What I’ve Learned From A Stanley Cup Champion

If you aren’t an NHL hockey fan it’s likely you would not recognize him. Yet in his native Finland he is the subject of a top grossing biographical documentary. He is one of the most popular and beloved hockey players in the history of the game. He holds 18 NHL and team franchise records, is the 15th leading scorer in NHL history, a six-time Olympian with four medals, the all-time leading score in Olympic competition, a Stanley Cup Champion and surely a first ballot inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Teemu Selanne, at the age of 43, is viewed by many as the greatest player ever to play the game, after the age of 40. He has made millions of dollars playing a game. Tonight, Teemu Selanne and the Anaheim Ducks begin their quest for a 2nd Stanley Cup.

There are particular traits and characteristics that seem to be common amongst award winning and record setting champions. Beyond the talent, even a casual observer recognizes the drive, persistence, and single-minded focus needed to produce championship performances. But what is not obvious is much more interesting and provides insights into building a personal brand and living with impact.

Five qualities of personal branding and personal impact.

  1. Work hard. I asked Teemu’s physical therapist, what the key was to his sustained success. “He obviously has special talent. Beyond the talent he works like it is still his first year in the league. He consistently works on his strength, flexibility, nutrition and skill. Kids come into the league and ask him what it takes to be great. He tells them, he shows them, and he encourages them. But in a few years, generally after the first big contract, they are out of the league.”
  2. Be kind. Teemu is genuinely kind and consistently seeks to connect with people in a meaningful way. Several years ago, my son and I were playing golf with Teemu. Andrew, 13 at the time, was a good player but was struggling a bit. Looking to spark Andrew’s game, Teemu looked at him and said, “I’ll pay you $50 for your next birdie.” It wasn’t the $50 that was amazing or that Andrew made a birdie. The lesson was in how warmly and encouragingly Teemu presented Andrew with that $50 bill. I’m pretty sure Andrew still has this $50 bill.
  3. Be generous. Give of your time and your talent not expecting to get anything in return. Teemu started his career in Winnipeg and to say he was popular with the fans would be an understatement. On his last visit to Winnipeg this season thousands of fans were waiting for him when he arrived at the hotel in the early morning. He spent hours signing every last autograph, got to bed when most people were rising and then fulfilled every interview commitment the next day. The lesson is being so thankful for all your blessing you don’t let personal convenience and comfort keep you from giving.
  4. Embrace the day. Every day is an opportunity and you must seize it. Teemu treats each day like a great celebration. He is always positive, energetic, and hopeful. In 2009, Teemu cut the quad muscle in his thigh, with his own skate, in a game collision. The cut was nearly fatal yet he returned to the game again. It is so simple, embrace the day! Don’t let anything rob you of your passion!
  5. Be humble. Teemu is one of the most understated, unassuming, and genuinely thankful superstars sport has ever known. He sidesteps the limelight, consistently showers credit and praise on everyone around him, and may not know the word “I” exists.

The picture you see is from the night the Stanley Cup was presented to the team in October, 2007. Teemu had retired, prematurely, and prior to the start of the game, my phone rang. It was Teemu, “Come down to the locker room, bring the boys, I want to share something with you.”

“Day jobs are overrated!”

—Teemu Selanne

He has said this to me many times. I don’t think I understood what Teemu really meant until I thought about what I have learned from him by observing and seeing how he has gone about his work.

Good luck Teemu, thanks for the lessons. No golf for you until you win 16 more games! Holding the Stanley Cup one more time would be well deserved.

Question: If you are a hockey fan, who do you think wins the Stanley Cup? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned From A Stanley Cup Champion

  1. Thanks for sharing Jim! Rooting for the Ducks to win another cup. Thanks for taking me to game 1 of the Finals that year… A great memory to cherish forever.
    Great lesson on recognizing each day as a celebration and carrying a humble attitude.

  2. Have shared this with many friends both inside and out of the hockey world… Great lessons to live by and thank you for sharing, Jim. And, go Ducks!

  3. Thanks for writing this article, Jim. These truly are great traits of a human being, period. Staying in sports, Jackie Robinson summed it up pretty well when he said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on others”.

    I’ll be sure to forward this link to others.

  4. Jim,

    Sent you a personal email, but may have had the wrong address. Please send me a short note, off-line… I have something I want to share with you. And/or, feel free to call too.

    Thanks.

    Dave