There's been a lot of excitement lately Chez Cynicor due to the unprecedented success of the Yale hockey team this season. The team won both the regular season and playoff titles in the ECAC, for the first time ever. (And this is the 114th season they're playing.) Back in the dark ages, I was the student manager of the team. It's about one step above towel boy (I did travel planning, stats, shot charts, handed out per diems, crap like that), but I look back upon that time fondly.
For three decades, Yale was led by coach Tim Taylor. As a leader, Coach Taylor was unparalleled. He taught me more about integrity and doing the right thing than just about anyone in my life. One story in particular stands out in my mind to this day.
During the season, we had a player who was injured. He healed up, and skated in a JV game for conditioning. During the the course of the game, this player threw a really dirty hit on an opponent. It was one of those "why did he do THAT?" moments. He didn't get called for it, but it was nevertheless ugly.
The next day, the varsity team had a practice before leaving for Cambridge to play Harvard. Coach Taylor gathered the team together without the one player. He informed them that because of the cheap hit, the perpetrator was going to sit out the weekend back in New Haven. Taylor said words along the line of, "It doesn't matter that it wasn't called. It was a cheap hit, it wasn't right, and it has no place in Yale hockey."
When you are being led by a coach who would send a message like that - that you play hard and with integrity - it never leaves you. So many coaches take a "boys will be boys" mentality to stuff like this. To this day, when I'm faced with a situation, at work or in life, where it may be a matter of integrity, I often think back to that moment. If you do the wrong, backhanded, or dirty thing, where does it really leave you? You might advance temporarily, but it's never worth it. Anyone who knows about your actions has problems trusting you from then on. You can't go to sleep knowing you always did the right thing. What you've done is always out there to see, and people take notice even if it's not called right away.
I have had situations where I spoke up when I saw that something was not the right thing to do, and situations where I should've spoken up but didn't. The immediate incidents have long since passed. Guess which ones I feel good about today?
Three years ago, Yale named Keith Allain head coach. Allain played under Coach Taylor 30 years ago, and he has built the team into quite a successful group. Today he was named the College Hockey News National Coach of the Year. It's just been a great year for both him and the team.
I'm not with the team on a regular basis the way I was way back then, but I have no doubt that his values were shaped in part by his close association with Coach Taylor all those years ago.