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Letter to My Younger Self

By Ontario Minor Hockey Association, 08/12/16, 9:45AM EDT


Serge Savard gives some advice to his younger self on becoming a good player

To a 10-year-old Serge Savard:

It’s all about teamwork. You’ll realize this quickly.

Sure, you have to have talent. But if you have talent and don’t work hard then you’re not being a good teammate.

It’s a lesson you won’t necessarily learn the typical way. After all, you won’t be playing organized hockey for another year.

Growing up in Landrienne, Quebec is certainly different than being under the bright lights of the Montreal Forum. That arena could fit thousands of more people than you ever saw growing up in your town. For now, the 15 kids in your neighbourhood will go out on the ice, divide sticks, and play.

When you turn 15, the Montreal Canadiens will invite you to training camp out of college. You’ll make the city your new home.

In your rookie season you’ll suit up next to Habs legends Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard. Head coach Toe Blake, an all-timer in his own right, will give your team this piece of advice before the first game of the season: If we give up less than 180 goals this year, I can guarantee you we will finish in first place.

He was right.

In 1967-68, your first full season, you will be part of a defence core that allows only 167 goals, the fewest in the league, en route to finishing first in the East. It will also be your first of eight Stanley Cup championships.

Over your career, you’ll play with great defencemen like Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson. Goals Against is just as important as Goals For. This is a message that will be preached to you over 17 seasons.

Take advantage of how you scrimmage in practice. Use your creativity on the ice. In today’s game, there can be times where everything is too rigid. And remember, you will need to work hard, always.

Hockey will take you to places you can only imagine. You’ll have the honour of representing Canada in the Summit Series against the USSR. It will be the biggest emotional high you’ll ever experience. You’ll be a four-time All-Star, spend time as general manager of the Canadiens, and have your number 18 jersey hang in the rafters of the Bell Centre. The Hockey Hall of Fame will induct you as a member too.

Two years before he passed away, Jean Beliveau said he wanted to be remembered for being a team player. You will take this advice and pass it on to one of the next generation of great Habs defencemen, PK Subban. It doesn’t matter how good your team is. If you don’t play well together, you aren’t going to win.

And that’s the bottom line in Montreal. You’ll find this out just as well as anyone.

This September, eight members of Canada's fabled hockey team will tour the four Canadian cities that hosted the Series in 1972 and share, first-hand, their memories - stories from the dressing room and away from the rink; untold stories of how personal rivalries were resolved and how a team was forged in the crucible of competition - stories that will make you laugh and bring tears to your eyes. Check for more information.

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