Peter Tight (02:58):
Welcome to the first content session of Wonk Week. My name is Peter Tight. I am the Director of Customer Success here at Quorum. And before we dive into the content I wanted to share a few housekeeping items. So first of all, all sessions are going to be recorded and shared with those who aren’t able to stay the whole time or have to jump into another meeting. And we’re gonna hold q and a to the end from attendees, but definitely feel free to use the chat box. And we’ll collect those chats in throughout the session and share, share them at the end. So to introduce our first speaker here, let me just pull my notes over.
Peter Tight (03:57):
So I want to introduce Jeff. Jeff Scott is the NHL’s VP of Community Development and Growth. Jeff has 20 years of experience leading community investment and youth development strategies and initiatives across the NBA and NHL. Currently, as VP of community development and growth of NHL Jeff supports and creates the league’s mission and strategies which focus on changing the global conversation about hockey, making it acknowledged making it the acknowledged standard for sports experience that are inclusive, accessible, enjoyable, and community-friendly. Throughout continued efforts, Jeff also positively influences and impacts the philanthropic and community investment decisions of all 32 NHL clubs minor health hockey affiliate affiliates and youth hockey organizations relating to culture, youth participation, and social impact and sustainability. So if you are calling in from a nonprofit you can harass Jeff if you want, <laugh>, if you wanna make a form of a partnership.
Peter Tight (05:01):
So second here is joining us. From the NHL is Rob Wooley. He is the NHL Senior Director of Legislative Affairs and Public Policy and partner Development. Since 2007, Rob has served in multiple roles with the league, including management of the organization’s, diversity, youth development, and cause marketing initiatives. And Rob left the NHL in 2012 to serve as director of community relations for the Detroit Lions Charities for the Lions in the NFL. As we just learned, he’s a huge Detroit loyalist here. And during his time at the Lions, Rob transformed the organization’s charitable and philanthropic approach by developing a fully integrated social impact and community development investment strategy, and supporting the city’s resurgence in Detroit. So prior to working in professional sports, Rob served in public policy research in the nonprofit sector for about six years at the Brookings Institute and as a public policy manager for the power to decide formerly the national campaign and as a policy strategist for the groundwork center for resilient communities also known as Michigan Land Use Initiative.
Peter Tight (06:21):
So that is my lengthy intro. Thank you both of you, for being here. I’m so excited to talk to you, and I know that this is a really popular session at our Wonk Week. And so to kick us off, I’m wondering, Jeff, if maybe I could start with you and that you, if, if you could give us a, you know, high-level overview of the NHLs social impact work, what’s your mission and vision at the NHL?
Jeff Scott (06:44):
Yeah, well, first off, Peter, thank you. Allowing us to have this opportunity this work that we’ve been committed to for so many years would not be possible, quite honestly, if we did not have the support of partners like Quorum and you giving us a platform to just be able to just share the narrative, share the vision, share the mission, the strategies, and the things that we’ve been so committed to over the years. So, to answer your question, you know, at, at a high level, you know, approach as possible when we think about what the mission is for our social impact work. And if I can pause for one quick second, the way our department, the way our team is, is referenced is as SGL and you giving us a platform to just be able to just share the narrative, share the vision, share the strategies we’ve been so committed to,
Jeff Scott (07:55):
Our mission is truly to understand how we’re driving the long-term economic performance for our league, for our club for our partners across the hockey industry with a very pointed focus on our pursuit for inclusion, for access, and for cultural relevancy within the game. And where I left off before we had the little audio issue there is our department is known as SGL, which is Social impact growth initiatives and legislative affairs. So from a social impact space, although we use the word social impact from a very broad lens, we understand that it’s more than just the traditional community relations way of, of just doing good in the community. But the legislative affairs element of our business is something that is extremely important to the NHL at large. Something that’s extremely important for all 32 of our club partners, because we understand the power of the legislative space, right? And so with a lot of the things that we want to push forward to make sure our game is more inclusive, more, you know, there’s greater access, you know, and there’s more relevancy. We understand the power of that, which is why, you know, we’ve been pointed around having that as our mission.
Peter Tight (09:12):
Love that, that I think understanding the structure of the team is really interesting for folks because it’s also you know, I think relevant to a lot of the other folks that, that we work with. And, you know, how do you structure our government affairs team alongside a community, you know, engagement group or external affairs. So just as we’re getting into the work that you’re doing, can you give us a sense of you know, some kind of key initiatives that you’re working on in, in your world, Jeff, and kind of what makes up that work? What are the kind of types of activities that you’re taking?
Jeff Scott (09:44):
Yeah. Yeah. So we, we, we got a lot going on, and I know we’re limited with time, so of course, I won’t take you through the full breadth of, of everything that we, that we’re doing. But I will just kind of lay the foundation of not only the key initiatives, you know, but why we’re, we’re where we prioritize these key initiatives. And really the first point is, you know, we’re a sports and entertainment organization, right? So of course, we have to understand the importance of acquiring fans, you know, deepen our, deepening our partnerships, you know, through various experiences, whether it’s from a youth perspective, you know, from or, or from an adult perspective. So acquiring new fans is, is one thing, You know, thinking about it also from an internal perspective, we have to make sure we’re evolving our workforce. So the work that we’re focused on around access and inclusion, guess what?
