Career lessons from Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne

Written by Mia Gordon
Posted on

It is no easy task to be inducted into a sports hall of fame. In fact, according to the Hockey Hall of Fame website, attributes that one must display to be considered include: playing ability, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to both his or her teams and to the game itself.

This year’s inductees, including Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Dave Andreychuk, and more, are a perfect example. There’s a lot we can learn from this group of accomplished athletes and executives, but let’s focus on just two.

Here are a few important career lessons we can learn Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne.

Turn pressure into a motivator

It’s safe to say that Selanne played with confidence from his first NHL game with the Winnipeg Jets. After all, he scored 76 goals that year, shattering Mike Bossy’s previous record of 53. There aren’t many rookies that can adjust to a new league and handle the pressure of breaking a record, but Selanne used that as a motivator. When people started seriously talking about him breaking Bossy’s record, he exploded for 11 goals in five games.

“I was so hungry to prove myself. It was like a snowball going down a hill. I had more and more confidence and I just wanted to score and enjoy every day,” Selanne said.

This is a valuable lesson for just about anyone. The higher you rise in your career, the more you will have to deal pressure and expectations. Are you going to cave or are you going to rise to the occasion like Selanne? If you really want to succeed, the pressure is always going to be there. The trick to success, however, is how you handle it.

Lead by example

Selanne is the only player in Anaheim Ducks history to have his number retired. During this ceremony, he was hailed as “the true face of the franchise and an exemplary leader who touched thousands of lives with charity work.”

It’s not hard to see why. On the Ice, Selanne finished his career with 684 goals and 1,457 points, earning him the nickname “The Finnish Flash.” Off the ice, though, he was just as impactful, visiting children’s hospitals in California and starting The Teemu Selanne Youth Sports Foundation’s (TSYSF), which provides structured sports programs for children.

This is a good example of how success isn’t just about what you do in the boardroom (or on the ice). Are you looking for ways to make a difference in the community? Are there things you’d like to change in your industry? Volunteering and fundraising for causes you believe in are often just as important as achievements in the office, both from a personal fulfilment standpoint, and from a perception point of view (that is, how people perceive you). Put simply, it’s never a bad look to show people you care about more than yourself.

Be a hall of fame teammate

When Kariya got the news that he was going to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, this is what he said: “I wouldn’t be getting this call if I didn’t get the opportunity to play with Selanne. He made me a better player, made me a better person, and I appreciate everything he did for me off the ice as well as obviously on the ice.” He added that Selanne was the consummate teammate. “The thing I noticed right away was what a great passer and playmaker he was and how unselfish he was … we didn’t care who scored the goals.”

Selanne, who played six seasons with Kariya in Anaheim, was quick to return the compliment.

“I played my best years with Paul. The chemistry we had was magical every night,” he said.

The lesson here is clear: Individual success isn’t going to help a team win. To be a hall of fame hockey player, you need to be a hall of fame teammate. Together, Selanne and Kariya were greater than the sum of their parts. How far can you go if you stop caring who scores the goals and really work with your teammates?

Have a competitive attitude

To be a hall of fame athlete, you need to be determined. You have to want to be the best.  Kariya got some help in this area: his parents and siblings were all competitive athletes that pushed each other to improve every day.

After being inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, Kariya said: “There wasn’t a day in our house growing up where there wasn’t some form of competition going on. Even now when I go home to visit, we play Jenga, and you’d think it was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.”

It doesn’t matter if you are playing in the NHL, or if you are trying to land a big deal or promotion, the only way to get the job done is if you want it more than your competition. You must be willing to work harder than anyone else if you want to be the best. Are you lacking certain skills? Why not close that knowledge gap? Here are some great online resources to help you boost your career.

Treat everyone with respect

When you are a superstar athlete, it’s easy to get caught up in the fame and fortune. Selanne was never one of those players; he always showed every single teammate, coach, and fan respect.

In fact, while he was playing in Winnipeg, the Jets’ wives held a fundraiser event. Fans lined up around the corner waiting to get Selanne’s autograph. What did he do? He stayed three hours extra so that he could take a picture with every fan. He was never too busy or important.

To be a successful, you need treat every member of your team with that same level of respect. It doesn’t matter if someone is a CEO or an intern; they are an important part of the company and your team, and they deserve to be respected. The more mutual respect there is, the more your teammates will feel engaged and motivated to put in the work – and the more they’ll see you as a positive influence.

Being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame means you are the best of the best on the ice, in the locker, and in the community. It means you are a hard worker, a good teammate, and a leader. Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, and Dave Andreychuk are all of the above, and they can teach us some valuable lessons when it comes to being the best of the best in our own way.

 

See also:

Scott Gomez talks life after hockey

How 4 pro athletes are helping to close the pay gap

What Auston Matthews can teach you about starting a new job

Tom Brady and the myth of natural talent

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