Give a Warm Welcome to the Least Valuable Player in History
In recent blogs, I have discussed my view on the new buzzword that is all over hockey these days: analytics. This term has the hockey traditionalists such as myself scratching our heads heads and it has opened the door for a new wave of non-hockey people to get involved in the game (which is not automatically a bad thing).
I really did not think that "hockey analytics" would ever have any direct bearing or impact on me. I have been retired for 21 years now. My career is in the books – it is over and done with and people can see what I accomplished and form their own opinions on my hockey career.
Well, I thought wrong. Recently, the world of analytics and my hockey career came face to face.
As many of you know, I do a variety of speaking engagements. I speak to many different types of groups –athletes, schools, business groups, leadership seminars etc. I enjoy this, I get to meet lots of new people and through my talks I have an opportunity to have an impact on many different people.
The focus of my talks is simply “Work Hard, Do Your Best, Have Fun,” which reflects my own credo. Through this simple motto, I talk about what it takes to make it in the NHL and more importantly what it takes to stay there. To make it in the NHL is no different than making it anywhere and I often draw on the comparisons of the two. Quite often, I speak about leadership; a skill that unfortunately is lacking in so many areas in today’s society.
I usually leave my introduction up to the group that has invited me to speak. I am often introduced by an organizer who knows me, not necessarily personally but someone who is familiar with me, my NHL career and what I have accomplished both on and off the ice. Even if the person doesn’t know me, all he or she has to do is to ask around to others and many people will have something to say about me. What will they find out? Lots!
In a typical introduction, the host often brings up one or more of the following topics about me:
The longevity of my NHL career. I played 15 seasons and in 1086 hockey games, in fact when I played my 1,000 NHL game I was only the 16th defenseman in NHL history to do so!
My knowledge of the topic of leadership. Many of my speeches center around this topic, so it's a natural lead-in. I was captain or an assistant captain of every team that I played on throughout my career. In 1980, when I was named captain of the Calgary Flames, I was the youngest captain in the NHL at just 22 years old. People have said that my work ethic, energy and enthusiasm is contagious. Additionally, I am proud of the fact that I represented Canada internationally three times in various championships, earning a silver and bronze medal. Last but not least, I am proud that I played in two Stanley Cup Finals.
My knowledge of fitness and conditioning. This is a topic that is also near and dear to my heart. I am a big believer in the 90-Day Challenge, and I think that everyone from children to seniors benefits from being active. I've been told that I am a good motivator in this area through my personal stories and positive outlook that anyone can achieve ambitious goals if they are devoted to attaining them.
I have had a wide array of very flattering and heartfelt intros over the years. I appreciate them all but they're basically intended to accomplished a simple purpose: to briefly introduce me to the audience. Whether or not the audience knew of me prior to the introduction, they feel that they knew me now.
A good introduction sets the audience at ease and they are quite often very open to what they are about to hear. A warm reception is always nice to hear prior to one speaking. It sets things up for all of us to have an enjoyable time.
Well, recently I encountered an advanced stats hockey enthusiast who introduced me before an event. This was my introduction: “Ladies and gentleman we are very pleased and honoured to have with us today Mr. Brad Marsh! Brad is from London, Ontario and currently resides in Ottawa with his family. Through his hard work and determination, he played in 1,086 hockey games and scored 23 goals. Of all the players who played in over 1,000 games, he is the lowest scoring player in NHL history!"
Really? That was the only thing notable about my 15 years in NHL? I worked hard enough to score 23 goals in 15 years? I'm glad that I played back when blocking a shot or forcing a bad angle shot wasn't considered a "negative Corsi event" and shot attempt differentials were not view as the main indicator of every player's value.
Otherwise, I might have been introduced to the audience this way: "Let's give a warm welcome to the worst player ever to hang around the NHL so long -- the guy with the worst cumulative Corsi rating ever recorded and the lowest scoring player in NHL history -- the one and only Brad Marsh!"
As I took to the podium, he knew I was not happy. If looks could kill, I'd be writing this blog from my arraignment for the look I shot him. However, I turned that negative moment into a positive.
This was my response: “Thank you for pointing out the obvious to everyone: I was not a goal scorer. Now I don’t have to waste any time in talking about all of my goals! But what I would like to talk about is this, it takes all kinds to make up a team – not just goal scorers.”
There are many things about hockey -- and life -- that can never be measured by numbers. Everybody on a team has a role and a responsibility and every player on that team is as important as the next. This simple thought process holds true at all levels of sports; no one is bigger or more important than the team. That is how championships are won.
I'm not denying that, in in the modern day world of sports, stats are important and the ability to analyze the deeper context of those stats is very important. Even so, those stats often don’t tell the whole story! There is a still a valuable role for the big defensive defenseman, and the low-scoring checking forward who sets an example on the ice and the dressing room. There should still be a spot for the tough guy who stands up for his teammates, is the hardest working guy at practice and comes to the rink every day with a great attitude.
What did I learn from this? I learned that, from now on, I will write my own introduction and send it to the organizers of the event!
With the 2014/15 NHL hockey season only one week old, it is way too early to make any pronouncements about how the season will play out. Well, sorta. If a few teams don’t get their act in gear soon, it will be a very long season for them.
Here are a few quick thoughts about some of the goings-on during the NHL's opening week:
Hockey galore: The season began with a lot pomp and ceremony, especially up here in Canada – for the first time in my life time we had a new national broadcast company carrying the games. Rogers outbid the CBC for the national rights to the NHL, so needless to say they put a lot of energy and money into opening week.
The emphasis was on the first weekend of hockey, not only were all seven Canadian teams playing but as well, all 30 NHL teams were playing as well. I did not realize it but it was the only 6th time in NHL history that this has happened. The games of all seven Canadian teams were televised on various Rogers TV channels – pretty cool. It was a great night to get comfortable with your favourite beverage, a few wings and of course the remote!
Chris Pronger is hired by the NHL: I am real happy that Chris is officially back in the game. It’s unfortunate that we will never see him play again but it is great that he is involved again. For those of you that missed it, Chris was named to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
Kind of ironic that one of the “bad boys” of hockey is now going to help the league hand out suspensions. I presented Chris with the Max Kaminski Trophy as the OHL’s best junior defenseman in 1993, I had previously won the same trophy in 1978. Chris was a good guy in junior as well as his NHL career.
Crowd dressed as empty seats for Ottawa Senators vs. Florida Panthers on October 13 No one knows for sure how many people were actually in the seands for this game. The announced attendance was somewhere around 7,000 people. But in watching the game and reading the various stories about the game, they would have lucky to have 3,000 people there!
A lot of people, including some fellow ex-players, commented on how they fell sorry for the players having to play there – no crowd, no atmosphere, etc. I agree, but what about the owner having to pay a payroll of 60+ million dollars?! What about the small contingent of fans that actually do care? It's tough on all of them.
My apologies to the few who are truly devoted to that team (this isn't directed at you) but it's time to move that franchise. The small group of diehards will understand the reasons and the business will be better for it.