Steve Stamkos Inspired | 7 Leadership Lessons from the Rink

Leadership lessons inspired by the Lightning's captain Steve Stamkos
Coach A
May 2, 2024
Steve Stamkos Inspired | 7 Leadership Lessons from the Rink

Coach A


May 2, 2024

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Coach A: [00:00:00] What is going on everyone? Welcome back to another episode of the hockey lab podcast. As always, I'm your host coach, a full transparency. This is, this is run number three through this because I have continued to make logistical mistakes. So starting, I didn't have the camera queued up, didn't clap to sync the audio.

Have a tough start, but nonetheless, we're here. We're getting through it. It is Wednesday, May 1st. Special solo. So I am excited to talk about today's topic actually. But before we get into that, congrats, I suppose, to the Leafs fans listening on extending your season for another game or two, a full transparency, a bit of a hot take, I am not a Leafs fan at all.

I didn't grow up in a house with Leafs fans. I mean, I moved to Toronto 12 years ago. So you would think that I bought into the team, but. We don't work with anyone on the team, so there's no personal connection there. Whereas, you know, there's some other teams where that's not the case. We have a lot of players on certain teams.

So obviously spend a little bit more time watching Leafs play. Yeah. So it's just not for me. [00:01:00] Hot take. I know guys on the team, on our staff. The group chat was on fire last night. They're pretty excited that the bees are held off for another game. So good luck. I suppose if we start working with the Leafs, then I think my opinion will change.

But until then, not a fan in other news in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Yeah. A couple other series closed out. Obviously the Winnipeg, Colorado series. But the series that I want to talk about, or the reason that we're doing this podcast is the Tampa Florida series. And we posted a clip on our social at the end of the series, Stammer standing on the bench, watching, waiting for his teammates to come off.

And I think that, you know, just that, that scene kind of encapsulates who he is as a player and who he is as a person. And we'll hopefully have him on this summer when he's back home, but it just got me thinking a lot about leadership and. You know, the lessons that we can learn inside of the rink and around leadership and how, you know, you can apply that to your play or your training or your day to day life two games ago before their elimination, [00:02:00] just thought he had a monster game played amazing.

I sent him a quick text and just said, you look like Benjamin button out there. I thought he was turning back the clock. And then, you know, I talked to Gary as well. And that was the first thing that he said, did you see stammers game last night? So it's been fantastic to watch him. Have a bit of a career resurgence.

And I think that that's a testament to his training. I mean, he was very, very focused this off season, more focused than I've seen him. I shouldn't say that he's always focused, but he was healthy, which helps obviously no injuries, but just dialed in nutrition, sleep recovery, you know, hitting his macros.

It was really, really impressive. And obviously the season that he's having right now or has just had, excuse me, is a testament to that. So Stammer got me thinking about it. Today's topic is leadership lessons from the rink. I think I have one, two, three, I think I have seven different components that I'm going to touch on today.

And then I'll share some stories and insights and just the things that I've noticed. So number one, leadership lessons. I just want to talk a bit about the captain's role and how the captain sets the tone in a lot of cases. Well, there's only one team captain first off. So as you're [00:03:00] listening to this, you know, you might not be that person, but that doesn't mean that you can't act in a way that shows leadership skills.

So there's this amazing quote around, uh, life and business. And that is that if you do a job you are not presently paid for, eventually you will be compensated far in excess of that job. So basically if I act in a way, so let's say captain in this setting, if I'm a player on a team, if I act in a way that is worthy of a captaincy, if I show that kind of leadership, I will eventually be rewarded down the road.

And you know, it might not be with a C or with an A, but there will be opportunities And things given to me that, you know, that come as a result of those actions. So the captain's role in setting the tone and as a captain, you have such a pivotal role around the team, both in terms of player management, identifying issues, liaison with coaches, with external, all of those things come into it.

And we've had some amazing captains inside of the gym training with us. You know, Stammer's obviously one of them. Connor's another one. Landy, Gabe Landis Cogg is another one. And all three of these players I've had an [00:04:00] opportunity to work with very, very closely and observe. The way that they act and the way that they conduct themselves.

So there's not one way to lead and there's not one set way to be a captain. You have variants inside of that. You know, some people lead more by example. Other people, you know, are perhaps a little bit more vocal. So those things can change and there's ebbs and flows and everyone has their own style. I think one thing that is consistent across all of them though, is authenticity.

You know, they, they are who they are and they don't try and be someone that they're not. So, you know, if their certain style of leadership. involves them being a little bit less vocal, then that's who they are. You know, if they are a little bit of a more vocal leader, then, then they embrace that and they embody that.

