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Open Ice: Takin’ Care of Business

03/18/2013, 2:45pm CDT
By Aaron Paitich

Minnesota Hockey culture continues to fuel business world

“People that reach a high level of hockey – they have to put in so much work. And for our culture, we hire those people because we’ve found that they’re successful because they’re putting in the time to learn and be the very best.” –Erik Hendrikson

Monday morning meetings at Tradition Mortgage aren’t about the latest housing numbers, rates or forecasts. No way. It’s all hockey – for at least an hour.

A significant number of employees grew up playing hockey and are still involved in the sport in some capacity, whether it’s out on the pond or coaching their children. There’s a reason most of the employees have stayed with the company throughout its 14 years of its existence.

“It just gives us a little extra bounce in our step,” says Erik Hendrikson, president of both Tradition Mortgage and the Edina Youth Hockey Association. “It’s a binding quality. Any business can become a grind. If you’re going to go somewhere every day and work eight or 10 hours or whatever it is, you want to be around people that you have a lot in common with and have fun with.”

The hockey and business relationships have always existed here in Minnesota, but with more events and opportunities to stay in the game, the connection is only growing stronger.

Employees of Tradition Mortgage coach youth hockey all over the metro area – Stillwater, Shakopee, Chanhassen, Champlin, Cottage Grove, Lakeville South, Highland Central and more. Four former St. Olaf College captains also work there.

“We have people all over the place,” adds Hendrikson, who grew up in Burnsville and played for Tom Osiecki before playing football and hockey at Gustavus. “That’s what makes it interesting. You hear, ‘What are you doing in your association? How are you handling that?’ We share ideas.”

Tradition Mortgage registered two teams in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships on Lake Nokomis this year. They organize boot hockey and shinny events throughout the winter. Throw in some early morning pond hockey or a lunch-hour pickup game and this company is all about mixing business with pleasure.

They’ve built strong personal and client relationships through the sport. It’s also influenced their hiring, not just to fuel office conversation, but because hockey people are proven workers.

“Hockey is a learned skill,” Hendrikson adds. “People that reach a high level of hockey – they have to put in so much work. And for our culture, we hire those people because we’ve found that they’re successful because they’re putting in the time to learn and be the very best.”

And like any coach or boss, they’re always looking for character.

“The mortgage business is feast or famine,” he continues. “You’ve got to hang in there. It’s just like a team if you’re on a winning or losing streak. It’s pretty easy for everybody to be best friends when you’re kicking butt and beating everybody. But when your back is against the wall and you’re down by three in the third period, that’s when you find out who’s the real deal and who’s not.”

Businesses help grow AHA

Dave Swenson has been with the Adult Hockey Association since its inception in 2001. He’s seen growth from a variety of sources, including increased interest and participation stemming from the workplace.

“The primary growth engine is word of mouth,” says Swenson, the AHA’s secretary treasurer who also serves on USA Hockey’s Adult Council and Minnesota Hockey’s board of directors. “People are talking about it at work and in their social lives. We definitely get people who come to us because of a buddy at work.”

Consistently ranking in the top five of USA Hockey adult registration numbers, the AHA has seen dental clinics, law firms and other companies team up on the ice. Some employers are even starting to subsidize hockey registration fees for their employees because they believe the league falls within the guidelines of their wellness programs.

“I’m hoping employers think about that a little more,” Swenson adds. “It’s not just softball leagues anymore. There are recreational hockey opportunities out there for adults.”

Don’t work with hockey people? No problem. All are welcome to play. Check out the different skill levels and options to join. Contact the league or keep an eye on their website for registration information at

Tag(s): Home  Issue Archive  March 2013