If I say “Obey Your Thirst”…what comes to mind? What about “Finger-Lickin’ Good” or “Melts in Your Mouth”…. Chances are you thought of KFC, Sprite and a handful of M&Ms. Not exactly a diet of champions, but a very good example of branding.

Products have brands. People have brands. Groups have brands. Many think a logo or graphic is a brand, but that’s not the case. A logo is a visual symbol that represents a brand. A brand is actually a little bit of what you see and a lot of what you can’t.

So what does this have to do with your hockey team? More than you might think.

  • If I ask you to name the chippiest, dirtiest team in your league, which comes to mind?
  • Which team has the coach who looks like his carotid artery is going to burst every time he opens his mouth to scream at his players?
  • Which team is really strong but has players who do obnoxious celebration dances every time they score, even if they’re leading by 11?
  • Which team has your stomach in a knot before you’ve even arrived at the rink because the players are HUGE?
  • Which team wears uniforms that are really, really U-G-L-Y?

Chances are, you don’t need much time to come up with answers.

That’s what branding does for a team. Your effort to brand, or lack thereof, cultivates a reputation of being athletes or thugs, challenging or cheap, contenders or cowards.

You, as a team, can choose behavior that makes your organization proud, that gets you remembered for a solid effort every time skates hit ice, that garners respect because every player walks away from retaliation and lets the refs do their jobs. Or, you can be the jerks who take cheap shots, break records for penalties in a single game and spit during the handshake.

Before your season starts, have a discussion. Decide in advance:

  • how you enter a rink
  • how casual or formal your pre-game warm-up drills will be
  • how much or little you rely on trash talk
  • how you behave when an opponent takes an obvious cheap shot with intent to harm
  • what you do when the ref has clearly missed a call
  • how you celebrate a goal
  • what you do if you lose

Your brand is a choice. Choose to be memorable…for something great.