Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

In conversation with: Ken Dryden

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Most people can be happy being famous for one reason, but Ken Dryden has several. As a goalie with the Montreal Canadiens, Dryden won five Stanley Cup trophies from 1973 to 1979. In 1983, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Dryden then turned his gaze towards politics. He ran in the 2004 federal election for the Liberals and was named minister of social development.

Dryden has authored several books, including Becoming Canada, where he argued Canadians have the wrong sense of their country. He recently received an honorary degree from the University of Winnipeg.

Q: What does it feel like to be the anti-Don Cherry?

A:... I like Don Cherry. I liked him when he was the coach of the Bruins. I thought he was the perfect match for the Bruins, the way in which they played. He had the style and personality, and you don't last in the world that he's been in for 30 years without having something interesting to say. And even if you disagree with him, to a great extent he represents the challenge on the other side. What is it that makes you disagree with that? Why do you feel the way you do? And you better express it right. And I think Don Cherry has changed significantly. He sees the kind of damage that can happen when players have stupid moments or moments that are too much encouraged and really are -- they're dangerous. They're dangerous moments and unnecessary moments. That's the biggest problem that anyone is trying to get at. And I think he is, in his own way.

Q: You've been an active voice in hockey and issues with concussions. Recently, bodychecking was banned in peewee hockey. What are your thoughts on that?

A: The good part is that I think for the first time some decisions are being made based on some findings. In the past, almost all of our decisions in whatever direction have been based on opinions that make sense to each of us, and those may be very different. And we like to pass them off as being certainties, but the fact is we don't know...

Q: You've talked about Canada's education system needing reform. Are we on the track that you want us to be?

A: I think the biggest obstacles are still there. What I was just observing, and others observed as well, but the year I spent in a classroom (September 1993 to June 1994) in a high school, the absence of interaction between a teacher and large numbers in a class. And as I talked about then, the front-row kids, there's always an interaction. There's even an interaction with the back-corner kids. It's the large group in the middle, which is all of us in some aspect of our lives. You may be smart about something, and not so smart about something else. And those things that you aren't very good at, you try to hide, you try to disappear. You have all of the postures of somebody who can go invisible. We're all good at that. The problem is when we go invisible, we kind of survive the day, but we don't survive the term, and we don't survive that term leading into the next year and into our futures. Unless there is that kind of interaction, and ways of generating it, then a teacher can never get close enough to be teaching to a person and teaching to a real personality, and developing the kind of strategies you need in order to teach to somebody who actually becomes familiar to you, and that remains a big problem.

Q: You just spoke at the University of Winnipeg convocation. What kind of advice are you giving to our future leaders?

A: I think the first part is called making the future. It's trying to get students to really understand that their world will change beyond imagination in their lifetimes. And the question is, are they only passengers to that change, or can they be, in part, drivers to that as well? And that they're important to what happens in the future. Those things are going to happen, and how do they want to live their lives, how do they want their work lives to be? What kind of work life brings out the best in them? What about their home life? What kind of Canada do they want to live in? They are going to live 60 years or more. And don't say 'they' will do this, or 'they' will decide that. No, they won't. This is you. What is it that you want? That doesn't mean you'll be able to achieve it, but you really do need to have a sense of what it is you would like to see happen and engage in that. That was a lot of what I was talking about.

And then I told a story about the first Stanley Cup playoff series I was involved in. I had played six (regular NHL season) games before, and playing the defending champions, and we ended up winning that year, and people would always ask me: 'How could that be? How did you deal with a situation like that?' And I never had an answer all the years I played. And it was only later that I came to understand. What I think it was is that in a situation like that, it's not knowing that you can do it, it's just not knowing that you can't. That's all you need to know, and you'll find that you're a whole lot more prepared for your future than you ever thought you were.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2013 D3

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