Jeff Scott (10:36):
We have to practice what we preach. So we also think about it from an internal leadership and workforce perspective. The third thing that we are really focused on is, of course, you know, enhancing our reputation and our credibility. So we can’t have all of these tactics in all of these initiatives in our work if we don’t have that credibility as to why we’re doing this work in the first place. And then lastly, you know, when we think about it, it’s the cultural availability of this work. Social impact is a word that’s been used very loosely here over the last few years, You know, and when we talk about the cultural elements of it, we want to make sure that we’re being available. We’re making our sport available, You know, we’re, we’re, we’re allowing people to be aware of the things that are happening, and then u you know, being intentional around those underrepresented groups.
Jeff Scott (11:26):
So that’s really the foundation first. Right now, when we talk about what are, what are those, some, some of those key tactics or some of those key initiatives, first and foremost, we want to look at our organization from a top-down approach, right? When we think about it from an inclusion lens. So one thing that we’re extremely excited about right now is the formation of our inclusion councils and committees. And we have four currently. We have an executive inclusion council, we have a player inclusion committee, we have a fan inclusion committee, and we have a youth hockey inclusion committee. So, through all of those establishments, right? And those com committees, you’ve noticed that it’s from the top of our leadership structure and the top of our organization, from our executives, all the way down to the youth from our grassroots perspective. And so, with these particular demographics and these focus councils and committees, we’re able to prioritize and actually put structure and strategy around those, those initiatives so that we can make our game more safe, welcoming, and inclusive, right?
Jeff Scott (12:34):
So that’s one key initiative that I, that I want, you know, want to share. Another one that’s really a part B of that one is as it relates to our inclusion learning experiences. So education is power. When we talk about social impact work when we talk about access and making the game more welcoming. So we’ve partnered up with a couple of organizations to help further our education in this process. And so our inclusion learning experience is something that our entire NHL office from CommissionerBettman, all the way down to the most junior individuals within our organization have gone through and will continue to go through these inclusion learning experiences. We’ve extended this opportunity across our hockey spine, right? And we talk about our hockey spine. You think about the NHL, you think about our 32 clubs. You think about our major junior affiliate organization, so the AHL, the ECHL and just making sure that this education is able to permeate throughout our entire hockey ecosystem.
Jeff Scott (13:39):
So from our, like I mentioned from Commissioner Bettman on down from our 32 clubs, from our players within those clubs, from the officials that are, you know, managing the process and the product on the ice all the way down through, you know, through the, through the youth hockey ranks, we prioritize learning experiences, right? So that’s another key initiative. And then from there, I can get down at some, some, some very tactical initiatives, but from our mobile museum, right? Which travels around, you know, the country we visited, 28 markets educating folks around the contribution of our black players within our game. We have our learn to play in our first shifts program, which is a very grassroots program that eliminates a lot of the barriers that families are faced when they want to get their children into the sport of hockey. So that’s a, you know, we, and as I mentioned, we can talk about this for hours, but just thinking about it from a top-down approach understanding the importance of establishing committees, right? Understanding the importance of education, understanding the importance of intentionality on who the target demographics are, and then making our sport more accessible through programs and initiatives are just a top line. Those are a few top-line examples for you.
Peter Tight (14:57):
That’s fantastic. So much to unpack there. I mean, one of the through lines that I’m hearing is, is, you know, the importance of kind of hearing this social impact work through the different stakeholder groups that you’re engaging with. So whether that’s the executive, you know, the chairman level the internal, you know, employees at NHL down to the different you know you know, the different clubs and down to the youth you know, if you can kind of set that you know, that theme as, as, as an organization and carry it through it, that really shows. So I wanna change gears a little bit here Jeff, and one last question for you is, can you tell me who is Willie O’Ree? And then you can kick it over to Rob for the second part of this?
Jeff Scott (15:48):
Yeah, yeah. And Rob, I’ll jump into this. So, so really Willie O’Ree is a legend, right? Let me preface by saying that he, he, he is a legend. He is an individual who has sparked so much intention and growth and direction for us as a league, but as a man, Willie O’Ree was our first black player in the National Hockey League. He was an individual who was a descendant of slaves who was able to find a passion and a love for the sport of hockey. Was an individual who faced some trying and very unfortunate circumstances and situations that he was able to overcome and be such a trailblazer within the sport of hockey. And to this day, you know, Willie is an ambassador for the NHL at 87 years old. Willie is one of the original founders of our Hockey Is For Everyone Platform, which for those who don’t know is a platform for us where we’ve been very focused on creating opportunities for children of color to be able to have access and play our game.
