Is anyone really uncoachable?

Whenever I am told someone is uncoachable, I always wonder who the coach is. Not to disparage any coaches out there but there are a never ending avenues available when it comes to coaching people. 

I immediately envision a coach that has adopted a “my way or the highway” approach that is limiting to say the least. Fact is, the “my way” approach is now about the coach and not the person being coached. The “my way” approach is lazy. It is about a coach relying on something that has worked in the past. Choosing the “my way” approach shuts the door on the infinite possibilities. 

Coaching isn’t a straight line from point A to point B experience. It’s a meandering, take 2 steps forward, 1 step to the left, 2 back to the right and 3 forward dance. It’s imperfect, it’s fluid and it’s personal.

The silo approach to inter action is no longer of value. Contribution is key. Overlap and inter-play is crucial to a teams success. The transparent sharing of the strategic where, what, who, where and why creates an ownership that makes it easy to justify spending over 2000 hours per year at work.

The fact of the matter is times have changed.  The “I tell you to jump and you ask how high” approach to leadership and coaching has fallen to the wayside.

Any coach worth his or her salt, in whatever realm, be it in business, a not for profit,  leading an elite athletic team or perhaps a house league squad, must be agile, willing to adapt and proud to serve.

Robert K. Greenleaf wrote that a servant leader “begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.”

He emphasized that servant leaders have five important qualities:

  • they are open to listening to others, and to their own intuition;
  • they know when to withdraw and refresh themselves;
  • they are able to persuade rather than just coerce;
  • they accept their followers’ imperfections and have empathy for them;
  • they can conceptualize a clear vision and follow it one step at a time.

Sounds like the servant leader is a fairly progressive coach. Someone who would stand ahead of the coaching curve today. So, its amazing to learn that he wrote it over 50 years ago and that it stands the test of time.

What I love about the list of important qualities is that they are instrumental in the greater search for fulfillment. Human interaction, the ability to connect, communicate, collaborate and conquer is part of our DNA! Our survival hinges on it. As technological advances arrive and as companies morph and mold in a bid to find success, the importance of the human element remains constant. As sure as the sun rises and sets, there is always an opportunity to coach up. Quitting is not an option.

As all roads lead to Rome, when it comes to coaching, all paths or activities lead to a center of things, a destination. This was literally true in the days of the Roman Empire, when all the empire’s roads radiated out from the capital city, Rome.

Yet, the trap thought for anyone who takes on the role of leader|coach is the belief that they are the center and that the team radiates out from them, when in fact, the team is the center and the leader must search out roads that will lead to them.

The one template, cookie cutter approach is now passe. Anyone holding strong to those ideals are blinding themselves to the possibilities that come with setting others up to succeed.

Coaching and leadership is all about finding a way. To serve others.

Ken Evraire is an outside of the box team builder, leadership and coaching consultant who now aspires to become a documentary producer! Stay tuned!

Ken can be reached at ken@kenevraire.com.

What was the score of the game?

50,000- 70,000 thoughts a day!

Researchers believe we have 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts in a day! So when I do the math based on the top end number of 70, 000 thoughts a day and my being 53 years of age, I have had approximately 1,354,150,000 thoughts in my lifetime and counting. WOW.

Now when you consider how much football I played in that time, isn’t it odd that I can’t remember the score of one game? I can remember Darren Joseph, Earl Winfield, Lonzell Hill, Scott Walker, John Hood, Wally Zatylny, Lee Knight, Richard Nurse, Dan Johnston and so many others like I met them yesterday, but scores of games? I got nothing.

It’s true. If you asked me the score of a game I played and I wouldn’t be able to offer an answer. Not one score, be it from a pre-season game, a regular season game or a playoff game. A tyke, mosquito, pee-wee, bantam, midget, junior, university or professional game.

It has nothing to do with my donating my brain to the Legacy program at Boston University, or at least I hope not. At the end of the day, I think it has to do with connections we have to others and drawing what was really important from our experiences. In sport, the final score is so black and white whereas, in life, the score is nuanced.

Fact is, in football, I could have played a great game and the team could still lose or I could have played like crap and the team could still win. The final score did not tell you the story.

Competition and Human Nature

Don’t get me wrong. In the moment, the final score was important because we are by nature, very competitive and there is a value placed on winning. Winning meant keeping my job.

In the pros, winning meant making more money and being able to pay the bills and taking care of myself. It also enhanced my social status and to be frank, from an ego standpoint, I loved the idea of walking into an arena of competition like a gladiator and being envied by the audience. Doing something special that very few others could do was kind of cool.

The ability to compete is directly linked to our ability to survive. Competition is one of the most basic functions of nature and will forever remain a powerful instinctual driver in human nature. There is no chance at all of evading this instinct.

