The thing about sports stars is that there are two types, those who are good with people and those who are not. Pro Ams are the best example of this, where a group is all excited to be with a pro and he turns out to be brutally unsocial and doing it ‘because he has too’.
Larry Robinson was great with people. Through the evening he was approached time and time again for autographs, with stories of how he inspired people when they were kids and for pictures. No problem, he was nice to everyone.
Having the opportunity to talk to him through the evening, I learned a lot about him and his views. I enjoyed his views on how to motivate his team (as a coach, with players where money is not the motivator), about his being a super proud Dad and Grandfather (Just like so many other people) and on why Canada beat the Russian Army … It was the thing I was very curious about.
What was it like to play the Russians versus in a Stanley Cup? He described it as being very different. The cup is a long gruelling slog to the top. The national games like the Canada Cup were different. They ended in weeks, were very intense and felt different, because all of Canada was rooting for the team.
He described the Russians as a unique lot. They would head north into Belarus, to an encampment circled by barbed wire, to practice non stop, studying the hockey theory of Lloyd Percival and executing like machines. He stated that when you played them, it was always the same. They were just so good, always playing at one level, their best.
So I asked, then how did you win if they always played at their best? They trained as a team all year round (unlike the Canadian team which was all stars who came together for a month, then went off to the NHL), were well known to have the government assisting their development artificially, and were machines (he described hitting them like hitting a tree trunk). How do you beat that? He looked at me and said one word …
True in hockey. True in business. I would take drive over skill any day. You can teach skill …