There are not too many retired hockey players who can say they have held office. There are even fewer politicians who can say they have been loved by the public. Yet, Ken Dryden can safely say both and, according to him, the two are not as different as they may seem.
“The Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs are the most important teams in the NHL because they have history, they set tones and emotions, and they shape public sentiment,” he said, arguing that politics play a similar role in society.
Having lived a “dream life,” Ken Dryden’s story of self-discovery was well suited for this year’s AbitibiBowater homecoming lecture, entitled A Canadie/an Life and moderated by Concordia alumna and CTV news anchor Mutsumi Takahashi.
“We must allow our experiences to be our own. Our goals and drives must be personal,” he told the audience at Concordia University’s D.B. Clarke Theatre on Sept. 15. “The lesson of sports is that situations, contests, and important circumstances provide us with inspiration.”
These challenges show us “that there is a way, there is an answer.”
The tall and slightly heavyset Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender is revered by fans of the Montreal Canadiens, having led the team to six Stanley Cups.
In a 10-minute bilingual speech to the audience, Dryden described his years at Cornell University as a period of discovery and when his aspirations to become a lawyer were completely reversed. For one, living in Montreal and playing for the Canadiens was largely the result of “good luck.”
“When you set out towards something, chances are you’ll find something more interesting on the way,” he said, emphasizing that a predetermined direction to his life was far less instrumental to his success than his consistent willingness to explore.
During the question-and-answer portion of the event, the conversation turned to the relationship between Dryden’s hockey career and his many other professions.
Takahashi drew a parallel between a successful team and a successful government, asking if “the Liberals and the Habs have lost their way in the same sense?”
“Demise begins with the seeds of losing,” Dryden said. “Constant opposition chips away at your pride and excitement, slowly wearing you down. That’s when a team and a government begin to lose.”
According to Dryden, the Liberals progressively established a sense of entitlement after holding power for over a decade.
A Liberal MP elected in 2004, Dryden lost his seat on May 2, when his party was reduced to its worst standing in history. He remains confident and optimistic, however, in his vision of recovery and revitalization. “We need to find our way back by drawing on old ideas, and we must rediscover our legacy.”
Dryden emphasized that Canada’s role in the 21st century is no longer reflected by a few narrow stereotypes. “Canada acts as an agent of change for newcomers,” he said. “Together, we are creating a ‘multiculture.’ This is the most compelling aspect of what we can offer to the world.”