The Importance of Humility!

While waiting in the hallway to tie my daughter’s skates at her hockey camp a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with the owner of Canadian Hockey Enterprises, Paul Crowley, about our experiences at the Just for Girls Hockey camp. During our conversation, I couldn’t help but notice his massive Stanley Cup Ring, which I later learned that he earned as a member of the Detroit Red Wings Staff in the 90s.

I couldn’t pass up the learning opportunity that had fallen in front of me.  I felt like whatever the Red Wings were doing in the world of pro sports might be useful in the world of education…I mean a successful sports organization has commonalities with a successful educational organization right? So I “finessed” my way in 🙂

I asked Paul what I thought was a simple question:

What has led the Red Wings to be such an amazing franchise for so long?

The first words out of his mouth stunned me… HUMILITY!


I am not sure what I was expecting… great leadership; strong coaching; excellent player development… but it definitely wasn’t humility (and he must have recognized my surprise as he elaborated).

Paul explained clearly that the Ilitch family is humble. While he didn’t say it in so many words, it was clear that their leadership inspired all employees throughout the organization, right from the Manager to the stick boy, players included!

It reminded me of how humility is such an important quality when we are dealing with community members, students and our parents. While we may have a greater degree of expertise in the world of teaching and learning, our parents are the experts on their kids! They hold vital information on how we can support their children throughout the year.

Luck…Risk Taking…Innovation

Paul proceeded to tell me that the Red Wings had a lot of luck, drafting great players in the later rounds. As one of the scouts responsible, I tend to think he was modeling the humility he just finished speaking about.

What Paul would call luck, I connect more to risk taking, innovation or problem solving. Whatever 21st century learning term you want to attach to it. The Red Wings were scouting European players long before other teams. They got “out of the box” and realized that there was a different, more comprehensive way to find talent than the traditional model…by scouting in Europe.

They were willing to take risks on helping players defect (yup they started the trend that long ago) and were willing to create a culture that would allow those players to fit right into their team. This was still in an era when most “great” hockey minds were finding numerous excuses to exclude Europeans…one of my favourites was that Europeans were too “soft”.


Paul finished by explaining that the Red Wings always scouted for skill first. There weren’t overly concerned about size, physicality etc. Their primary concern was to draft players who had extremely high levels of skill. It’s likely not coincidence that they were doing it over 25 years ago and teams are just now picking up on that same idea (e.g. Johnny Gaudreau). If we could be that forward thinking… that innovative in the world of education imagine where we would be!

With a renewed focus on “Humility, Luck and Skill” perhaps my learning organization can become as successful as the Wings.

Now back to the sun and summer vacation!

Shaye Patras

Principal, Woodhaven Middle School

About Shaye Patras

I am a husband and father of two fantastic girls. I currently work as the Principal of Ecole Meridian Heights School in Parkland School Division in Alberta, Canada. I am excited to be continuing my administrative career in this learning community!
This entry was posted in Embodying Visionary Leadership, Engage our Staff, Leading a Learning Community and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s