Jeff Scott (17:07):
And so our hockey is for everyone. Organizations are comprised currently of 26 organizations across North America where their mission is solely focused on bringing the sport of hockey at very low, if not free barriers of interest or barriers of cost. So people and families can take advantage in our game. And so from that which was initiated, you know, in the mid-nineties, here we are in 2022, we’re able to tell amazing stories of organizations that are still providing hockey programs and organizations. We’ve seen new organizations pop up, and it’s all because of Will O’REe and, and we’re so honored not only for him being our first player, our first Black player in the National Hockey League, but for the work that he continues to do to grow the game, raise more awareness around our sport. And as some, you know, like to reference him as the Jackie Robinson, you know, of hockey, you know, it shows the value of what he’s been able to bring and contribute to our sport. So a true living, living legacy in his own right. And is a true catalyst to the work that we’re doing today as it talk, as we talk about growing our game.
Peter Tight (18:22):
Wow. Yeah. What an inspiring figure in hockey history and the American history, North American history as well. So I want to kick it over, Rob, because you all have been, you’ve been working really hard on, on getting some acknowledgement for, for you know, Mr. O’Ree from the government. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve kind of been campaigning on as it relates to this?
Rob Wooley (18:50):
No, absolutely. And again, I would just echo Jeff’s sentiments Peter in thanking you and Quorum for welcoming us this morning. And I’ll just say, you know, double down on the point that Jeff made about KO’s role in all this. I think that you all play such a quiet behind-the-scenes role when it comes to analyzing legislative and public policy data. We could not have gotten this done without your platform, without your software and resources, and all the things that you were able to bring the National Hockey League. So I just wanted to make sure that that point was, was loud and clear. I mean, Quorum was the, the one way, I think I probably logged into two things first thing in the morning. One was my email, the next thing was Quorum. Cause I gotta see where things were in terms of our status on the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal.
Rob Wooley (19:36):
The NHLs Legislative Affairs work is very unique. It’s a bit different than what you would probably you know, assume, you know, very different than the other sports leagues. You know, we, to Jeff’s point, we are, we are really committed to enhancing our reputation and building credibility with underrepresented segments through civic and community-based leadership partnerships. And so you know, when we launch the SGL department, as Jeff had mentioned earlier, l is the legislative affairs piece of that. And that required us to really be intentional on Capitol Hill and to cultivate relationships with people that either love our game or have no idea what our game’s about. And so a lot of the work that I do on the, on a day to day basis is to develop and, and, and foster those positive relationships on Capitol Hill to inform people of the things that we’re doing in our communities across, across the United States, including what our, what our teams are doing to gain trust and credibility and, and establish relationships with local community leadership.
Rob Wooley (20:49):
So you know, of course we’re, we’re focused in monitoring issues, legislative issues that impact our business, that impact our clubs, but that’s not what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis. We retain lobbyists and other, you know, lawyers and others that are focused on sort of those more day-to-day and mundane legislative issues. We are truly focused on one thing, and that is growing our game, casting a wide net to get more and more people involved in our game. And that is part and parcel to what we do on Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill is an important partnership in all of this. Members of Congress are important to be informed and to be involved in what we’re doing. And the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act was a tremendous catalyst to opening those doors into helping us grow and expand that programming.
Peter Tight (21:42):
That’s fantastic. So you teased this at the end. How did the push for the Congressional Gold Medal start you know, was this something that he came to you that his family came to you about? Or were you just looking for opportunities to kind of, to, to grow you know the NHLs kind of brand recognition and, and
Rob Wooley (22:02):
Yeah, it’s a great question. So, a lot of people don’t know that there’s actually a Congressional hockey caucus that’s yeah, co-chaired by Congressman Mike Quigley from Chicago. Brian Higgins from, from Buffalo. So he started like your big hockey hotbeds Tom Emmer from Minnesota. We’ve got John Katko from, from Syracuse area of New York just a solid group of members of Congress that love our game. And Mike Quigley Congress and Mike Quigley from Chicago was really vocal and, as an advocate to getting Willie O’Ree in the Hockey Hall of Fame. And in fact, he would stand on the house floor on a, you know, two or three times a year during a one minute, and just say, Willie O’Ree needs to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, You know, And eventually Willie was in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Rob Wooley (22:54):
And one, one time we had a, a chance to connect with Congress and Quigley, and he says, You know what? I think we should begin to think about getting Will o Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest congressional honor bestowed upon a citizen. And by the way, Willie o Reed was born in Canada, but he is also an American citizen. He just recently received citizenship that’s not a requirement for a gold medal, but it certainly spoke volumes to Willie’s commitment, to the work he’s doing in the United States. And so from that point forward with, as a result of the congressman’s leadership, we were able to launch our effort to award Willie O’Ree with Congressional Gold Medal. And thanks to the leadership of Congresswoman Ayanna Presley from Boston she jumped on board right away. She had an opportunity, and as Jeff mentioned, Willie O’Ree is an amazing human being.
