Kaizen Newsletter #4 (06/18/2019)

First Ever Championship!!

First ever championship!! You thought I was talking about the Raptors, right? What if I told you that I was actually talking about the St. Louis Blues who just won their first Stanley Cup? Well, with 18.33 million viewers watching the Raptors win their first championship and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals only getting 8.72 million views, I can't really fault, can I?

Even though hockey is my favorite sport, I can't deny how good the NBA is at marketing their game and how much more popular it is than the NHL. So I thought to myself "Can the NHL ever be as big as the NBA?" and although I'm not sure if I found my answer, I'm on the right track. What I'll do is explore what makes the NBA so great and based on those points mention what the NHL can do to improve their game and marketing as a whole.

Why is the NBA the most marketable sport?

Inherently, I believe that the game of basketball is just an easier and better game to watch than any other sport.

And here are a few examples:

  • As a spectator, the NBA is much more enjoyable since you're closer (the court is smaller) so you already feel more present.

  • The players don't usually wear any face protection, so it's easier for the viewers to recognize a player's face.

  • There is very rarely a dull moment in a basketball game since teams are always scoring points.

  • Basketball is a very momentum based game and the multiple timeouts give the opportunity to the opposing team to break that momentum and change strategies to get them back in the game. Combine that with the possibility of getting 3-points (or sometimes even 4) per possession, you get crazy comebacks like this one by T-Mac against the Spurs.

  • A top player can have much more impact since he stays on the field 80% of the time.

  • No contact in the NBA means that the best player dominates most of the time.

  • You don't need any equipment. Just a basketball, shoes, short and t-shirt and you're good to go.

What really separates the NBA from any other league though, is their very open culture which allows players to be a lot more marketable and gain more exposure.

What can the NHL do to improve their game?

So what can we do to improve the NHL so that we can attract more viewers? I feel that the big change we can do is culturally, so my focus will be on that, but I'll also be suggesting some improvements we can do to the game without altering it that much (caution: this may cause outrage with pure hockey pundits).

  • One thing that makes basketball so great is that star players can really take over the game. If you watched the finals, the Raptors would be winning by 10-12 points and suddenly, Klay or Steph would just start shooting threes and a few minutes later, they're back in the lead. One main reason why I think star players shine in a basketball game is because there is very little contact. Every time you rough up or touch a player, you'll have a penalty. Now, what if we removed contact from the game? Okay, not ALL contact, because it wouldn't be hockey anymore, but how about removing fighting completely and increasing the length of suspensions for dangerous hits. Teams would then get rid of their big bruisers and focus more on the smaller kids with fast hands that can spin around the whole team and deke them all. Imagine seeing more kids like McDavid, Kane, and McKinnon doing things like this, this and that. What this would do is introduce more skill in the game to let the best players dominate.

  • Now let's talk culture. We have to stop encouraging the good ol' Canadian boys that repeatedly say "gotta play the whole game", "hard on the forecheck" and "pucks to da net" over and over and over. And if you think I'm joking, I'm not. Instead, we should encourage the players to say what they really want to say instead of clichés. Encourage different personalities and individualism. One of the best examples the NHL has is PK Subban. One of the most "polarizing" figures in the NHL just because he's louder and likes the attention. But this is EXACTLY what we need more of.

  • But I think this partly the media's fault as well. They have to ask better questions. When the Raptors won their NBA championship, Doris didn't hesitate to ask all the hard questions to the players. "Will you be coming back to TO?", "How do you think DeRozen feels right now?" are all questions that were asked to Kawhi and Lowry. Encourage them to say what they really think. Make the players breakdown plays and make them talk through it.

  • The NHL also has to embrace social media. The Flyers have done very well with the introduction of their mascot, Gritty and the Hurricanes rattled some old school hockey minds with their storm surges and profited from it by actually making t-shirts out of it. More NHL teams should be using social media to their advantage.

  • Finally, the NHL should do is become player-driven instead of team-driven. Find a way to market their star players. Kids look up to Carey Price, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Auston Matthews. I mean isn't it way cooler to have a Price jersey than receiving just a Habs jersey? One crazy idea had: Make hockey stick brand deals with players. How it currently works is that there are a few main brands (CCM, Bauer, Warrior, etc.) and each stick brand has a different sort of stick depending on the type of game you play (ex: CCM Ribcor for a shooter) and for each different stick you can have a different curve (that's where you would have a Crosby curve or an Ovy curve). Instead, how about if CCM partnered with Crosby and released his own line of sticks? That would become the CCM Crosby 1 for example and then the next year would be the CCM Crosby 2. Then for special events, he'll have a custom stick made that would be sold to the public afterwards. Obviously, it's not as good as having a shoe deal, since ANYONE can wear the shoes, but I feel it's a good start.

