In 2008 the NHL Entry Draft was held in Ottawa and I was there with the Thrashers. After an evening out with a friend I got back to the hotel in Gatineau and, spotted assistant coach Brad McCrimmon in the lobby bar. It was my first time traveling with the team to a draft an I wanted to make a positive impression so I stopped to say hi.
He was chatting with a tall gentleman at the bar who had the look of a former player, but not one I recognized. As I approached the man sized me up and said, and I’m paraphrasing here because it’s been a while, but I swear he was this blunt:
“Who are you and what do you do?” he asked with a distinct French accent.
Stunned I mumbled something along the lines of “I’m Ben and I manage the Thrashers website.”
In my head I thought about asking him the same thing but given that A) I didn’t want to insult him by not recognizing him when the room was clearly filled with NHL team staff and B) he was bigger than me, I wisely kept my mouth shut.
“Well are you any god at it?” he asked.
Surprised again by his bluntness I managed a feeble “I guess so.”
“You guess so? What kind of answer is that?” he said. “Are you any good at it or not?”
“Yes, I’m good at it,” I replied.
“That’s better. There are only 30 teams in the league which means you’re one of the top 30 people that does what you do. Have some pride and stick up for yourself. Nobody else is going to recognize how good you are at what you do unless you tell them.”
I thanked him for his advice, chatted with Brad for a minute (something I regrettably didn’t do nearly enough) and went to my room.
The next morning I got on the shuttle bus to go Scotiabank Place for the draft and the man got on wearing a Colorado Avalanche badge. That was when I realized who he was- Hall of Famer and four-time 50 goal scorer, Michel Goulet.
It was also when I realized it was a really good idea not to have asked him who he was, or if he was good at what he did.
To this day his advice is some of the best I’ve ever been given. If you think you’re good at what you do don’t be afraid to say so. If you’re waiting for someone else to notice and reward you with a raise or job offer, you’re probably going to be waiting a very long time.