Wendel Clark at the Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off 2014. (Photo: NHL Images/Getty) Wendel Clark at the Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off 2014. (Photo: NHL Images/Getty)

You’ll probably never get to wear the ‘C’ in an NHL game, but according to Toronto Maple Leafs legend Wendel Clark, leadership is the same whether you’re on the ice or in the office.

“Playing on a hockey team, getting along with your teammates and making the team win is the same as business is in terms of formulating your team to get your business to run well,” he says.

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Clark hasn’t rested on his considerable laurels since retiring. He’s an active corporate endorser, with links to major Canadian brands like Scotiabank and a continuing ambassadorial role with the team he captained from 1991 to 1994. Clark spoke to PROFIT from Yonge-Dundas Square, where he participated in the Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off 2014 to mark the launch of the 2014–2015 season.

Unlike many retired athletes who are content to lend their faces to other companies, Clark has taken an active interest in the business world. The Saskatchewan native has opened a couple of Wendel Clark’s Classic Grill and Sports Lounges in Vaughan and Burlington, Ont. But he knows that having his name on the door isn’t enough to keep customers satisfied. “It can be a start,” he says. “But after that in the restaurant business you need great food, great service and great entertainment—you have to give people a good experience so they want to come back.”

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The first pick in the 1985 draft is also the owner of three Meineke Car Care Centres, and he has some advice for fellow franchisees on dealing with corporate: “We have to take and want to use [the franchisor’s] expertise because they’ve been in the business before and they’re bigger in the business,” he notes. “But you can’t rely on the franchisor always to make it work. You have to want to make it work and do the little things that are necessary in your area.”

In both hockey and business, Clark says surrounding yourself with the right people is key. “It’s a team situation no matter what situation you’re in,” Clark emphasizes. “In the restaurant business or Meineke Car Care business where maybe I don’t know as much, I have to rely on good players beside me that know more about it. I have to trust them and know that they’re going to do a great job and want to do a great job.

“You want everybody to want to do well.”

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