Hockey and Cost Engineering: Two Full-Contact Sports


several hockey players on an ice rink, crashing into each other

Sports clichés are so overused in business that I hesitated to even think about how playing and coaching hockey relate to my role in preconstruction.

If you don’t agree, count the number of times someone says “the ball’s in your court” in your next meeting. But there is probably a reason that sports clichés are what they are. I have been playing hockey since I was 4 years old and coaching for the past 31 years, and to be honest, I’ve seen the parallels.

Play. Estimate. Set Up.

I play center in an adult men’s league, but I’m also a center at Tocci. Really, I’m the Patrice Bergeron of Tocci. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but a guy can dream.

On the ice, I handle face-offs, get more assists than goals, and keep the game moving. I try to keep a view of the entire ice, to anticipate how the play is going to progress.

At Tocci, I do the same – handle the initial interface with the client and set the team up for the project. Yes, it’s important for me to stay focused on the ‘now’ of the project, but preconstruction requires a high degree of project forecasting. I need to ‘look away from the play’ to anticipate the risks of the project, whether it’s the particular nuances of local jurisdictions or a less-than-ideal waterproofing detail.

Ultimately, where the project is going to be is more important than where the project currently is.

Coach. Manage. Lead.

I also coach recreational hockey for high school kids. My coaching style and my management style have the same three parts:

  • Don’t ask anyone to do what you wouldn’t do yourself.

I’m always on the ice – I skate and practice with the kids. Whatever I ask them to do, I do. At Tocci, I am the same. I never assign trades without taking trades. And just like everyone else, I count toilet accessories.

  • Learn By Doing.

I don’t run a ton of drills. On most days, I divide the kids into different teams and then drop the puck. Practice is play. In the office, it’s the same thing. Yes, we have a few tutorials, but the way to learn estimating is to estimate, dial for dollars, and scope subs.

  • Goof off.

Most of the kids I coach have been playing hockey for their entire lives, but I provide a chance to play in a relaxed environment. So we get to goof off a little – make it fun.