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Rick Hoyt

“Do Unto Others.”
They know character is defined by how they treat those who cannot help them.

If you’ve been following my work for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard me talking about Team Hoyt, the incredible father-son marathon team who have competed in marathons and triathalons and challenged notions of what life with cerebral palsy looks like. Recently, I learned of a new chapter to their amazing story that I had to share because it perfectly illustrated another aspect of Greatness.

Growing up in Massachusetts, Rick’s love for the rich sporting culture of his home state was no more evident than in 1972, when Rick was fitted with a text-to-speech computer engineered by Tufts University. His father and mother couldn’t wait for his first words. Would they be “Thanks, dad” or “I love you, mom?” No, Rick’s first words were… “Go Bruins!” His favorite hockey team, the Boston Bruins, were playing for the 1972 Stanley Cup and he wanted his father to know he had been watching and cheering alongside his dad.

The Boston Bruins had found their most devoted fan. And nearly forty years after Rick tapped out those words, one Bruins player found a way to honor him after the Bruins won the 2011 Cup.

It’s a time-honored tradition in the NHL: When a team wins the Stanley Cup, each player gets one day with the Cup in his sole possession to do with it what he likes. As a result, the Cup has been a VIP at some of the highest profile parties, been spotted at some of the most exclusive restaurants, and even been filled with beer at some of the seediest bars. But just a few weeks ago on Labor Day, Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference had his 24 hours with the Stanley Cup — and he shared it with some very special people.
"Three keys to more abundant living: caring about others, daring for others, sharing with others." -William Arthur WardFerence had known about the Hoyts for several years but he didn’t know of Rick’s first words until his coach, Claude Julien, pulled the Bruins together on the eve of this year’s NHL championship finals and in his efforts to inspire the team, he showed them a video of Dick and Rick Hoyt. So when Ference’s turn came to enjoy the Cup, he knew that he wanted the Hoyts to be a part of his big day.

“The planning of what to do with your day is not so much about ‘How I can most enjoy it?’ because I’ll never be able to top lifting it on the ice and celebrating in the locker room and doing all that after winning game 7,” Ference told me recently, when I had a chance to talk with him about this experience. “I had my pinnacle moment with the Cup then. So when I was planning my day with it, it was all about ‘How can I make it special for my family who was there with me the whole time, and friends, and some people in the community who would appreciate it most?’ And that’s what it’s really about — sharing it and making people happy.”
hoyt3So instead of taking the Stanley Cup for a big night out, Ference decided to take it for a big day in — into the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. Hitching up the bike stroller in which he usually totes his six- and two-year-old daughters, Ference strapped the Cup in place and his family took off on their bikes for the hospital, pulling up just as Rick Hoyt and his father Dick were arriving by car for a meeting Ference had pre-arranged.

“The closest thing I can compare it to was when he finishes one of his races,” Ference said of Rick’s reaction to posing with the Cup. “He was just absolutely grinning from ear to ear.”

After spending time with the Hoyts, Ference also shared the Cup with Matt Brown, a local high school hockey player who was paralyzed last year while playing the sport he loved. Then Ference and his family carried the cup through Spaulding, going floor-to-floor and room-to-room, visiting with patients and sharing the joy.
hoyt4When I commended Ference on his thoughtful and generous actions with the Stanley Cup, he shrugged off the praise: “I had fun with it, too. But on my priority list of the day, I definitely wanted to get a couple visits in there with some people. I’m no Mother Teresa or anything like that. I’m not saving anyone’s life. But we made some people smile and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Now that’s Greatness.

Tips From the Great Ones

Ference said something in our interview that really stayed with me: “The Cup’s got a special effect on everybody. It’s a funny thing. For a chunk of metal, it definitely stirs emotions and has got the history and tradition. I think it represents a lot of hard work and a lot of history. No matter who you pass, it sure brings a smile or a gasp from a lot of people.”
Apply this Characteristic: Consider whatever unique gift you have to offer someone else. It could be a physical item, but it could also be something intangible like a talent or an experience. Is there someone in your life- maybe even someone you hardly know- but someone for whom it would make their day, their week, or even their year if you opened yourself up to share it with them?That’s exactly what Greatness does, too. It has a special effect on the people around it — it is the result of hard work, tremendous dedication, and great history. It inspires others. It lifts them and asks for nothing in return — the shared excitement is reward enough.

Some people can be greedy with their success by hoarding the benefits, which ultimately only diminishes the return. But those who reach out to others to share the joys of success and celebration are the ones who understand true Greatness. It’s not about the winning — it’s about sharing the celebration with someone who can never pay you back.

Andrew Ference proved himself to be one of the Great ones when he shared the Stanley Cup with the Hoyts, with Matt Brown, and with everyone at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hosptial. It was a gesture that made me — and many of you, too, I imagine — join with Rick Hoyt in repeating his very first words: “Go Bruins!”

To hear my full interview with Andrew Ference, or to learn more about Team Hoyt’s inspiring story, click here.

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Certified Speaking Professional (CSP)

About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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