No, I’m not talking about the Sub, the Hero or the Hoagie, I’m talking about the unheralded players on hockey teams who go out night after night, and shift after shift and do the little things that their teams need to have done in order to win. It might be carrying the puck deep into an opponent’s end even though they are gassed; finishing a check in order to wear down an opponent; or, throwing oneself in front of a shot. It’s not glorious. It’s not high profile. It certainly doesn’t garner the headlines as does the game winning goal in overtime but the job of a grinder is an invaluable asset to his team and absolutely required to win.
I’ve been watching a decent amount of hockey this spring — playoff hockey is the best — and have watched hundreds of games over the years, even being so fortunate as to attend the New Jersey Devil’s playoff march in 2003 ( which culminated with a NJ Game 7 victory in the Stanley Cup Finals…). The one common denominator to all of this hockey is that the team with the best grinders is the team that wins. A roster can be loaded with smooth skating stars of dazzling ability and talent. These stars will score their goals, probably even the OT game-winner, but they can’t do their job without the grinders.
When a team needs an energy boost, a spark, or needs to counter and disrupt an opponent’s momentum, the grinders are sent out to deliver. The grinders also chip in at the least likely times (though if you watch enough hockey you can almost sense when some anonymous winger is going to make the small but necessary play of the night) and these little, often unnoticed plays are what make the difference between winning and losing.
Now, of course, the connection to advertising. You can have the most gifted and talented players on your team, but unless you’ve got grinders who do what needs to get done, day in and day out, campaign after campaign all the flash and brilliance will never make it to market. The guys who collect the awards, and the hosannas of the management team are the stars. The grinders are ones who brought it to life and made it happen, by digging deep, and finishing their checks when needed. It’s great to watch the starts do their thing, but never forget the grinders.
A brief note on this post: it began coalescing during the Boston/Philly series-debacle when someone who’s sort of in between a grinder and a star, Scott Hartnell (former 1st round draft picks, aren’t really grinders, but he plays like one) essentially terrorized the Bruins and created space for stars to pick the Bruins apart by doing all sorts of little things really well. There’s also a great post here about why hockey and agencies are similar, that came out yesterday and made me realize I wasn’t crazy to be seeing the parallels…