Local residents and business leaders erupted with cheers and clapping as a three-minute introduction filled with memorable video clips and photos summed up Trevor Linden’s 20-year career.
As the former NHL player stepped up to the podium at the Hope Legion last Thursday, the applause got louder as people brimmed with anticipation.
Linden joked about how he could do without seeing a certain suit again before jumping into an entertaining speech that drew comparisons between the hockey and business worlds. Throughout the evening, which was hosted by the Hope & District Chamber of Commerce in celebration of small business week, he shared stories and tips on leadership, strategies for success, and talked about the importance of teamwork.
“Competition rules everything we do in sports and life,” said Linden. “You’ve got to love competition and I think you’ve got to embrace the challenge that comes with it. Ultimately, competition makes us better and it forces us to find better ways to do things. If we’re not looking for better ways to do things, you’ll probably move backwards.”
Linden stressed the importance of pushing the limits and developing a strategy that can takes businesses to the next level. He pointed out that leaders have to look outside the box, find better answers to the tough questions and be aggressive.
Throughout his hockey career, Linden relied on a fundamental game plan to get him through big matches. His NHL career spanned 20 years, four teams, two All-Star games, and the Nagano Olympic Games. Named the youngest-ever captain of the Vancouver Canucks at just 21 years old, he led the team to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup in 1994, earning him the lifelong nickname “Captain Canuck.” Later elected president of the National Hockey League Players’ Association, Linden played an instrumental role over his eight years of service. In 2005-06, he suited up for his 1,000th game as a Canuck, and a season later he became the first Canuck to score 300 goals for the team.
Aside from his teammates and the daily routine of hockey, one of things Linden said he misses the most is the goal setting required in professional sports.
“As an athlete, I had a clear direction every day,” he said. “There wasn’t a day I woke up and didn’t know exactly what my focus was. Team sports and athletics teach us about short-term goal setting and preparing because you can never get too far ahead of yourself.”
Linden stressed that in the business world, everyone should be aware of the long-term goal and be reminded daily what the focus is.
“The best leaders I played for were the guys that gave us players a roadmap of how to get there. That is so important when you think about leadership,” he said. “These guys reminded me every day how critical it was to execute on the details and to not let them ever slide. When I think about playing hockey and successful hockey teams, it’s all about detail and structure. I really believe that people and employees ultimately want that too. They want to be held accountable.”
When it comes to leadership, Linden pointed out that there’s no one way. However, he stressed the importance of supporting each other and not splintering into groups.
“Ultimately, displaying the ability and courage to do what’s right and in the best interest of your group regardless will garner respect,” he said. “Bottom line is you’ve got to trust your judgement and believe in yourself. You’re there because people believe in you to make the best decisions for the company, employees, and partners.”
Linden also spoke about how the skills he learned playing professional hockey have been transferable to his personal and business life. Since his retirement from professional hockey in 2008, Linden has partnered with companies – like Bell, CIBC and Ernst & Young – across Canada to assist in the activation of their business programs, and also partnered with The Airey Group to pursue real estate and design project, jointly developing several award-winning properties in B.C. He is the founder of Club 16 Trevor Linden Fitness, a collection of numerous location in the Lower Mainland dedicated to making fitness membership fun and economically accessible for all. Linden has also continued his work with The Trevor Linden Foundation, which was established in 1997 in support of youth and children with needs. He has also appeared in several key charity campaigns including Cops for Cancer, Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, the Canadian Cancer Society’s B.C. & Yukon Preventative Health Campaign, Ronald McDonald House B.C., The Heart & Stroke Foundation of B.C., and B.C. Children’s Hospital.
Linden said what he’s learned over the years on and off the ice is that is takes a whole team to succeed.
“Great teams need people to accept their role and to respect other people’s role and what they do,” he said. “Ultimately, on any team there are larger roles and smaller roles, but they’re all super important in success. Just because you play a smaller role on a team doesn’t mean you can’t have a big impact. Very seldom do individuals look good when the team fails.”