The Friends That Shape Us: (Stan, Lev, Chris and Ryan)

7 03 2011

What does the Stanley Cup, a dead psychologist, a friend’s blog and an out-of shape goalie have in common? All of these otherwise unconnected items have wiggled their way into my thoughts this week and together are shaping the way I look at the world.

My brother-in-law Dave (far left) standing with my niece Jasmine (front left) and their new friend Stan.

It was a historic day in my hometown this past Saturday as a local bank had a very special guest: the holy grail of hockey – the Stanley Cup. My brother-in-law Dave, is a coach and a prominent figure in Chilliwack Minor Hockey and his team (including my niece Jasmine) got to have their picture with the historic icon. Very cool. The line-ups were long and yet they both agreed it was well worth the wait. What a special memory for the two of them, and a day that I’m sure will have a lot of meaning for their family in years to come!

While cameras were flashing at Scotiabank, I was making a presentation to my cohort in a neighboring town. Two Saturdays a month, I meet with 19 other educators, all who share a journey which will end in a Masters of Education Degree. The presentation I was giving was on a Jewish Psychologist named Vygotsky, who grew up in the early 1900s (during the Russian Revolution) in the former Soviet Union, became a prolific author and educator and studied quite a range of human behaviors. In teacher circles, he is probably best known for his Social Development theory, the Zone of Proximal Development and MKOs. It was Vygotsky’s Most Knowledgeable Other concept which was most interesting to me. He believed that the greatest atmosphere for learning would take place when students were around peers, coaches, teachers and others who knew more about the area of focus than the student himself. In other words, you could learn a lot when you hang around people who know a lot about something. Vygotsky’s MKO term was groundbreaking stuff (framed in a scientific way) to examine and affirm the concepts of mentoring and modeling in an atmosphere of learning.

The day after my presentation, a principal friend of mine whom I greatly admire posted a blog about affirming the gifts of each student. In his post, he shared two separate stories of girls who had a passion for the Arts and yet were both discouraged from following their dreams by influencial people who felt the University route was a better career path. He writes, “Numeracy and literacy are very important skills, but at what point do we put too much emphasis on academics and lose sight of what is important for all our students?” (from These words have been ringing in my ears as I think of the way that many teachers (myself included) smugly convey an attitude that “we really know what is best for our students”. It’s quite an arrogant premise really, and a belief I hope we are willing to let go of.

And finally, I got the nod last night to be a G.O.C. (yes, you guessed it: a “Goalie On Call”). I’m an avid hockey fan and have been playing goal since my University days when a roommate of mine took a puck to the throat and became gun-shy. He unloaded his equipment on me, (sticks skates and everything) for $200 and I’ve been hooked ever since. Since I’m not playing on a team this year, I’ve made myself available to a number of “over 40” teams that find themselves in a pinch where they need a, (ahem), reliable starter. Last night’s game was a late one – a 10:45 start – but the adrenaline was pumping and we ended up winning a close one, 4 to 3.

So here’s where I put all four of these experiences together: As a hockey goaltender, my #1 objective when I hit the ice is to protect my team’s goal. As an educator, there is a parallel here in that I need to deliberately step back and make it my purpose to protect the goals of those who look up to me (thanks for the reminder C.W.).  I have had many experienced goalies (MKOs) over the years recognize that I was a late bloomer to the position and give me tips and informal coaching sessions to make me a stronger player.

One of the best pieces of advice came from Stanley Cup Winner and former Canuck, Ryan Walter at a Men’s Conference we shared speaking duties at. Ryan said, “Some nights, you’re gonna feel you can stop everything and other nights it’s going to be like they’re firing dimes at you. As you gain confidence,  you’ll be tempted to play the puck more, But don’t forget that your primary job is to stop pucks. The best advice I can give you is to make sure you square up to every shooter and make yourself look big.”

Isn’t it great when important, but random things in your mind manage to find a common thread and connect themselves to each other?




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