Rob Wooley (23:47):
When he walks into a room, he lights up the room, he just warms your heart. There’s not one bit of ego in that man. He’s just a beautiful human being and connected with Congresswoman Pressley Congresswoman said, Willie, there’s not a lot we can agree on here in Congress, but we can definitely agree on you. And from that point forward, we had both Republicans and Democrats railing around Willie during a time that was really tumultuous. You know, we were dealing with Covid we were dealing with lots of questions and challenges facing our country facing politics. Willie brought both Republicans and Democrats together during a time when they really needed it. And it was, it was a lot of fun to see it all unfold.
Peter Tight (24:32):
That’s, yeah, I think that’s a really important point to bring up at the end of Rob is that you know, this is not, you know, getting anything passed as, as everyone on this call knows who works in legislative affairs is not an easy thing to do especially at such a divided time. So can you talk to us just for some of the other folks that are, you know, working on legislative issues can you tell us a little bit about your approach to securing interest from legislators? You know, imagine that the Hockey Caucus is a lock, but it’s only a handful of folks. You need a lot more than that, to get the bill passed. So what was the work you were doing to get people you know, what were kind of some of the tactics you were using to get people interested and excited?
Rob Wooley (25:10):
That’s a great question. Congressional Gold medals are really hard to get passed. Yeah. I’ll just be honest. It is, I mean, most legislation is, this is really difficult because it requires two-thirds majority in both houses. Oh, wow. So that means, so that means before the bill even has the opportunity to leave committee and head to the house floor or the Senate floor and the House, you need 290 co-sponsors. And the Senate it’s about 67 67. Wow. So, the work that it took to get to that point, I mean, the bill was initially introduced in May of 2019, and we finally passed, and earlier this year, 2022. So during the 116th Congress, we began to slowly but surely secure co-sponsors. 117th Congress it picked up steam. Here was our, here was our biggest opportunity is that you know, at the time, Willie O’Ree, the Willie O’Ree, Congressional Gold Medal Act, when it was introduced, and by the way, it was introduced in the Senate by Senators Debbie Stabenow, and Tim Scott.
Rob Wooley (26:16)
Both of them were just phenomenal in their leadership in getting that through the Senate. When we met with members of Congress about the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act, the first question they would say is, Who’s Willie O’Ree? And no idea. And which is common, a lot of people don’t know who Willie O’Ree is. And it, that then just opened the door to so many possibilities for the National Hockey League to talk about the work that we’re doing, communities across the country, the work that Jeff spoke about our, our, our efforts to enhance our reputation and to build credibility on our represented communities. It really opened that door for us. But there was a lot of education that would, that was required, and before we could secure that commitment as a co-sponsor, at the same time, the Aretha Franklin Congressional Gold Medal Act was floating around Capitol Hill.
Rob Wooley (27:10):
And that’s an easy one, right? Everyone knows Aretha Franklin. So, not that we were in competition, but, but it just took us a little bit more little more effort to get a member of Congress or congressional staff to understand Willie’s impact once they understood it. And once, and, and in some cases, once the member met Willie O’Ree, it was a lock, it was a lock-in. And they were so excited to support the bill, really honored to meet Willie, and did everything they could to help move the bill along. So over the course of, you know, almost three years of cultivating sponsors and getting co-sponsors to jump on the bill, it really broadened our efforts to deepen relationships with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, But in, in particularly the Congressional Black Caucus Congresswoman Chairwoman, Joyce Beatty was so instrumental in, in helping us tell Willie’s story to the Congressional Black Caucus membership.
Rob Wooley (28:11):
And once she had an opportunity to meet Willie to hear his story she immediately stepped into action and recruited all members of the Congressional Black Caucus to jump on the bill to co-sponsor the bill and to voice their support for it. Of course, Jim Clyburn was incredibly instrumental in all that as well. Rep. Watson and Clyburn staff were incredibly helpful. But those efforts took time and coming from the National Hockey League, was not known to be a diverse organization, a diverse sport, both on and off the ice. But once Will O’Ree story was told, and we began to sort of broaden the scope and to open the minds of all these members of Congress about who we truly are and where we’re headed, that really helped build that trust and credibility, and, and as, and as a result, built new, new relationships for us.
Peter Tight (29:06):
That’s fantastic. Yeah, I think that you know, that makes a lot of sense. It’s, it’s, you know, the strategy, the tactics that you’re using is not unique to probably getting you to know, Congressional Gold Medal. You know, people do this on, on every legislative issue, but the, the hill you had to climb to, you know, get two-thirds majority is, is really, really impressive. So kudos, major, major kudos to you, and a real testament to, to Mr. O’Ree and, and all the work that he’s done since you know, leaving the NHL that, that is, I think, really, really inspiring as well. So any lessons, for you, Rob, that you can take away, kind of coming out of this experience, getting this major victory on the hill you know, whether it’s in, you know, things that you tried that didn’t work, you know, like or, or things that really were effective.