You know, so authenticity is the first thing that I notice of, of all the captains that we've worked with and their roles. The next component of that I think is at a level of professionalism. The next thing that I notice is a level of professionalism. So every single captain that we have worked with He's a true consummate pro.

They show up on time. They show up ready to work. [00:05:00] They follow instructions. Well, they execute on what you ask them and they are committed to the process. And so, you know, if you want to start to embody those ideas and take those lessons to heart and help use it to elevate your game, I think those are the two captaincy perspective, you know, are you being authentic and are you being a professional and you do that, you, you start to set the tone for everyone else.

All right. The next leadership lesson that I think is really, really important is communication, communication skills. This is the key to being cohesive, right? And you know, the Toronto media has been blowing up a little bit of a little bit of an incident on the bench with Matthews and Nylander obviously we have no idea what is, what has been said there.

And I don't think it's good or bad, right? I just think it's important that players are communicating and you know, you're seeing a version of, obviously there's frustration going on at the time during that game, but it's important that you have open dialogue amongst teammates, among coaches, amongst support staff, if you're going to achieve a collective goal.

And so it is [00:06:00] far better to take everything out, lay it on the table, argue about it there in a respectful setting, but have it laid out then to hold onto it, bury it, you know, whisper behind each other's back, start to create cliques inside the team. You know, that is a recipe for disaster. That's never going to be a successful team and, you know, you're, you're never going to see successful leadership in that situation.

So communication is a huge component. You need to foster it from the very beginning. You need to be constructive about it and you need to be open to it. And so it's far better to get things out on the table. And discuss them. The other component of communication that I think is really, really important when you're thinking about your team is nonverbal, right?

So we obviously have verbal communication, what I say, but there are the way there are ways in which I act, the way in which I sit, the way in which I hold my head. These are all very, very important things. So if I'm thinking about leadership from a A captain perspective or as a quality teammate, I need to make sure that my body language matches what I'm saying, right?

You know, we know players that look up at the sky, [00:07:00] smack their stick, put their head down on the bench, dejectedly. Maybe you're talking, I'm turned away from you a little bit. I'm showing that I'm not open to your conversation. You know, those are things that everyone else picks up on on the team and they start to sow doubt inside of the group as a collective.

So communication, hugely important. Second thing that I want to touch on and highlight today. Make sure that we're switched on with both our verbal and our nonverbal communication. So set the tone cap and see right next component communication. We need to, we need to be open and honest with each other.

That's, that's the key for a good team cohesion. The next component is embracing adversity. So there's this beautiful line inside of fury, the movie with. Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf, a couple other amazing actors inside there. Excuse me, their names escape me right now. And it's a military movie. They are inside of a tank and they go through this scene where they fight two German Panzer tanks.

And yeah, it's obviously a high stakes environment. Their life is on the line. They navigate through it. They end up [00:08:00] blowing both the tanks up. They survive. And there's a moment when. Silence settles into the tank and you can tell that they are all in shock and they lean back. And I think it's Shia LaBeouf's character preacher.

He puts his head back against the tank wall and he says, best job I ever had. And everyone starts to laugh and they all say, best job I ever had. And they start to cry inside of that situation. And it's a line that we used to use in fighting all the time when we were cutting weight, you're in the sauna or you're in the bathtub and you're miserable and your body hurts.

Silence. But you need to, you need to make light of that situation and you need to embrace the adversity. And so if I just sit there and say, this is the worst thing ever, and this is the same in hockey, right? So if I just sit and say, this is the worst thing ever, it sucks. I don't want to go through it.

Well, then I'm, then I'm closed off to the experience and my likelihood of success goes way, way down. I need to embrace that adversity. We need to be resilient in the face of it and we need to do it as a collective and as a team. So I think for. You as a player listening, it's so important that you cultivate that idea.

Humor is [00:09:00] such a powerful weapon. Can you, can you weaponize humor in a valuable way in those settings? You know, you're, you're in a bag skate. You're on your fourth, fifth lap. Everyone's shattered at the end. Instead of complaining, instead of saying something that is That is negative. Try and make light of that situation, right?

Try and embrace that adversity. You know, best job I ever had, even though you can't feel your legs, still the best job you ever had. So I think that that aspect is so, so important. Can we embrace adversity? All right. So captain's role, setting the tone. We just talked about that communication skills being the key to cohesion.

Then we talked about embracing adversity. You know, we need to be very resilient in the face of challenges. What's the next component of leadership that I think is worth discussing that's leading by example, actions speak far louder than words. And we touched on this a little bit when we talked about nonverbal communication.

What you do matters far more than what you say. And this is consistent across every aspect of our life, right? And it's not just that one isolated [00:10:00] incident, right? It's not, I slam my stick the one time or I put my head up the one time. It's not just that it's, it's how you show up day after day after day.

