Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Inside Insights and Lessons Learned
from playing 1000 games in the National Hockey League.
Our friend and client Craig Paquin from Sasco sent the following tweet to me this week:
On this day in Canucks history: March 20, 1993. Ryan Walter plays in his 1,000th NHL game against the New York Islanders at the Pacific Coliseum. Ryan would finish his NHL career with 1,116 games played (including playoffs) and won the Stanley Cup while playing for the Canadiens in 1986. #Canucks
Wow, life goes by quickly!
Can I give you some inside insights (from inside the dressing room) into what happened in that game, and why what happened 18 years previous to that date was so significant?
First of all I want to thank the Canucks Players, Management and Ownership (Arther Griffiths is shaking my hand in the photo) because not only did they celebrate my 1000th game that night, but the players, management, and ownership rolled an 18.5 ft Double Eagle Salmon Fishing boat out on to the ice for me. Geoff Courtnall and I used to drive into practices together and we would talk about fishing. Unbeknownst to me, Courts arranged the boat deal. I have always loved fishing Salmon, and I probably always will.
That season was also my final season in the NHL. I played only 25 games out of a possible 82. I am very thankful to my coach Pat Quinn for allowing me to hit the milestone of 1000 Games... to put this in perspective, according to Wikipedia, only 337 players have played 1000 or more games since the NHL was founded in 1917. (Gordie Howe topped that list with 1767 regular season games played).
Why was something that happened 18 years previous to my 1000th game so important?
I am so grateful that my Mom & Dad allowed me to leave home to play junior hockey at the age of 15. Without that experience, my sense is that I would not have accomplished my playing in the NHL goal. At 16 years old while playing with the Langley Lords, I was called up to to play in the playoffs with the Kamloops Chiefs of the WHL against the Victoria Cougars. During the first period of my first playoff game, I was tripped while on a breakaway and fell hard into the net.
Those nets were different from today's nets. Fred Marsh invented the Marsh Pegs that fit inside the metal posts of the net, so if you do fall into the net with enough force, the net slips off the pegs and protects the player. Back when I played, the metal posts of the net were completely solid; they didn't move. As I fell hard into that net, my right knee struck the post and my leg immediately became hot and completely unstable.
In the dressing room, Dr. Smillie took the knee and moved it in directions that it should never move and sent me directly to the hospital. After a long operation, my folks were told by the doctors that they were not sure if Ryan would ever skate again.
After months in a cast and many more months and years in physiotherapy to strengthen and stretch that knee, I finished my Junior career, was drafted second in the world, and played those 1116 games in the NHL.
Standing at centre ice on March 20th, 1993 that is what I was thinking about. I was very thankful!
A couple of final thoughts. I don't tell this story to have you think about how tough I was or how hard I had to work to rehabilitate that knee. I will say that the journey of pain (breaking those adhesions after 6 months in a cast) to regain the strength in that knee was a challenge. But looking back, here is my big takeaway from this experience. I am sure glad that I was a teenager when it happened! As a teenager, you don't believe what people say anyway! What do you mean there is a chance that I won't skate? That's what I do; that's who I am! I was focused on my goal not on the obstacle in front of me. Winston Churchill once said "A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty."
Our big life lesson:
At the end of the day, it is what we choose to believe about our situation,
in any circumstance, that counts!
Play hard, Stay HUNGRY,
“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time.”
— John Kenneth Galbraith
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For more information, watch the short video below.