Peter Tight (30:05):
You know, whether that’s like in-person events with Congress, you know, going in and knocking on doors kind of getting in with the right people or also internally, like how do you keep the, you know, how do you keep Jeff focused and saying like, Hey, like, this is something we really gotta, you know, you, you can, you can have all the time you need to, to get this done, versus, you know, working on all the other litany issues that you’re focused on. Any sort of takeaways or lessons that you think would be
Rob Wooley (30:30):
Useful? Yeah. Well, yeah. First of all, I would say that from the top down, the organization was really supportive. You know, and leaned in on this effort, you know, from Commissioner Bettman all of our owners in the United States in particular, in fact, our owners collectively, and it was about a year ago that they collectively wrote a letter to me, Congressional leadership, encouraging passage of this bill. So we had support from the top down to get this done and support in, in support of Willie. You know, we also did this during Covid when Capitol Hill, and then in post-January 6th when Capitol Hill was all but shut down. I mean, we had, we launched the bill, we were able to access Capitol Hill, have meetings with members of Congress, fly Willie into Washington after Covid. And what happened on January 6th, we weren’t able to do that.
Rob Wooley (31:23):
And that’s where, you know, again, going back to Quorum, where we really had to lean in on the technology and the resources that you provided for us so that we were able to get in front of staff in a, in a unique way. And to tell Willie’s story, virtually <laugh>, which was a challenge but we did it. And so, in fact, the majority of our co-sponsors came during covid and during a time when we had to rely on technology, in this virtual world to secure co-sponsors. So, in a way it was an interesting opportunity and, and, and led to, led to Passage. So, you know, like anything in Washington, anything’s political. One thing that I was, was, was surprised about was how members of Congress were, were willing to vote for the bill, but not co-sponsor the bill.
Rob Wooley (32:13):
We heard a lot of that, Oh, I, I’ll vote for it, but, ah, I’m not interested in co-sponsoring. Some members of Congress don’t co-sponsor gold medals, and it’s, it’s a personal thing for them, or could be philosophical or whatever it might be. And so that’s just something that’s, that was interesting to us that we thought that that was an interesting situation, but for the most part, members were a hundred percent on board and willing to support and willing to go above and beyond. So I think that was a little bit of an eye-opening experience that no matter, no matter how benign a piece of legislation is, there’s always a little bit of politics involved. And, and that’s okay. That’s, that’s Washington, and that’s, that’s part of the game.
Peter Tight (32:51):
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, appreciate the shout out, love that, you know, we were able to help you educate lawmakers using Quorum hopefully at scale as well, kind of coming through the noise you know, given all that was going on at that time. So I think it’s a really, really wonderful story and major congratulations to the work that you put in Rob over the last few years. As well as you know, to William O’Ree so Jeff, I want to kick it back to you for a little bit and talk about kind of what the future of NHL social impact look like and, specifically as it relates to the Will re Congressional Gold Medal, you know, what impact did that metal have on the broader efforts that you’re talking about in the other communities?
Jeff Scott (33:40):
Yeah. The future of the NHL from a social impact space is bright. And I’m saying that just because it’s, it’s, it’s our, you know, what we live, eat, breathe, and, and sleep around every single day. But when I think about what Willie’s story has been able to do, it’s been able to elevate the narrative of highlighting and raising the education and awareness around underrepresented individuals within our game. So, just like Willie being the first black player in our game, guess what? There’s the first Asian player in our game Larry Quang, right? There’s a first indigenous player, first known indigenous players in our game, You know, like for Saska Moose or Taffy Abel, right? They’re our first Hispanic, you know, players in our game in Billy Garrin, right? So, when we think about what the future of our sport looks like, it’s realizing and educating our fan base as we like to reference our fans in waiting.
Jeff Scott (34:38):
So those are those individuals who aren’t yet NHL fans, but we’re converting them into NHL fans, into the broader population of just understanding the history within our game and, and within our communities. And so we’re excited about that because we’ve been very pointed on identifying key moments throughout the year where we do have a core focus, and we have a heightened awareness and initiative around those multicultural demographics that I mentioned, right? So here we are in October, we understand the significance of Hispanic and Latin Americans, so you’ll see a heightened focus in that, right? As we transition to November, December, right? You’ll see more conversations around indigenous and, and Native Americans, right? As we transition into the earlier part of the year in February, you see the focus around, you know, black history. So those opportunities are great opportunities for us and will be positive for our future because now we’re normalizing those conversations, right?
Jeff Scott (35:39):
We’re normalizing those narratives of those trailblazers and those individuals and those current change makers and those future leaders who will be a part of our game. And in addition to, from a multicultural perspective, you know, what Willie was also able to bring is the fact that many people don’t realize that he actually played this game with one eye. So when we talk about individuals with disabilities, right? There are so many individuals who are working around, whether it’s a mental disability or a physical disability, but we also have a heightened focus on that sector, right? Around normalizing and making sure that we’re providing those opportunities and that history around that story. Because of the way people think about Willie as, you know, his forward-facing presence of being a Black man, people don’t realize that he played the game for 20-plus years at the professional level with one eye.
