If you are at all like me, you’ve been at least tangentially interested in the Stanley Cup playoff run of our Colorado Avalanche. If you’re a little bit like me, you’ve been riveted by the run.
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It has been a remarkable playoff run so far; so much so, that by the time you’re reading this it might be over and we’re all prepping for a parade. As of Sunday night, the Avalanche have won 14 of the 16 games they need to win the Stanley Cup, against only two losses. It is nearly unprecedented.
Of course, the Avalanche are led by Nathan McKinnon and Cale Makar, two of the fastest, most-skilled hockey players on the planet. But what I find most remarkable about the run so far — and, indeed, what is so great about hockey as a team sport — is that those two stars aren’t “carrying” the team. Consider:
Game One against Nashville: goals from Devon Toewes, Andrew Cogliano and Artturi Lekhonen contribute to an onslaught that starts the playoffs
Game four, to close out the series: Toewes and Valeri Nichushkin with 3rd period goals to erase a deficit and put the Avalanche in the lead for good
Game One against St. Louis: Josh Manson with the overtime winner
Game six, to close out: Darren Helm with the game winner
Game Three against Edmonton: Nichushkin with two goals
Game Four overtime winner: Lekhonen
Game One in the Finals: Andre Burakovsky with the overtime winner
That’s seven of the 14 wins in which the two top players aren’t major factors in the final plays that put these games in the books. It’s a remarkable tribute to the depth of the team, and to the degree that quote-un-quote “role players” are absolutely essential to winning championships.
Sure, McKinnon and Makar are getting theirs, and putting on a display for the hockey world to marvel at. But they couldn’t be on the cusp of hoisting the Cup (hockey term) if it weren’t for the contributors. What do I mean by that? I mean that there is only one Nathan McKinnon; there is only one Cale Makar. Greatness isn’t a matter of the stars; it’s a matter of the rest of the lineup buying in and contributing what they can to the success of the team.
That’s the lesson, kids. Especially those of you just wrapping up your academic careers and finding your way in the world.
There’s only one Bill Gates; there’s only one Wynton Marsalis; there’s only one Malcolm Gladwell; there’s only one Julie Andrews; there’s only one Mike Trout. Whatever the field, whatever the discipline, there’s only one person whose talent and skill is transcendent and world-changing. And, I hate to say it, but… you’re probably not it.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no role for you. A good real estate practice needs dozens of people dotting I’s and crossing t’s on contracts. A good medical practice needs lab techs and nurses collecting data for the docs to make great diagnoses. A good orchestra needs 15 (at least) NOT concermistress violinists, 2nd and 3rd trumpets and uncelebrated percussionists to make beautiful music. Even Tiger Woods needs a swing coach and a caddy (and a physical therapist).
Kids: become contributors. Make yourself useful and valuable, even if you’re not the star. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that if you’re not in the spotlight that you’re not important. You, your talents and your uniqueness matter — build on it. Don’t settle for “OK” when you can do so much more.
And, who knows? Someday, maybe it will be you accepting a promotion to the corner office.
Unrelated note: is there anything better for a region than a sports team making a championship run? Colorado, like most of the country is divided by many things. But there a distinct beauty in how united this region is in pulling for the Avalanche. Greatness changes the world.
Michael Alcorn is a former teacher and current writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at firstname.lastname@example.org. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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