessons from Sports. Talking to him got me pumped up about how much sports can teach us about leadership.

It also brought back to mind this conversation we had enjoyed previously about managing superstars. The Canadiens have a few: Carey Price, PK Subban, certainly leap to mind, as do the Rangers. Hope you enjoy the time with Pierre, has much as I did.

KM – How do you manage superstars because we sometimes have superstars at work that have big ego’s, a CEA, or a lawyer, but you have real superstars. How do you, as an older man, manage young millionaires?

PB – The first thing that you hope, and this is part of the research you need to do, is that they have got a good upbringing, that their families and people who surround them throughout their teenage years have instilled good values and principles, and by and large that is often the case. Sometimes you have young men that still need a little bit of course correction.

To watch the video please click below:

What is most difficult is, and it is particularly the case in a city like Montreal where hockey is so relevant and it touches people in such a powerful way with fans of all ages, you become a hero overnight. A fourth liner in Montreal can’t walk into a restaurant without having a line up of people who want his autograph – he is not the star quarterback, he’s playing on the fourth line, but they are known because hockey is so important in this city.

So managing the development of their mental strength is critical; helping them manage their off ice behavior as much as their on ice behavior, in their younger years, is very important. That is why we started to develop, not one but two, rookie teams in the summer and in fact they have been housed many times here at McGill and practiced, before we had our practice facility in Brossard, at the McGill arena and took some courses here.

These are week long sessions, they are essentially academies, where they are taught about finances, they are taught about Montreal – they are taught about Montreal about it’s bilingualism, they are taught about it’s culture, they are taught about finances, they are taught about proper community involvement, social behavior. Now we are into a new world, we have social media – these guys are tweeting the morning of the game, after a game, so now it is an open platform.

So they get media training, all these things, and they have sports psychologists, they have finance people who talk to them; we have community leaders that come in to talk to them. So when you have been drafted at 18 and you go through 3 summers of that, we have had 3, 4 or 5 weeks of hands on ability to influence how they view the franchise they are coming to play for, how they view the city they are coming to play in, and what is expected of them and the responsibility they have now that they have become public figures, heroes, to young boys and girls playing hockey, to their parents and to everybody.

They carry a heavy responsibility. And, by in large, they carry it off quite well.

Postscript: At B-Schools we have superstars as well, some wannabes, some really ones. The Canadiens approach of providing an ecosystem for their players and older more experienced mentors strikes me as very copyable approach in business.


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