Steve Dangle book excerpt: Why it pays off sometimes to ‘just ask’


In this Nov. 27, 2016, file photo, Gerard Gallant, former Florida Panthers head coach, gets into a cab after being relieved of his duties following an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C. The Western Conference final features two coaches — Gerard Gallant of Vegas, Paul Maurice of Winnipeg — who have taken long, winding roads to perhaps the best teams of their careers.

Excerpted from “This Team Is Ruining My Life (But I Love Them): How I Became a Professional Hockey Fan” by Steve “Dangle” Glynn. © by Steve “Dangle” Glynn. Published by ECW Press Ltd.

Sometimes the answer is so simple you miss it.

In the 2015–16 season, the Florida Panthers made the playoffs, finished with the best record in the Atlantic Division, and their 103 points in the standings was tied for fifth in the entire NHL. All this earned head coach Gerard Gallant a nomination for the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year.

The next season began, and their results were mediocre out of the gate. The team wasn’t recapturing the magic of the year before and had run into injury trouble as well.

In late November 2016, barely two months into the season, the Panthers fired Gallant. It was an extremely controversial decision at the time. Gallant was fired after a road game in Carolina and pictures had leaked of him out on the curb, in the middle of the night, waiting for a cab to take him to the airport.

Hockey talk on all platforms was on fire. Old school pundits and bloggers were butting heads on Twitter, with some of the older crowd referring to the Panthers as “The Computer Boys” because of their more analytically inclined staff members. Sportsnet analyst and former Panthers coach Doug MacLean was also going at it on Twitter with Doug Cifu, the Panthers vice chairman, partner, and alternate governor. Don Cherry got on “Coach’s Corner” and called the firing the worst in the his- tory of the NHL live on Hockey Night in Canada.

One thing many people did was ask the question: “What on earth are the Panthers thinking?” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that question, but it bothered me that nobody seemed to be asking the Panthers themselves. I’m not talking about the players, I’m talking about the decision-makers, the guys in charge, the owners.

One afternoon, a silly little idea came to me. I mean, thanks to Doug MacLean, we know Doug Cifu has Twitter, right? Why don’t I send him a tweet and see if he could come on the podcast?

On December 1, 2016, I sent this tweet to Doug Cifu’s handle:

The whole thing was basically a gag to get a laugh on Twitter. Hence the “Hello, good sir!” It was just so silly. He’s a co-owner of an NHL team and a company CEO. This guy’s not gonna answer me.

He responded in less than 20 minutes.

Doug Cifu had no idea who I was, let alone anything about my podcast. Maybe he just wanted a platform to vent after Panthers management had been getting torn to shreds all week. I definitely know he did his research and asked around about us, I guess to make sure we weren’t going to be total jackasses to him and not let him talk. After a few DMs and some schedule squishing, Doug agreed to be on our show.

December 5, 2016 — that episode is one of my favourites. We had Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston on, always one of our favourite guys to talk to, and then Doug called in. Despite his busy schedule, he stayed on the phone with us for 46 minutes.

We started light, poking fun at the fiasco of a week he was having. Adam, of course, was asking about his lengthy career in
business because he’s always prepared and is just naturally more interested in boring stock talk. But then we really got into the hockey, and what made this story such a controversial one: the human element.

“Did you learn from this, do you think?” I began to ask. “The obvious solution to me: this does not blow up nearly as big as it does without that picture. Without Gerard Gallant outside the arena in Carolina. Was that a learning experience?”

Not a lot of well-established CEOs would be willing to take questions from some shmuck with a podcast about whether or not they learned a lesson from something. To Doug’s credit, he answered thoughtfully.

“Absolutely. It was not the way we wanted this to go down, obviously. It looked like we were a dysfunctional organization when quite the opposite is the case. We’re very unified and we collaborate, and we talk. There’s no politics, and we try to be very collaborative in our decision-making. I felt awful that it embarrassed Gerard. He’s an unbelievably talented and very, very decent man. So, look, it was frankly an embarrassment and we have apologized to Gerard, and he, because he’s such a mensch, on his own contacted [Elliotte] Friedman and said the whole taxi thing didn’t go down that way, it was one hundred percent his decision. Had I been there, would I have managed it differently? Absolutely. I’m more experienced with dealing with crises I guess than other folks are… but at the end of the day, it looked terrible, it didn’t reflect well on the Florida Panthers, and for that we apologize.”

It was a bloody gem of a soundbite. It was so good, in fact, that Jeff Marek and company used it on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central that night. Elliotte Friedman later cited us in his weekly phenomenon “30 Thoughts” (now “31 Thoughts” because of the Vegas Golden Knights), one of the most popular features in all of hockey. In many ways, having Doug Cifu on our show completely changed the perception of the podcast for a lot of people.

All because we asked.

Now, it’s all well and good for me to say, “Ah, just ask people and they’ll definitely join your podcast, YouTube channel, or campus radio show,” when I’ve been doing this for over a decade and have some followers. You know what, though? Just ask worked earlier in my career, too.

When I wanted to get an internship at the Fan 590, I just asked. When I interviewed the mayor of Oshawa for Junior Hockey Mag? I just asked. When Jordan Eberle made that first video with me on my YouTube channel? I just asked. You know when I started getting more subscribers? At some point, I started asking people to subscribe at the end of my videos. Just ask.

The saying “the worst they can say is no” really is true, and I’ve been told no plenty of times. The whole reason I called the mayor of Oshawa was because nobody else answered their phone that day. Mark Messier has turned me down for different social media posts twice. Man, Sportsnet told me no, and then a few years later, they were the ones who called me.

On a different day, Doug Cifu might have been like, “I’m CEO. I can’t be wasting my time with these dumbasses,” and just blocked us. But that day maybe he was in a silly mood and thought, Eh, why not?

If someone tells you no, put your hand on your chest. Feel that? You’re not dead! Congratulations, you’ve survived. Now you’re free to explore all kinds of other possibilities.

One thing I will say, though: at least have some tact when you ask. Allow me to have a “kids these days” moment: a lot of students are pushy as hell on Twitter, and sometimes even email, demanding my time like I owe it to them. How about I’ll give you my time when I have time to give, as long as you don’t act like you’re sticking up a convenience store? What’s the saying? You catch more flies with honey.

You’ll get what you’re looking for or you won’t. You’ll never know unless you ask.

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