Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Great One

In 1996 Team Canada held its training camp in Whistler in preparation for the World Cup of Hockey (why did we change the name from the Canada Cup?) They were here for a week and a few of my friends volunteered to provide security, in return for which the team paid a lump sum to local minor hockey. One of my friends described how the bus would arrive to the back of the arena before practice, and metal gates would control the fans who wanted to see the stars or get autographs. As the players disembarked, an official or two would shout to the throngs that the players were going straight in to get ready, but would be available to sign after practice.

Sure enough, after practice Wayne Gretztky pops out the doors and starts signing and talking to fans, but quickly notices that he’s alone in doing so, and sees other players make a beeline straight for the bus door, where my friend Scott is posted. Wayne excused himself for a moment and walked into the bus, where he told off the guys, singling out Paul Coffey and Mark Messier, probably because they were teammates at one point. He then walked out of the bus, followed by a sheepish and sulky Messier and Coffey, and most of the other players as well, at which point a proper meet and greet and autograph session was conducted. It was apparently quite pleasant and cheerful, since there wasn’t a tonne of people and most were real fans as opposed to the aggressive collector type.

That anecdote was enough for me to permanently inscribe Wayne Gretzky in my good books, and it goes to show that leadership can take many forms.

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