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Erika Barootes is vice-president of Western Canada for Enterprise Canada, a national strategic communications firm.

Whether it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs or Alberta politics, the action always seems to be popcorn-worthy these days.

Ideally, political parties function like a well-oiled team, where what happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room. But with a year to go until the provincial election, we are witnessing some parties running short-handed – and some still lacing up.

I am talking all political parties.

Some resemble the (fictional) Mighty Ducks on their first day with Coach Bombay: no idea how to play the game or even skate. Others are full of rookies expected to make the leap to the big leagues and understand the pace and skills required. And, of course, some blindly follow their captain and take every opportunity to slash in the corner when the refs aren’t looking.

Here are a few fundamentals of hockey that may help these Alberta parties in preparation for the next election.

Bench strength matters

Your first line can’t play the entire game. Focusing on building up bench strength can keep legs fresh longer, and nurturing a depth of talent will benefit the team during the four-year season.

That also means that from captain to fourth-liners, a team is a team. Everyone needs to show up to practice and look out for one another. And although rookies need to earn their spot, they shouldn’t feel irrelevant. It comes down to focusing on the team goal over individual stats.

This is easier said than done. For this type of culture to be authentic, it should be regularly addressed and communicated from leadership.

Pass the puck

Every team has their all-stars who can move the puck up the ice with more skill and at a quicker pace than the average player, but that doesn’t mean you don’t look for other teammates. You are only as good as your weakest player.

Even if you’re on a line with your least favourite teammate, check your ego, pass the puck and let them take the shot sometimes.

Penalties can ruin a good play

Think a cheap shot or a quick slash will give your team a chance to score? Think again. You could find yourself in the penalty box – leaving your team short-handed and the other team with a better chance to score a goal.

In politics, this means that going after your opponent on personal or wedge issues can potentially hurt you more than it hurts them. They might take a minor hit, but taking a selfish penalty – especially in the last few minutes of a political game – can affect the momentum of an entire campaign and lead you to riding the pine or, worse, your team losing.

As the old saying goes, there is no “I” in team.

Keep the fans happy

There will always be the diehards, but arenas don’t just fill themselves; you need to give fans a reason to show up. Let them know how much their support means and keep them cheering you on – even in the off-season.

In the political arena, fans are the voters. You can never take them for granted because if they don’t feel appreciated, they can easily pick a new team next election.

Humility is a strength

This is critical in hockey and politics. When you mess up a play, use it to make yourself better. Not using it to improve, or choosing to blame the opposition, is a weakness for yourself and your team.

Being cocky and confident has its advantages when it comes to intimidating your opponent, but working hard and staying humble shows that you have the strength and determination required to win.

Play your game, not your opponents

If your team is rebuilding and low on skilled players, don’t say “it’s the cup or bust” this year. Set realistic expectations. It may hurt to realize that your team won’t be contending to form government, but developing your younger players can go a long way for next season.

If you’re the incumbent looking to make it back-to-back cups (or maybe even a three-peat) – play to your strengths by relying on your experience and work ethic so you can make another deep run into the post-season.

And if your team is entering the general election as the underdog, embrace it by being pesky and persistent. Don’t forget, fans and the media love a good Cinderella story.

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