Jeff Scott (36:34):
So imagine playing hockey as a Black man with one eye and still being successful at it, right? He’s created so much, you know, opportunity and so much optimism for individuals. So we’ll continue to highlight that. And then, you know, to build you know, we wanna focus on the LGBTQ plus community, right? We know that that’s also a heightened priority and focus for us as a league when we talk about inclusion. And it all stems, you know, from this work as, as, as we started at the top of this call around Willie O’Ree right? And what he’s been able to do and, and, and contribute to this game. So the future is bright. We’ve been able to experience a lot of support across the hockey ecosystem, as I talked about earlier, with more people wanting to be a part of this movement. And that’s only something that we can be excited about as, as the game continues to grow.
Peter Tight (37:27):
Wow, That is amazing. I cannot imagine playing professional hockey going backward and, and doing it with one eye and gotta be hard to find, talk about depth protection. That was a really, really impressive accomplishment. And,
Rob Wooley (37:43):
And Peter, he, yeah, and he did that at a time. We were just on the cusp of civil rights moving in the country. We only had six teams in the league, and he played in Boston. And so there was, there was a lot of, you know, sort of really interesting dynamics around his experience when he became the first Black player in the National Hockey League that was saying the fact that he was blind in one eye.
Peter Tight (38:07):
Yeah. Wow. And that context is so important, and I think that that’s that education piece, right? You know, I really liked what you said, Jeff, about that, the fans in waiting. I think we, we think about, yeah, maybe customers in waiting folks haven’t signed up require yet maybe borrow that term. But I think an interesting question, and, and I’m totally fine that this is not something that you have or, or you can’t share, but I’d be curious to know, to the extent that you’re able to tie either directly or indirectly any of the work that you’re doing on, you know versus equity inclusion within specific kind of disadvantaged groups to tie that to actual numbers of like fan attendance or you know, number of community nonprofits that are engaging in ho, you know, hockey events. Do you have any sort of tracking for that or like kind of to bring that back to the business and tie it to the bottom line? Or is that sort of next step, or is that an interesting place that you’d
Jeff Scott (39:08):
Talk to get? Yeah, no, no, it’s so, so it is something that we have under, you know, committed to improving, right? And not only just from an external facing agenda, right? But also internally. So we’ve, we, we’ve taken some, some really pointed steps with just understanding, understanding our employee demographic, right? With just taking that baseline assessment of the research so that when we talk about wanting to, you know, our gain to be more, more, more inclusive, we, we also have to exemplify that in how we hire and how we recruit and how we retain, you know, and how we elevate, you know, underrepresented individuals within our current organization. So yes, we’re capturing those metrics right now. We actually have in about a week we’ll be announcing a de and I report, and this de and I report, we’ll speak to a lot of those points that you’re, that, that you’re, that you’re asking about right now is, you know, what’s our baseline metrics and understanding of who we are from both internally and externally.
Jeff Scott (40:16):
Over the course of these past few years, we’ve put a lot of pressure on our governing USA Hockey and Hockey Canada, specifically USA Hockey, and they’ve been able to update their registration platform to capture, you know, the demo, the ethnicity, and race of individuals so that we can now go back and track the growth year over year. Because in years past, it was, what’s your age? What’s your gender? You know, what’s your email and your address, right? So we weren’t able to actually track how our game is diversifying and growing, but now we actually have those baseline metrics. We’re able to see, you know, through all of the programs that we have, both from USA Hockey perspective, as well as some internal programs that we have, like our Learned to play program our NHL street program, our future goals program, where we’re able to capture those metrics and be able to see that, you know, this year we were able to have, you know, a 20% increase in minorities, you know, within our game we’re able to see a, a, a 60% increase in girls in female participation in our game.
Jeff Scott (41:22):
So then that way we’re now tracking our trajectory, able to look back to see what are we doing differently that’s wanting people to that’s bringing people to our game. Because they do feel like they can, that they can be participants and be safe and welcome within it. So you don’t, you know, if, if, if you really wanna put a goal out there, you have to know exactly what you’re striving for. And yeah, for, as Rob mentioned earlier, we are hyper-focused on growth, but specifically, you know, as you look at that next level down growth within individuals who are underrepresented within our game.
Peter Tight (41:58):
Yeah, that’s really, really interesting, and excited to see the DEI report come out. Quorum has a DEI report that we put out every year. It’s a little easier to pull that data because we’re, you know, 330 some odd person company, not a big organization with lots of different partner organizations and, and affiliate orgs. So I’m sure that’s a, a herculean task, but the really, really interesting, really interesting stuff there. So, Rob, just to close your section out here any other legislative initiatives that you are thinking about? Are you thinking, are you gonna be making another push for Congressional Gold Medal for, you know, one of these other trailblazers in the NHL? Or, or is there kind of any other, any other kind of big initiatives that you’re thinking about that, that you can share with the team?
