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“We’re on that:” the Corporate America to hockey dictionary

Having spent most of my career in an office setting of one sort or another, I can tell you that Corporate America is a strange and sometimes entertaining place to ply one's trade. Among the daily amusements is the totally hysterical use of the English language. Daily life in the corporate jungle is a treasure trove of lengthy acronyms, unintelligible jargon and ill-chosen metaphors. Anyone who's ever endured a death by PowerPoint meeting where attendees are blatantly playing solitaire on their phones knows what I'm talking about. It could be downright depressing if you let it get to you, or you could see it as flat out hilarious. I choose the latter. How do I do it? That's easy; I make it worth my while by thinking about how it translates to hockey.

“Dotted line relationship.”

Corporate America: If you're lucky enough to work for good people like I do, this is just another way of describing your company's org chart. However, for those who aren't so lucky it is a metaphor for “you work for this guy or gal even though he or she is a first class twit, and you have to do what that person says without question even if you don’t like it or agree with it."

Hockey: A standard player contract.

“I need to have visibility into this project.”

Corporate America:  Commonly used by a slightly senior leader as a CYA technique to demand that employees keep them updated on key projects, when in fact their staff has been doing so all along via email, phone messages and texts that said leader ignored. An easy way to counter this is to resend the previous emails with a short but polite note that reads "As you may recall from my previous email, blah, blah, blah....I'll resend for your reference."  

Hockey: How the starting goaltender reminds his teammates to let him see the puck. 

“I’m on that.”

Corporate America: I'm embarrassed to admit that I've used this expression more than a few times in my career and that is how I know for sure that it really means “I’m behind and haven’t even looked at that thing you gave me, but I will slam it together in the 10 minutes right before it’s due.”

Hockey: What players say in response to a coach’s directions right before they head out for a shift.

“Close the loop.”

Corporate America: A term used to notify colleagues that a project is complete and hence, they can rest easy and go back to building paper clip forts during meaningless conference calls. 

Hockey: Another way to refer to the neutral zone trap.

“Let’s touch base”

Corporate America: This basically means both people in question disagree utterly about an issue but nonetheless agree to meet to discuss how far apart they are on key points, refuse to budge on said points and then do it all again in 2 months.

Hockey: What the NHLPA and NHL said to each other in the summer of 2012, understanding that when time came due to re-negotiate the CBA, they would sit down, disagree utterly about their issues but nonetheless agree to meet to discuss how far apart they are on key points, refuse to budge on said points and then do it all again over the course of the next six months. 

“We’re still learning who all the players are.”

Corporate America: Our competitive intelligence sucks and we’re just now getting our crap together in understanding our competitors.

Hockey: Frequently heard in the stands at junior hockey games. It generally means that we just got the final roster from the team and are busy evaluating stats and bios and such for rookies.

“We’re a leader in this space.”

Corporate America: How companies fool themselves into thinking they are number one, even though all it really means is that they have two more customers than their nearest competitor.

Hockey: Used by teams to refer to their prowess on the power play, penalty kills and transition game. Unlike Corporate America, a hockey team’s claim to greatness can be backed by a wealth of statistics as well as qualitative measures such as a player’s overall creativity, hockey sense and commitment to teamwork.

Pop quiz/audience participation: It's your chance to test these newfound language skills by correctly translating the following into proper, straightforward English: "We've identified an opportunity to advance this conversation by demonstrating our leadership in this space with high visibility to executives through leverage of your dotted line relationship with your team, either via consultation with me or by providing me with existing key points that can be integrated into a presentation. ” Hint: The correct answer is not #WTF.  If you live in Portland and correctly translate this within one or two words of what it actually means, I'll buy you a beer at a Winterhawks game this season.

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“We can score on this power play if you just get me the frickin’ puck!”

Posted by Moose Moss on 08/09/13 at 10:28 AM ET

Joe Z.'s avatar

In corporate Europe things are even more “funny”,  in German speaking countries like Austria, Germany or Switzerland it’s common to mix in English buzzwords (e.g. performance, customer experience, etc.) during presentations instead of using the proper German words. I play a game called BS-Bingo with my colleagues, before the meeting each of us makes a list containing ten such buzzwords. The winner gets lunch payed by the loser.

I probably will never be in Portland, but I still give it a shot. Usually such a sentence would come from a superior to a team leader which mens “I haven’t done my homework on this , so could you please do my job so I don’t lose my face?”

Posted by Joe Z. from Austria on 08/09/13 at 12:16 PM ET


Love it: One hockey translation and one business translation. Genius.  You’re both winners of the pop quiz. I realize it may not ever happen, but just in case, we’ll keep the beer chilled for you here in Portland. And I think I’ll expand the BS-Bingo to the U.S. while I’m at it. That’s brilliant. Cheers!

Posted by Samantha from Portland, Oregon on 08/09/13 at 05:48 PM ET

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com