So if you say, I want to be the best player on this team, and then you don't take the correct action steps away from the rank, um, nutrition, recovery. Treatment training. Whoa. Your teammates and your coaches are going to look at you and they're going to say, Adrian's a liar. Adrian doesn't actually want to be the best player on this team.

He doesn't actually want to be the best player that he could be because his actions don't match his words. And then that's going to change the way that they look at me and their perception of me. And as I move forward throughout my career, my word will have less value because my actions did not match my words.

And your word is the most important thing you have. And so it's so, so important that we have our actions in alignment. With what we say, if you say you're going to do something, you do it. If you want to be a certain type of person, then you act in a manner that propels you towards being that kind of person.

Right? So that's number four lead by example, number [00:11:00] five, teamwork makes the dream work. You know, we, we say it around here all the time. I say it in my relationship with my wife all the time. Teamwork really does make the dream work. I think this one, it kind of parallels in well with the, with embracing adversity.

We need to suffer together so that we can win together. If we can do that, if we can have a collaborative leadership group, if we can talk through things, have good communication, and then we can present a problem together, we're going to be really, really successful. You know, we do this internally inside the company as well.

And it's something that I've heard stories of Netflix. I believe is, is one of the big drivers of it, but. Netflix was known for having these knockdown drag him out arguments inside the boardroom, like yelling at each other, you know, being very upset, very vocal, very passionate about their points and then coming to a conclusion and then the moment that they reached a decision that was it.

Everyone was on board, everyone was rowing the same way and it's something that I know that we've tried to embody as a company as well. Where we might argue inside of the room, we might sit down and talk about, you know, programming or testing or whatever it might be, whatever topic it is, and [00:12:00] we might have four different opinions and all feel quite strongly about those opinions and argue about them violently, so to speak.

But then when we reach a solution and when we reach a conclusion and a decision, whether it was my choice or, or coach Lucas's or coach Bryant's, it does not matter now. It's, it's our choice now. That's what we do. Even if it wasn't my idea, I am now fully invested in their idea because as a collective, we've come together.

And we've decided that this is the correct action to take. And I think that idea is so, so important. You know, teamwork makes the dream work. You can argue internally as much as you want. You can work through things in the appropriate manner, but once you make a decision, once you decide, this is what we're going to do, and this is how we're going to do it, everyone has to be rolling in the same direction.

So that's what teamwork makes the dream work means to me. Number six, accountability and ownership. You have to take responsibility. And there is no success without accountability. The last thing we can have is it wasn't my fault. It wasn't me attitude inside of our team and inside of our [00:13:00] culture. We need to take ownership for our actions on the ice and off the ice.

Sometimes we have to take ownership for actions that weren't really our fault. And that happens occasionally and that's okay. And it's better to take accountability and take ownership for those things and use it to propel you forward. Then to say, Hey, it wasn't me. It wasn't my fault. I had my man. That is not an effective strategy that gets you nowhere.

On top of that, you also have an obligation to keep your teammates accountable and they have an obligation to keep you accountable, you know? So. You didn't come to work out. Where were you? You're sitting down for, for, you know, post game pregame meal on a tournament. And it's like, Hey, what, what are you eating?

That's not a good decision to make. We got to perform in a couple of hours. This is what I'm eating. I think you should eat this as well. And I, those things are okay. You know, people might not like that idea, but. If you're committed to each other and you guys know that you have your, your best interests at heart, it's okay to be, you know, quote unquote harder on our teammates and hold them accountable and know that they're going to do the same to you when you're dragging behind and you're not pulling [00:14:00] your weight.

Well, they'll be right there to tell you. Right. So accountability and ownership, hugely important. If you want to have quality leadership inside of a team, it's the last component that I want to touch on is adaptability, the ability to thrive and change in conditions, and this is something that's really important, both in game, And, and off the ice as well.

Right. So obviously we understand inside the game, I need to be able to adapt. So can I adjust to opponents? Can I adjust to strategies? Can I, you know, we lose a, we lose a goalie, we lose a forward, we lose a defenseman, can we pivot around those unforeseen circumstances and continue to move forward, right?

And this is something that I've done well in the past in my own personal athletic career, and I've done poorly at times. And so I'll use, uh, an easy example. So I broke my left hand in two of my fights. You know, so the first fight, first fight, I broke it in, I threw a left hook, put it off the guy's forehead.

He ducked down and I immediately felt, um, my hand break and I lost the ability to clasp my hand essentially. So I had no [00:15:00] strength. And so I threw the left hook, hit a takedown, ended up taking the guy's back right after this position and I was trying to sink in a rear naked choke and because of the arm that I had underneath, I couldn't finish it.