All in all, the NHL is very far behind in terms of marketing and culture compared to the NBA and I think it'll take a while until it gets there (culture is very hard to change), but if they use some of these suggestions, eventually we'll be able to get closer.

Now, on to the articles.

🏀 Sports

👷‍♂️ Workplace

  • The Peter Principle Tested - The Peter Principle is the principle that good people that are doing their jobs will get promoted. But, the difficulty here is what to do if the person you are promoting would not be good in a higher role. Example, not all sales people are good managers. So how can companies incentivize employees to still perform well, without necessarily giving them a promotion? This becomes difficult since status game is something that's very present at work and is more often preferred to monetary compensation. This is why a lot of companies offer split career ladders. So for a sales person, you'd have the manager ladder or the sales ladder where you just become a more "senior" person in sales but you still get promotions.


  • Monetizing a Small Audience - The 1,000 True Fans theory spouts that you can be a successful creator if you can make ~100$ in profit from each true fan. If we take Patreon as an example, if you have 1,000 patrons at 10$/mo then that means you're making 120k/year. Currently, around 100K users are making at least 1$. But imagine if millions of people world-wide would be able to be successful (making a 100k+ yearly income) by having a small audience. Television and movies gave us celebrities and new social media like FB, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat gave us influencers. What kind of new technologies would we need for millions of people to be able to monetize a small audience? I'm sure someone will eventually figure it out, since I believe this is the direction in which we're going.

  • How to Decide What to Build - If you're like me and you always tell yourself "I'm not really a creative person" or "I don't have good ideas", Daniel Gross recommends starting small and to think about annoyances in your life to generate ideas. The most important tip he gives is to also make sure to write it down. Like with every other skill, I feel that idea generation is something that you can improve. So by making it a habit to write down your ideas, it'll become a lot easier in the future to generate even more.

    • One idea I've been thinking of is a Chrome extension that would allow you to highlight, take notes and export them into Notion/Evernote. This would be a lot better for note-keeping all of the articles I read for the newsletter. I found a very simple highlighting tool that already exists, but you can't take notes or export them to your note-taking tool. Maybe I'm onto something? 🤔


  • The New MVP - MVP. Minimal Viable Product. Three must know words for anyone building a startup. The strategy that's currently used by most startups is to start as lean as possible and find your market first. Which means that most starting companies will just build a very generic product and focus most of their efforts in finding a market. However, we're seeing a shift in how companies are building their products. They're not rushing anymore. Companies are taking their time to make sure they have a very good MVP before launching. Take Notion for example. They spent a year in Japan to build their product and launching it. Figma and Superhuman are other examples.


  • Paul Jarvis, author of Company of One offers his approach on how to build a newsletter - As someone who is just starting one, I felt he had really good tips on questions to reflect on when you are starting or when you want to improve your newsletter. The question that I need to reflect on more is how will I recruit more people to subscribe to this email newsletter. One way I thought of was tweeting more and getting people to subscribe from there, but I have to remain more consistent. It was a good reminder for me to find news ways to "market" my newsletter. If you were also thinking of starting a newsletter or improving your own, then I'd definitely give it a read.


  • Jeremy Lin on Ryan Higa's Off The Pill Podcast - First of all, I just find it really cool that he JUST won the championship and he took the time to hop by Ryan's place and record. Lin barely played any minutes during the Toronto Raptor's championship run, so it was really interesting listening to his perspective.

🎧 Music

🐦 Tweets

  • How cool is this? Tobi Lutke, the CEO of Shopify, a company that has more than 1 billion dollars in revenue, is taking the summer to teach two kids programming. This is the beauty of the internet.

🙇‍♂️ Random Thoughts

  • Some random thoughts I had this week

🙏 Shoutouts

  • Shoutout to Nancy (especially), Kevin, Topa and my Dad for giving me feedback on my last newsletter. Super helpful since I want to improve to ensure I'm giving you a high-quality read every week.

👋 End Note

If you want to know what I'm up to now, you can check it on my website here.

If you enjoyed the Kaizen Newsletter, then it'd be cool if you can share it with your friends. They can sign up here.

Feedback is always appreciated, so let me know what you liked and what I can improve on by replying to this email.

If you see any cool articles, links, tweets, stories or podcasts that you think are interesting, feel free to share as well at alex@alexhughsam.com

See you next Tuesday!