|Ken Hitchcock, the Blue Jackets' bench boss got an opportunity to converse with 'The Boss' at a recent tour stop.
The closest Bruce Springsteen’s current U.S. tour will take him to Columbus, Ohio, is two hours away in Cleveland. Unfortunately for Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, he’ll be otherwise engaged – his team hosts the St. Louis Blues
Hitchcock did catch a Springsteen show at the United Center in Chicago on Oct. 22, so he was able to scratch that itch, but it was a chance meeting a few years ago in Philadelphia that turned Hitchcock into a fan of the New Jersey-born singer-songwriter.
Thanks to a friendship between Flyers equipment manager Anthony “Rock” Oratorio and a guitar technician who was part of Springsteen’s tour group, Hitchcock was able to attend a Springsteen sound check the day of a show at Lincoln Financial Field.
“It wasn’t really a scheduled talk,” Hitchcock said. “We were just sitting there in the sound check and we just started talking about leadership and the similarities between leading the band leading teams. There was a lot of common ground.
“He started asking me questions, I started asking him questions and it just evolved.”
Hitchcock, the consummate teacher of the game, always is on the lookout for things he can learn. He keeps stacks of leadership books around his office and will use anything he can to motivate his players.
From Springsteen, he learned that leading a hockey team and leading a touring rock band aren’t really all that much different.
“A lot of the similarities are between keeping it together and the way you build it,” he said. “For him, it really started with a lot of friendships and then how it evolved and how there’s decisions that are better for the group that aren’t popular for the individual. It was very interesting. It gave you a real reality check. There’s more to it than strapping on a guitar and playing.
”It’s the daily stuff you take for granted. He’s got a lot of work to do on a daily basis that’s pretty significant in the cohesion of the group.”
It’s similar to what Hitchcock has done on a daily basis with any of the team’s he’s coached – Dallas (1996-2001), Philadelphia (2002-06) and Columbus (2006-present).
“It reinforced that when you’re in that responsibility, there’s a lot of similarity between sports business and entertainment,” he said. “When you’re in that position, the pressure is on you to make the right decisions. The decisions might hurt you personally, but they’re good for the group. That’s what I took from there.”
The meet-and-greet didn’t turn Hitchcock into a huge Springsteen fan – the coach wasn’t sure Bruce knew who he was, but drummer and hockey fan Max Weinberg helped bridge the gap. but Hitchcock gained a healthy respect for the musician and man.
“It’s more for me the body of work (as a whole),” he said. “It’s very interesting. He (Springsteen) stands for a lot of things in life that we’d all like to stand for, civil liberties … he’s very much for the individual people and American citizens, things that I think everyone admires. Deep down I think we’d all like to be like him.
“The thing I like about him and the band is they make you think.”