NHL stars impart leadership tips to Whalers during pause
WHITE ROCK – The Whalers received an early Christmas present Dec. 17 via an online chat. They heard words of wisdom from two NHL stars: retired six-time Stanley Cup champion Glenn Anderson and current Red Wing defenceman Troy Stetcher.
Ronnie Paterson, owner of the Whalers, hosted the question-and-answer session. “We’re blessed and fortunate to have a couple of friends here,” he said.
Paterson called Anderson’s career “legendary.” They were teammates on Team Canada in 1980. Meanwhile, Stetcher is part of the Whalers’ ownership group.
Anderson: Military tips reinforced Oilers
Glenn Anderson, a hard-working right winger, hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug five times in Edmonton during the 1980s, and once more with the New York Rangers in 1994.
“We had a couple of army generals come in,” Anderson recalled. “It was the best thing I learned” for leadership."
With the fire-wagon Oilers, Anderson skated alongside legends such as centres Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, silky-smooth defenceman Paul Coffey, and the acrobatic Grant Fuhr in goal.
While Anderson acknowledged blazing speed is crucial in any level of hockey, he reminded the Whalers that “if you can’t defend, you can’t win a championship.”
The Hockey Hall of Famer also revealed why the perennial champion Oilers – under the leadership of head coach Glen Sather – were unique off the ice. They used psychiatrists, nutritionists, and tips from the military to keep their competitive edge.
“We had a couple of army generals come in,” Anderson recalled. “It was the best thing I learned” for leadership.
The generals took a core group of five Oilers, including Anderson, into a “separate room and discussed what you can say – and what you can’t say” without irritating other players in the dressing room.
The Oilers created comradery via a “pecking order.” First, the general manager and coach were at the top of the ladder. Second, if Anderson or any of the core group disagreed with a decision from the coach or one another, “we couldn’t bring it up in the room.”
Instead, Anderson would take Sather or a teammate aside and discuss why the powerplay needed to be changed or the lines had to be switched up.
“There couldn’t be any loose links in the chain. Everyone had to buy into what you were doing.”
Stetcher: ‘Nothing’s given, everything’s earned’
Former Canuck defender and now Detroit Red Wing Troy Stetcher also imparted valuable insights into what it takes to crack an NHL roster.
By the time he made it to the University of North Dakota, Stetcher found a role position. He was a third-pair defenceman and sacrificed his body on the penalty kill.
"Going through those experiences [in North Dakota] really helped me make the NHL”
Stetcher, from Richmond, said he was the “only non-drafted player in his class” while also being the “only freshman who played every game.” After his third year, the budding all-star signed a free-agent contract with his hometown Canucks.
Both Anderson and Stetcher agreed on the vital aspects of sleep and proper nutrition. “You don’t put ’87 [regular gasoline] into a Ferrari,” Stetcher quipped. “At this level, nothing’s given. Everything’s earned!”
Paterson: Keep the faith for 2021
Paterson also praised the Whalers for their dedication during a very unusual regular season that started in October and has been on pause since Nov. 7.
He mentioned some of the unique protocols implemented for 2020: players dress for games in their own cars, staggered practice times, and plenty of off-ice workouts.
“You guys have done a wonderful job of persevering!”