Regular visitors know my views on the importance of opening in a way that grabs the audience by the throat and gives them a compelling reason to sit up and pay attention ( see 'How to grab 'em by the throat'). Opening with a story or anecdote is one great way, and here's a few hockey stories to give you some ideas on how youcan do it ....
Anecdote 1: The 'Miracle on Ice', USA v USSR, 1980 - For when you're the underdog in something
It's the 1980 Winter Olympics, at the height of the Cold War, and the USA finds itself facing the Soviet Union in the firt of the medal rounds for the hockey. This .... is a real David vs Goliath battle.
The American team is made up of amateurs and college players. The Soviet Union is effectively made up of professionals - men given cushy jobs by the government so they can train more or less fulltime - and is widely accepted as the best international hockey team in the world. In their previous 29 games their record is won 27, drew 1, lost 1, and they outscored the opposition 175-44. The last time the two teams met the Soviets crushed the Americans 10-3.
The day before the game, a columnist writes in the New York Times, "Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team performs a miracle, ...... the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments."
The March 3, 1980 cover of Sports Illustrated that ran without accompanying caption or headline.
But on the day, despite all odds, despite all the forecasts, despite all common sense, after going down 1-0, the US does the incredible, the unbelievable, the miraculous. It snatches an victory and wins 4-3.
After the game a TV sports anchor compares the victory to a group of Canadian college football players defeating the Super Bowl winners. The game becomes known as 'The Miracle On Ice,' and in 2008 the International Ice Hockey Federation votes it the number 1 international ice hockey game of the cenury.
Sport is full of favorites who supposedly can't lose; boxers, golfers, football teams. How you play when you're the favorite and are in a groove is one thing. How you play when you're the underdog and nobody gives you a cat in hell's chance is another. It's the true badge of character. Whether you believe the hype and lie down and surrender, or whether you stand toe to toe and slug it our until the final seconds.
And the same is true in business. When we announced the launch of our new Product X and said we were going to take the market leaders on at their own game, the press had a field day. Ridiculed our claims. Didn't give us a chance.
Like the US vs the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics, the press called it a 'David vs Goliath' battle.
But they forgot one thing ...... David (and the USA) won. And so will we ........
Anecdote 2: Phil Esposito - when you want to talk about teamwork
When hockey fans debate who was the best player of all time, the argument is usually between Wayne Gretsky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr. But a player who'd be in many people's top 10 is one of Bobby Orr's team mates, Phil Esposito, who played in the early '70s.
Esposito became the first NHL player to top the 100 point mark (that's combined goals and assists) in one season. In fact, he obliterated the record with 126 points, which would be the first of six times that he topped the century mark. He achieved it in five straight seasons between’71 and’75, missing a sixth straight season by a single point with 99 in’70, a season in which he compensated by leading the league in goals.
In the’70-71 season, he scored 76 goals to smash the NHL’s single season scoring record, arecord whichstood for over a decade until Wayne Gretzky scored 79 for the Oilers in’81-82. But perhaps the most amazing element of Esposito's game was the frequency with which he tried to put the puck in the net. He had an incredible 550 shots on goal in’70-71. No one has since come close. In fact, ony one player has ever come within 100 shots of his record, and that was Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals in 2008/9.
Phil Esposito had been a good player when he was at Chicago, but nothing really great. He only exploded into greatness after he joined Boston in 1970, which begs the question, "What changed?"
And the answer is: his team mates. Many egotistical, big-headed sports stars attribute their success to their own skill, their own ability, their own greatness. But not Phil Esposito. He attributed it to his team mates. He once said:
"The importance of teammates is the thing I appreciate the most. I was a lucky guy. There is nothing better than good teammates. I don't care what anybody says, you can't do it alone. It takes a good team for you to be a good player, and the same goes for playing on a bad team."
Because teamwork ...... is what it's all about. To switch sports and quote the legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi: "People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society." And I would add to that, "... or the problems of modern business."
The objectives we've set ourselves this year are extremely stretching, yet they are achievable. But ...... we will only achieve them if every single person in this company/team/department plays their part and does their bit .......
Story 3: Chicago Blackhawks vs Calgary Flames, Oct 2009 - for when you want to talk about determination and persistence
It's the 12 October 2009 and the Chicago Blackhawks are playing the Calgary Flames. Both sets of fans expect a tight game, but the Flames score 3 times in 53 seconds and after 7 minutes the Chicago goalkeeper is benched in disgace. Then his replacement quickly lets in two more and before 12 minutes are up, the score is 5-0. Many Hawks fans leave their seats and begin the long journey home in despair. Many thousands turn their TVs off in dismay.
The 5 goal rampage comes from just 6 shots and takes just 5 minutes 29 seconds. This looks like it could become the heaviest defeat in the club's history. They have never pulled back more than a 4 goal rally. In this situation, many teams would fold mentally and count down the seconds to the final whistle, hoping purely to minimize the embarrassment.
But the Blackhawks are made of stronger stuff. They're not going to give in. They don't accept the inevitability of defeat. They refuse to fold.
Six minutes later, John Madden scores his first ever goal for Chicago, and 3 goals in the second period make the score 5-4. A goal from Patrick Sharp ties the game in the third to take it into overtime. By now all the momentum is on the Hawks' side and Brent Seabrook digs deep and scores his first goal for the 'Hawks after 26 seconds of overtime to win the game 6-5.
Perseverance, determination and a never-say-die attitude as epitomized by the Chicago Blackhawks in that game are needed in all sports, but those same qualities are needed in sales. We can all perform well when things are going our way; it's how we perform when it looks like the sale is slipping through our fingers; how we perform when we encounter a seemingly insurmountable obstacle; how we perform when we're faced with a seemingly un negotiable problem ...... that's the difference between a champion and a journeyman player.
President Calvin Coolidge once said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."
More sports anecdotes articles you might enjoy:
NFL stories 1
NFL stories 2
NFL stories 3
NFL stories 4