Rob Wooley (42:50):
Yeah. No, it’s a great question. I think right now we’re, we’re really focused on post covid recovery as it relates to youth sports and youth sports participation. And Jeff had mentioned our efforts to really hone in on youth participation within the BIPOC and girls’ community and girls’ participation at the community level. You know, there are also lots of there’s a huge need for hockey infrastructure improvements across the country. A lot of our ranks are, were built in the seventies and eighties and, and need some love not only at the local level but all across the country. So there, there are lots of efforts and conversations happening on Capitol Hill right now about how do we get more children back on the field, back on the court, back on the ice as we come out of covid.
Rob Wooley (43:42):
And in particular for communities that are, that have been sort of marginalized post covid. And so we, as League believe strongly it’s our responsibility to help foster an environment where all children and families feel welcome in our game. And that starts at the community level, to begin to soften the challenges and barriers to access and affordability. One of the best pieces of legislation out there right now related to this particular issue is called the FIT Act. And John Thune, in Senate, Mike Kelly in the House, have really taken the lead on this particular piece of legislation. What would essentially do, really briefly, is expands what would be eligible under what we all know of as our health savings accounts or flexible savings accounts to include the registration fees, equipment fees, the various registration fees that are association fees that are required to get on the field, on the court, on the ice.
Rob Wooley (44:45):
And the FIT Act is one of the best pieces of legislation out there to help soften the blow to getting, getting families back in the game. We don’t have a ministry of sport in the United States. Youth sports is a, is generally you know we yield to the private industry and local community volunteers to figure it out. There’s very little national policy around youth sports. I think you’re gonna begin to see that change a bit under the Biden administration. Members of Congress are really hyper-focused on youth, youth sports through either mental health pathways, or it’s even really truly a kitchen table issue for both Republicans and Democrats. How do we help more and more children get back in the game as we deal with so many issues in communities across the country? So we’re all in on that. And I know the other leagues are too. We understand the urgency that we need to get more kids more active across our country. And so we’re gonna plan to focus on legislative opportunities through that lens.
Peter Tight (45:47):
That is awesome. Yeah, I love to hear that. And I think it makes a lot of sense that you would coalition with other, you know, other interested organizations, other leagues. But yeah. Fascinating. I’ve got a million more questions for you, but I do want to open it up to the audience as well. Cause we’ve gotten a couple in. So the first question that we have from someone in the audience is how, probably this one’s for re Rob but how did players get involved in the Willie O’Ree initiative to, you know, were they involved at all or did you focus on them as a, a stakeholder kind of group in the, in the work?
Rob Wooley (46:26):
It’s a great question. You know some of our players did get involved to a certain extent. The challenge that we faced with the Congressional Gold Medal Act was that the players that were interested in helping us were, were Canadian. And so a lot of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and other sorts of barriers to quote-unquote lobbying for legislation presented itself. When we had a couple of our Canadian players that raised their hand and said, you know, what? We’re in, like, how, what can we do to help? And there was only so much they could do you know, in terms of writing letters or going to Capitol Hill and that sort of thing. But for those of our American players, that were really committed to seeing this get done, they were willing to either reach out to their members of Congress or to you know, send an email to a congressional staffer.
Rob Wooley (47:17):
We had a lot of that happen. A lot of owners, a lot of team executives. We had Keenan Thompson SNL celebrity Saturday Night Live celebrity was willing to write an op-ed in support of the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act. So we were able to bring in support from all different segments of our hockey family and our hockey community and players, alumni, owners, team executives, celebrities, you name it. Anyone that knew Willie O’Ree and had a chance to meet him or understand his story they were in to, to help voice support the other, the other thing Peter, I would mention is that, you know, the one thing I did mention earlier, the thing that was really helpful for us to get this thing done was for members of Congress to hear from their local community, to hear from constituents, not just from Washington and, and New York City. So working with USA Hockey, which is the governing board for youth hockey we had children and families and coaches and all sorts of youth hockey organizations, writing letters, sending cards, sending emails. That was really helpful and very important because members of Congress want to hear from their community. They want to hear from their district and their constituents as to whether or not this is something they should support, even though in their heart they’re in, they want to hear, from their voters.
Peter Tight (48:31):
Yeah. They want the back <laugh>, you know, the taps on the back when they get it done. That’s right. That’s, that’s awesome. Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. That kind of what we call stake or grass tops advocacy as opposed to grassroots advocacy, working with the owners, players you know, celebrities as well, getting them to kind take higher effort action in support, like writing an op-ed is a really common way to get things passed in, in, in Washington as you know. One other question probably for you Jeff is how do you adjust your social impact efforts for different cities or teams located? Is that something that you kind of control at the, you know, national level, or do you leave that up to the teams? Do they have community organizations or how does that all work? Yeah,
Jeff Scott (49:18):
Yeah, yeah. That, that, that’s a great question. And it’s evolved over time, right? So what we do from a league’s perspective is we set the core focus for the broader audience, right? For our broader partners in this space. One thing that’s different, of course, you know, that makes the NHL unique in comparison to other leagues is we’re North America. So we have to understand the uniqueness in Canada and the uniqueness here on the US side. And we also have to understand that they are not a monolith, right? Right. We are, we have to treat them as two separate entities. So the way you talk about, you know, engaging the black community in the US is going to be very different than we talk about engaging the black community in, in, you know, north of the border. So what we essentially do is we lay out for the entire year, we lay out what’s called our content calendar and resource guide.
