December 10, 2012

Derek Sanderson: A Lesson In Team Work

I absolutely love this story from Kevin Shea's new Derek Sanderson's autobiography Derek Sanderson: Crossing the Line.  It's a story about young Sanderson, still in junior hockey, learning that hockey is a team game, thanks to Niagara Falls Flyers boss Hap Emms. 

Sanderson was on a hot streak and feeling pretty good about his game. But he was trying to do too much on his own. Here's how Sanderson tells the story:

"I have something important to say," began Emms. You guys are truly blessed. Do you understand that? Do you know how lucky you are that you are playing with the best player that has ever played the game?"

I looked around to see who he was talking about. We had Doug Favell and Bernie Parent in goal. We had guys like Gilles Marotte and Rick Ley on defence. Bill Goldsworthy, Rosaire Paiement and Jean Pronovost were solid forwards. We had maybe 12 guys who went on to the NHL, but I was sure who he was talking about.

And then Hap said, "You guys get to play with Derek!"

I wanted to crawl in a hole!

He continued. "After sitting up in the corner there for 20 minutes, I've watched him handle the puck. He takes it alone, he can go through people, split the defence and can score! Amazingly gifted player! You should all be humbled by Derek's excellence. In fact, I'm going to show you how good he is. We are going to scrimmage."

Then he said, "Wait a second. Hold everything. Derek, a player like you probably doesn't need wingers. You can handle the puck really well. You don't have to pass. the way you played yesterday in Hamilton only shows how good you are alone, so you probably don't need your wingers, right? Pronovost and Goldsworthy, go sit down."

"Tell you what, Derek," Emms continued. "You probably don't need defencemen, either. Guys, let Derek play alone. He's good enough."

And he looked at me. i didn't know what to say or do. Should I apologize? This was definitely going downhill.

"Derek, I think you probably need a goaltender. I'll give you a goalie."

Hap then turned to the team. "And, if he's standing on his feet for any more than 10 seconds in a row, you'll all do a hundred laps each, both ways."

I got the puck off the faceoff and I was dancing with it. Boom! Boom! I got knocked down every time I stood up. I practically crawled to the bench. My tongue was dragging on the ice. "I get the point," I said, exhausted.

"No you're good enough, take the next shift. You're good enough."

"I got the shit beat ouf of me. Hap gave me a half-smile. "Don't you think its a little easier playing the game with wingers rather than using them as decoys?

"Yeah, I do."

"And don't you need a couple of defencemen behind you? Do you understand that this is a team game? You cannot play this game alone. Ever! No one can."

I learned humility the hard way.

Remember this story kids. Hockey is a team game. Pass the puck and use your wingers. There should be no place for puck hogs or helicopters (needs no wings) as I call them.

Derek Sanderson: Crossing the Lineis available in bookstores everywhere. 
Buy The Book: Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

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