Mike Babcock’s Keynote Speech at the Friends of Mcgill Hockey Awards Gala (2016)
Molson’s Brewery, Montreal, April 15, 2016.
“It goes by fast – 30 years. The last time I spoke at or attended this banquet was as the co-captain in ’87.
Congratulations to Kelly and the players on another unbelievable year. It’s special to be a part of a school and program like this – that pursues excellence. You’re proud when you are here, but even more proud when you leave and you get to be part of it. This is special for me, to share tonight with you, so thank-you!
When I was thinking about speaking to you guys today, I took it seriously. I do a fair bit of public speaking and usually my topic comes to me in a minute or two. But I spent quite a bit of time trying to think about, a pearl that I could give you for the rest of your life. Don’t hold your breath, I didn’t come up with it fellas.
(laughter from the crowd)
But what I’d like to do is talk to you about is ‘The gift of passion, the pursuit of your passion and the idea of embracing being uncomfortable’ as you move forward in the rest of your life.
I arrived here at McGill in 1983, as Zuke (communications officer Earl Zukerman) said. I didn’t know anything about McGill. Zero as a matter of fact. I just knew that I was coming here to play hockey. I had no idea of the academic standard, the commitment of the students, the demand and expectations of the professors.
I had never, ever, seen the level of commitment of students and the demand of the professors, in my life. And I tell ya, I had never embraced it, never for one second had I embraced being a student. But here I am at McGill. I had to join in or be left behind. I was uncomfortable, very unsure.
I had no idea what I wanted, no idea what I wanted to study. Actually, a nice lady like (current director of admissions) Kim Bartlett did me a real favor and got me in as a visiting student. I was playing major junior my last year of high school, had gone to the University of Saskatchewan before going back to junior and hadn’t applied myself academically very well. They found a way to get me in as a visiting student. I think I had to take 18 credits the first semester and get a 3.3 GPA to stay eligible.
Ya gotta keep doing that for these guys Kim!
So they got me into this school. I never knew what my career was going to be, never really had a plan. I just thought I was here playing hockey. Like I said to you, I was uncomfortable.
But the people, the professors, my classmates, the new ideas, the thoughts, the questions, the new perspectives I was given, the growth opportunity… I was being stretched as a person like I had never been stretched before. I was finding out about myself, I was finding out what I loved to do and that to me is the whole key to loving your life. Finding out what you love. If you love something, you have the chance to be good at it. And to me, that’s what this place is all about. It’s about finding your passion. When you love something, then you find what you’re good at, what gets you out of bed in the morning, what excites you, what energizes you.
When you figure that out, when you find it, you gotta chase it as hard as you possibly can.
I believe the gift of passion is simply this: if you love something, you can grind harder and longer than the guy next to you. Passion allows you to separate yourself. If your passionate about something, you don’t really have a job, ‘you just do what you do’. What passion does is it separates. It separates the good from the great. No one who is great can do it without passion. It’s impossible.
College – the best time of your life. We’ve all heard it, we’ve all said it. Why? I know what you’re thinking: the beer and the women. No, even though I can still picture my first barbeque at McGill and that brunette in the white and pink shorts walking across the rugby field…
(laughter from the crowd)
College is the best time because of the learning, growing, questioning and new ideas. You are out of your comfort zone, trying to figure out who you are. The uneasiness, the uncomfortable part, not being sure.
That to me is the college pursuit. That’s the attitude you want to take with you for the rest of your life. You want to have that pursuit, you’re after something. It’s a journey. Take that college pursuit, take it with you the rest of your life and pursue knowledge. And if you do that, you’re going to be happy.
You hear the old story about the high school quarterback that won the championship football game and that’s his story for the next 30 years. Or the pro athlete who has been retired for 30 years telling the same stories. To me, life’s about making new memories, making new stories, pursuing new opportunities, continuing to grow.
People desire to be happy and I’m all for happiness, believe me. But happiness is not something you hang on to. Happiness is something you pursue. Because what made you happy last week, isn’t gonna make you happy next week.
We are in constant growth and that’s what great about college students. I’ve got three of them (two daughters and a son) and they come home and tell you everything new they learned. They’re moving on to a new theory right next week, Always growing, pursuing knowledge, developing and experiencing new things. To me, that’s what it’s about.
To me, when you’re comfortable, it’s very close to complacency. Being bored.
Uncomfortable is where the fun’s at.
Now before I close, I texted my teammates, my college roommates, and told them I had this opportunity to speak with you tonight. (I wrote) ‘Guys, you get once sentence, tell me what you want to tell the Redmen’.
So here it is. You won’t know these guys ‘cause they’re old like me, but they were great Redmen.
DOUG HARRISON… ‘Wally’: “Stay in touch with your McGill brothers after graduation. They will be like a second family to you, through good times and bad.”
MARK READE… ‘Reader’: “My relationship with my Redmen teammates has contributed far more to my personal development and well-being, than any other aspect of my McGill experience.”
DAVE DUCHARME… “’Dutch’: “How I cherish the character-building and lifelong friendships bonded and created in those apartments across the street (from the gym), on Durocher, with my teammates. And now it extends to my family.”
MIKE BEAN… ‘Beaner’: “Thirty years goes by in an instant. Savour the time together, then stay in touch. These will always be your best friends.”
PAUL BARBER… ‘Bull’: “Being a Redmen is a special thing. You should be very, very proud. You will realize as time passes, how important and significant this is. The friendship and bond with your teammates will last you a lifetime.”
And the last guy is JOHN HARRIS… Hog, do you wanna stand up for a second? So Hog wasn’t a roommate but we ate so many meals at his parent’s place that I figured I should put him on the list as he spent a lot of nights on our couch.
(laughter from the crowd)
So Hog and I ran up Mt. Royal today and it was a lot of fun. And out of his mouth, he says: “Wow. It’s already 30 years since graduation. Until this day, there is no one’s friendship I value more than my Redmen teammates.”
So to wrap up for you fellas, it’s a special, special time in a special, special place. Squeeze every ounce out of it. Stay as long as you can. Whether you’re at the rink, in class, at the bar, with your teammates, cherish every minute. But understand that this is simply a launching pad for what’s to come. Pursue your passion. Embrace being uncomfortable and always growing. Smile at life and it will smile back.
Thank-you very much!”
Text by Earl Zukerman