Q&A with Mike Gordon, Chicago Wolves President of Business Operations
1. What is your role with the Chicago Wolves and how does “health” enter into your world as CEO?
I am the Wolves’ president of business operations, which means I oversee the team’s front office (tickets, corporate sponsorship, community relations, marketing, public relations) while working in harmony with our hockey operations department. One of my primary goals as CEO is to use our platform as a successful professional sports franchise to promote better health for the 10 million people in the Chicago metropolitan area.
We have three pillars on which we base our platforms: Player and front office outreach, in-arena wellness messaging and community programs. We have built relationships with schools, youth hockey organizations and others where we provide the structure – with programs such as Howl For Your Health, Floor Hockey, and the Wolves Cup competition – and the incentives for children and their parents to get involved.
2. What attracted you and the team to the new Health Means Business Champions initiative from the U.S. Chamber Foundation?
We were honored when the Chicago Chamber of Commerce encouraged us to share our programs and philosophies with a different audience. We believe all of the professional sports teams in Chicago are doing strong, positive things in the community, so we felt this was a great opportunity to provide an example of how all our teams work together to make a difference in our cities.
3. Sports teams seem like they’d have health and wellness at their core. Are there any barriers to investing in employee and community health that your business faces?
Frankly, the biggest barrier we face is time – or the lack of it. For example, we would love to conduct our Howl For Your Health program in every school. There just isn’t enough time to coordinate it on such a massive scale. We add more schools each year, but we always find ourselves wishing we could accelerate our involvement even faster.
When Don Levin and Buddy Meyers founded the Wolves in 1994, one of their tenets was to become an asset in the community. That has only become more integral to the team’s mission as the years have flown by. It’s great that we’ve won four league championships and we’re hungry to win more, but it matters just as much that we perform as champions off the ice.
4. What advice would you give to a CEO who is interested in following in your steps?
Every initiative counts, no matter how small. For example, we conduct a Nut-Free Day one game each year. It’s hard for children with nut allergies to enjoy a live sporting event, so we powerwash a section of Allstate Arena and ensure families can come to a game and not have their epipens at the ready. We partner with a local bakery to provide treats that are peanut- and tree nut-free.
There are so many opportunities like this where a small time investment on our end leads to a large benefit for people.
5. As a Champion, what do you plan to do to build greater wellbeing in your community and business?
Every year, our goal is to invent new initiatives while improving the ones we’re already providing. Now that we’ve had the opportunity to share our programs thanks to the US. Chamber Foundation, we realize that’s another avenue to help. We are going to make a conscious effort to spread the word even further in the months and years to come.