Sign of the times: Jets new culture on display in locker room
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/11/2022 (210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There’s a fascinating new addition to the Winnipeg Jets locker room this year, one which quite literally has the club’s culture on full display.
A professionally printed pledge is posted on the walls at Canada Life Centre and Bell MTS Iceplex. It was created by the players during the team’s retreat to Banff at the end of training camp last month. And it was signed by every skater, a personalized promise to adhere to the core values they’ve created.
It’s not unusual for teams to have a typical rah-rah “all for one, one for all” type slogan in their workplace. But this goes a step beyond that. It’s a key part of a concerted effort to turn the page on a frustrating recent past and get everyone pulling in the same direction for what they hope is a brighter future.
“We talked about it in Banff just as a team, some things to focus on this year, maybe, instead of the prototypical work hard, play-as-a-team type of stuff. Just a few things we all agreed upon,” veteran defenceman Brenden Dillon said Monday, following practice.
“We want to incorporate everybody. We want to feel like a team. I think over the past couple of years, culture has been a thing where you’re asked about (it) when you go home in the summers, like, ‘Geez, what a crappy locker room Winnipeg has.’”
That was especially true late last year, when frustrated players were often pointing fingers publicly as the losses began to mount. With a clean slate, along with a new coaching staff, the Jets were determined to ensure history wouldn’t repeat itself.
“The guys really took it in stride. It was not just a five-minute convo. It was over days, it might have even been a week or so,” defenceman Nate Schmidt said of how the document was created.
“Guys came up with things that they want to add or subtract. It really was just the guys (who) came up with something that we really, truly believed in. If you sign it, it means that you’re on board with what it says and what it means.”
Three main points are highlighted. The first, titled “Purpose”, addresses how to approach the task at hand.
“Everything we do is with a purpose. We work on our game in practice and do every drill with a commitment to getting better and making our teammates better,” the section reads. “We control what we can control and do our jobs to the maximum of our abilities every day. Our attitude and effort is consistent. We value our relationship with each other. We are never satisfied.”
The second, titled “Integrity”, speaks to personal conduct.
“We honour our word. Either by keeping our word, or by telling our teammates we haven’t kept our word and asking for forgiveness,” it reads. “We are respectful to everyone in our locker room. We clean up after ourselves and we always show up on time. We take great pride in being a Winnipeg Jet.”
“Guys came up with things that they want to add or subtract. It really was just the guys (who) came up with something that we really, truly believed in. If you sign it, it means that you’re on board with what it says and what it means.”–Nate Schmidt
The third, titled “Open Handed Communication”, sets out rules of engagement.
“We communicate with each other openly and honestly. We don’t hold side conversations and go directly to the source if we have concerns about a teammate,” it says. “Everyone on our team carries an equal voice and we openly receive dialogue from one another as long as permission has been granted to do so. We are honest and approachable.”
The new Jets coaching staff has talked about wanting to establish a broader leadership group. Rick Bowness sent a strong message prior to the season, stripping long-time captain Blake Wheeler of his letter. Adam Lowry ultimately joined existing alternates Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey.
This mission statement is an extension of that.
“I think whether you’re Blake Wheeler, who has played 1,000 games, or you’re Dylan Samberg whose played 15 games, everyone wants to have the same amount of (input). When somebody speaks, everybody is listening,” said Dillon.
“I think compared to last year, something we talked about, especially with (Bowness) coming in this year, we wanted everyone to feel… to have more leadership, to have more communication. As much as we’ve got the same guys that were in here last year, there’s still some younger players that you want them to feel welcome.”
Dillon said he’s never been part of something like this, where players actually signed a formal contract. He’s already seen it have an impact on the team, which has matched its best-ever 11-game start in Jets 2.0 history (7-3-1).
“I think everyone has really enjoyed being around each other. There hasn’t been the little cliques or anything like that. And I think it’s shown on the ice. It doesn’t matter who is scoring the goals, I think everybody is excited for it. I think we’ve all been coming together,” he said.
“I think in the past, it could have gone where guys were saying (expletive) each other or something. But this year, it’s been a lot of, ‘Hey, let’s help each other. This is what we talked about. We know the black and white, what the right and wrong plays are.”
“I think everyone has really enjoyed being around each other. There hasn’t been the little cliques or anything like that. And I think it’s shown on the ice.”–Brenden Dillon
Dillon said it was an interesting process to arrive at the final product.
“We kind of started with 10 or 15 points and got it down because that’s the thing, we’re not all Ivy League guys that can have 10 or 15 things before games that we can go through,” he said.
“We just felt those things were of importance that were the main ones and certain things that we disagreed on, we talked about it and we let everybody speak and have their kind of thoughts on it. We, together as a team, came up with it.”
Schmidt said it’s important players are reminded of the pledge on a daily basis. Considering the prominent placement in the dressing room, that’s a given.
“I find myself looking at it when I am getting dressed,” he said.It’s important players are reminded of the pledge on a daily basis, says Nate Schmidt.
“Just kind of reminds you of what’s going on in the day, what’s expected of myself. I have kind of an internal expectation. It’s always fun to kind of have a reiteration of what that is and maybe some different terminology because those are not my words, they’re our words. It makes you believe that you have a self-expectation and now I have an expectation for myself within the team, which is really important.”
Bowness, asked on Monday about the pledge, said it’s a positive sign to say the least.
“I think it goes back to my conversation with the players all summer. A lot of guys wanted to have more of a voice. So, we’re giving it to them.” said Bowness.
“It’s their room. Bad teams are led by no one, average teams are led by coaches, good teams are led by players. That’s where we’re trying to get to.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.