He kept pulling it off my left hand. I just had no strength through there. Pulled it off, pulled it off, pulled it off, got out of the round. I came back to the corner, sat down. Mentioned to my coaching staff, like, Hey guys, I broke my hand. No problem. We're going to make these adjustments. So he came out, stopped throwing my left through some kicks through a right hand, took him down again.

This time I attacked with the opposite hand, managed to get it underneath his neck and because that hand had had no issues, wasn't broken, I was able to you know, submit them and secure the choke and win. And so it was, it was a good adjustment and adaptation. Two fights later or three fights later, perhaps a new opponent, different strategy.

So in, in this situation, this fight, I would say he was a bit of a better grappler than I was. So the plan was to keep it standing, try and pick them apart with strikes. You know, look towards, look towards a knockout or a TKO finish, and [00:16:00] if not, then just fight a good quality fight, outpoint him the entire time.

So the first round goes by and, you know, there's a term in boxing, piece him up. And truthfully, I am piecing him up at this point. I am outscoring him substantially, he's landing no damage on me, countering, moving well. Things are going quite well, I'm winning the round, 10 9, no question. I throw a left hook again at the end of the round, he ducks his head again, you know, for whatever reason, same spot, same break occurs.

I go back to the corner, okay, I broke my hand. Okay, let's try and make these adjustments and move through it. But my game plan was so different in this fight compared to the other one that I was, that I was nervous about getting taken down a little bit, I would say. And so, I go out there and I don't throw my left hand in the same way and I don't set my strikes up in the same way that I was in the first round and that gives him an opportunity.

He takes me down. You know, we go through a grappling exchange for three, four minutes. He ends up submitting me now in this situation. And I think the big thing or the big takeaway is that I wasn't adaptable in that situation. I let my broken hand get in the way of my game plan. [00:17:00] And if I had a third instance, I think that I would have used that lesson to be more adaptable, right?

And to continue to move forward. But because of, because of my stringent mindset inside of that fight, I need to strike with this guy. That's what I have to do. I let him dictate the fight and ultimately it went his way because of it. And this is something that we see inside of the hockey world as well, right?

We, we need to be adaptable. In our training, we need to be adaptable in our nutrition and we need to be adaptable inside of the game itself. If your team wants to have leadership qualities, then adaptability is hugely important for you, right? Welcome that challenge. Welcome that change links right back in with our embracing adversity topic, right?

So that was a lot of information in a short period of time. I'm just going to run it down real quick. So leadership lessons from the rink. These are kind of the seven things that I wanted to discuss today. First is the captain's role. Set the tone. Even if you're not the captain, you have an obligation to help set the tone and exemplify these characteristics.

The next one is communication skills. If you want to have a good quality team, if you want to have good [00:18:00] leadership, you're going to have to communicate. You know, it's uncomfortable at times suck it up too bad. The next one is embracing adversity, you know, so we have to be resilient in the face of challenges.

That's the best job I ever had. Right? So even when things suck, even when they're hard, it could be worse. So welcome it, welcome it together. The next component leading by example, actions speak louder than words. This is both acute and chronic. You know what you do in the moment compared to what you do all the time.

You need your actions to match your words. That's the only way people know that you're a person of integrity. People want to be around people of integrity, right? If we trust everyone around, we have the ability to go so much further. So lead by example, actions match your words. Number five, teamwork makes the dream work.

You know, I just touched on this. Again, we have to be collaborative internally. We can argue as much as we want, but when we step out on the ice, we are a unified front. We're all working for the same thing. We all know what the goal is. We're all playing our roles. We're all getting after it. Got it. [00:19:00] Number six, accountability and ownership.

Take responsibility all the time. No one likes, it wasn't me, right? No one wants to be around that teammate that says, Oh, I had my guy all the time. We win together. We lose together. It's important that we take responsibility at all times. And then number seven, be adaptable. Things happen. People get hurt, you know, people get kicked out of games.

You have suboptimal hotel room sleeps. You have bad warmup dressing room areas. You have buses that break down on the road. You know, these things happen. So we have to welcome that change. We have to refocus and we have to move towards our goal. So that's it. Appreciate the time. Shout out to Steve Stamkos for inspiring this podcast and being a true leader and really embodying all seven of these characteristics that we're talking about today.

And I'm challenging you guys go out there, explore these leadership lessons from the ring, you know, young hockey players use this information to become better at your craft and think about examples in your own life when [00:20:00] these things pop up and when you did well and when you did poorly and look to improve.

So that's it. We'll be back next week with another episode. Thank you so much. Have a great week guys.

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