Jeff Scott (50:09):
And what this is, it’s literally the blueprint or the playbook for all 32 of our clubs to understand from a league’s perspective, who are our target multicultural audiences, who are our target underrepresented community, what are our key social impact initiatives, and what are our general moments. But what we want to do, and what we encourage our clubs to do is understand what’s important for your market. And an example of that will be, let’s use San Jose, right? You know, as, as, as an example, we understand in San Jose that they have a very, you know, high population of, of Asians within their community, right? So when we also think about, you know, the Hispanic community or the indigenous community, or even the black community, right? Although we have all of those key focuses laid out, we don’t want our clubs to be a, you know, have a half-ass activation across everyone, but go deep into that particular demographic that’s important within your market, right?
Jeff Scott (51:13):
So we want that local feel to permeate through their activation. So we really communicate that out to our clubs with understanding who your who, who your majority-minority is. Create deep and sustainable and rich programming and activation within those communities. Instead of just surface-level things, because we want our approach to be you know felt on a 365 approach as opposed to this one off, We’re gonna have a theme night. We’re gonna bring in all of, you know, our Asian communities, you know, into this one particular, and then we’re not going to engage with you come the following night, Right? So that’s really the focus, you know, is we lay out the, we, we lay out the structure and the strategy from a league’s perspective, but we empower our clubs to go deep with those, with those communities at that are majorities within their, within their communities.
Peter Tight (52:05):
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. We’ve got a template, if anyone’s interested. I’m sure someone can post it in a chat for a similar kind of content calendar. But I think it’s a really interesting model where you’ve got these affiliate organizations that are gonna be doing their own work. And if you can set that guidance from the leagues level down and say, you know, Hey, this is the focus for the month, but also these are the markets that we’re interested in, kind of peer our are, here’s our, our take on what would be effective. That’s a really interesting approach. So we’re coming up on time. If you don’t mind, I’ll ask one more question from the chat or, from the q and thought here, which is I believe the NHLs gotten into some Get Out the Vote initiatives. If so, how has that played into your overall strategy for engagement? Maybe, for Rob?
Rob Wooley (52:59):
Sure. Yeah. And, and it’s a great question and it’s definitely something that not only is the NHL getting involved in, but so many brands across the country and all the sports leagues are doing something around encouraging civic engagement. Particularly as we head into the midterm elections. You know, why are we doing it? Because our fans, our fans expect it. Or, in particular, our future fan the Gen Z, which is probably the most outspoken and politically active generation we’ve had since the Baby Boomer generation in the late sixties. They expect it. And because they know that the future is at stake, and so they’re looking to brands like the National Hockey League to leverage our influence and our power to encourage fans to get involved. We don’t take stance on any political sort of issue.
Rob Wooley (53:55):
We don’t take a stance on candidates or, you know, we, we, we generally keep a very centrist sort of the point of view when it comes to politics, but when it comes to getting involved and, and, and supporting civic engagement whether that means registering to vote or getting out to vote we are going to do everything we can in our power to send that message out to our fan base and also our future fans, right? So we’ve partnered with a tremendous organization this year called Headcount for those of you that, that attend festivals throughout the summer or go to concerts, Billy Eilish, Harry Styles, Lizzo, you will see Headcount, volunteers running all over the arena, all over the venue. We are the only sports organization that is a partner with headcount and is a sort of a pilot, or we’re trying it out because we know that they have access to Gen Z and in a very deep way.
Rob Wooley (54:54):
So we always laugh in the office cuz we, we see headcounts promotion when they say, Oh, we’re gonna be out, you know, at Billy Eilish and we’ll be at Harry Styles and we’ll be, you know, at Lizzo and the Boston Bruins are like, it’s just kind of a funny group of folks that are involved in this work. But we are, we’re, we’re committed to it. And we are, we want to use our assets to encourage our fans to, in this particular case, check your registration status, see if you’re registered to vote. If you’re not, and if you choose to do so, take the next step, register to vote. And we just launched a contest that concluded yesterday that would award a four-pack to the Winter Classic at Fenway Park. All you had to do was check your registration status, and we had, you know, more than 5,000 people jump on that. So I know Headcount just announced that they registered 150,000 people this year. And we’re proud to know that we were part of that.
Peter Tight (55:52):
That’s awesome. And if that was the nudge that you needed listening in, go check your registration status, please do.