Canadian Hockey | Choose the best people

The author, former star goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, addresses members of Hockey Canada

Dear members of Hockey Canada, you have something very important to do in the next few weeks. You will set a new direction for hockey in Canada.

You know how important it is. You’ve been involved in hockey most of your life. At the age of 5, you were playing in the street with the neighborhood kids. Your first sweater. Your first team. National Hockey League (NHL) players and teams who lived and died with you. Your first NHL game. All the moments with your teammates: the big wins, the big losses, the big hopes. Great friendship. The things you learned about sportsmanship and team spirit, the emotions you still have inside of you.

Even if you don’t reach the top, you keep playing. Then, to your surprise, as a coach or a parent, or just someone close to the game, you discover the joy of watching others play, learn and love what they do. And now, after all that, you’re a member of Hockey Canada.

The people of your city, province or territory trust you, they put in your hands not only the welfare of the sport, but also their children.

Hundreds of thousands of them, all over the country, men and women, with or without disabilities. Women and men too. Like you, like me, whether it’s Sidney Crosby, Marie-Philip Poulin, Sarah Fillier, Connor McDavid or that 5-year-old – they’re all players.

Most Canadians don’t know what you do. They know the Hockey Canada name from the Canadian teams at the Olympics, World Championships and World Junior Championships. They assume you have something to do with the “state of sport” in this country, with how we do, not just in terms of winning gold medals, but the way we play, the health and safety of sports. And who is participating.

And, in a sport we created, at a time when difference is everywhere and hockey offers common ground for so many people, how important is that regardless of barriers – age, gender, ethnicity, cost, geographic location, even skill – everyone who wants to play has a chance to do so. Canadians want to know that someone cares about this sport. Your name is Hockey Canada. It must be you.

It is very important to understand

You know what happened when the scandals involving the World Juniors players broke, and what you did and didn’t do, Hockey Canada. How everyone turned their backs on you. How amazed you are. The criticism is relentless and comes from everywhere, as if you are somehow the lightning rod for everything wrong with the sport. The public, government, media, sponsors, everyone is after you. It was very unfair to you. And when you react like that, you get hit harder. You don’t seem to understand. I hope you understand now. This is important for you.

You are an important person in your community. Our Olympic, national and junior teams are important, and the majority of players who will never wear a Canada name jersey are even more so. You are important because hockey means so much to so many people. Because it is part of our history, our pleasure, our pride. A part of us. It has to do with our children. So when something important happens, it is important to us. This is really important. You should remember that.

You have a good job ahead.

You have many administrative and corporate responsibilities within Hockey Canada, but first and foremost, it is your responsibility to ensure that hockey in Canada is healthy and strong in all aspects.

And for a few weeks, it’s your job to pick the best people to make it happen. It’s not just the one knocking on your door. The best people, find them, find them. The public, government, media, corporations – everyone – is watching you.

And while you’re at it, remember this too: hockey is not yours. It is not owned by the Minister of Sport or the Government of Canada. It does not belong to the NHL, International Ice Hockey Federation, Junior Leagues, Minor Hockey Associations, their administrators, officials or coaches. Hockey belongs to everyone who plays it. We often hear hockey people refer to hockey as “our game”. I think it’s their way of trying to show togetherness, like being generous and caring about sharing it with others. But they don’t have to share hockey. This is hockey being shared with them. For all of us.

In the next few weeks you should remember this and also remember it for all the following weeks. Choose as Hockey Canada’s new Board of Directors, as the new President, as the new CEO and as the new leader people who know it, who believe it, who don’t forget and who build it.

Good luck to you.

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