In my mind, the reason why I don’t remember the score of games is directly connected to learning that the most important tally wasn’t on the scoreboard but rather in the dressing room when I looked my teammates and coaches in the eye.

Did I do my job?

Did I compete like my life depended on it?

Did I have my teammates back?

Did I honor the pact I made with my teammates?

Did I keep my promise?

If I answered yes, then I earned their respect, I respected the game and I slept well at night. I always looked forward to watching the game film when I played well and always hated it when I played like crap. Like they say…”the eye in the sky don’t lie”.

Honorable Bank Robbers

One of my favorite movies ever is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The story focuses on the friendship between two men who just happened to be bank robbers. It was about the trust, honesty and commitment that they shared in a very unpredictable environment. Their success hinged on their ability to keep it personal and to draw strength knowing the other would be there through thick or thin.

The end game wasn’t about how much money they took but rather about their belief in the journey they chose to share.

When I work with coaches or athletes, I always ask this question.

“What do you want from your experience?”.

They all want to win. They want a ring and a trophy. Many coaches will say, I want to be a game changer…a difference maker.

Then I ask them to think beyond the scoreboard. What do they want to accomplish beyond the final score?  There is usually a pause followed by a vague answer that they hope lands close to the target.

That is when the real coaching work takes place and it is in that moment that I tell them to forget the trophy because it collects dust.

That they will only wear the ring when they are trying to impress.

Forget the team jacket, it won’t fit in 5 years.

I tell them the real victory could arrive well beyond the completion of the season.

I ask them to visualize being out front of the grocery store 5 years down the road.

The coach sees his former player or vice versa. How do they visualize that moment? What is the preferred outcome?

Does the coach or kid stop and take the time to say hi? Do they reminisce? Share a memory? Do they pretend to not see each other? Do they turn in a different direction?

Great memories are personal. They extend from a genuine place. Despite competing in the very alpha male world of football, my ability to care for others was the only score that counted.

Ken Evraire is an outside of the box team builder, leadership and coaching consultant who now aspires to become a documentary producer! Stay tuned!

Ken can be reached at ken@kenevraire.com.

Find your lobster suit!

Sometimes wearing a lobster suit can change the entire game.
I know it did for me.


I booked career presentation number 500 today, or at least close to number 500! I admit it’s not a perfect science.

Not sure why it struck a sentimental cord with me but it did. Maybe it has to do with my being 53 years of age, the changing of seasons or watching my kids grow up faster than wheat in Melville, Saskatchewan. Worth noting, Melville was named for Charles Melville Hays, former General Manager of the Grand Trunk Railway which, if you know your 1970’s music, inspired the name of one of the greatest bands ever, Grand Funk Railroad. How is that for a water cooler fact!

Okay, I digress. So, why am I all sentimental? I believe it has to do with my sitting down and thinking back on the presentations that transcended time and stayed with me. Presentations that stood out. Presentations that gave me more than I offered.

I always loved presenting and coaching people up. I didn’t think it would become a full time gig until the spring of 1989.

As a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders, I was often called on to host or attend events the organization would run or support. My boss at the time, Jo-Anne Polak, the only female GM in professional football and considered to be a marketing genius, decided the team should host a marquee fundraiser. With her roots in the East Coast, it made complete sense to host a lobster dinner. Great idea? To be honest, it was a good idea but to suggest it was great would have been a stretch. So, the team was going to host a lobster gala. The story doesn’t stop there. In addition to the team hosting the fundraiser, she suggested I serve as the event emcee and that I would work for free! Yep, no pay, which to be honest, I was okay with. Jo-Anne had become my official supplier of free game tickets so as gamblers say, her ticket supply and my working for free was a push. The wild card in all this was the very real possibility that, as my boss, she could have me traded to Winnipeg in a blink of an eye! Melville, SK I could kind of live with but Winterpeg? Umm…No. So, I really had no say in the matter so far. Then things took an interesting turn.

Remember the part about her being a marketing genius? This is where the genius comes into play. She suggests I emcee the event in a….wait for it….lobster suit!

At first, I irresponsibly and irrationally said, “Sure, what the hell.”. Then the reality began to set in along with the discomfort. I had no worry about serving as emcee but had some hesitation when it came to dressing as a crustacean. Now, I could have worn a suit and tie or a team sweater and pulled it off but I knew that wouldn’t work. The fact of the matter was, I had to wear the lobster suit. It was meant to be. I was meant to wear the suit the same way King Arthur was destined to bare the sword Excalibur after it was handed to him by the lady of the lake.

Many of you are likely thinking, “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.” I agree and I admit that was borrowed from the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

It doesn’t change the fact that the lobster suit and I were meant to be.

On event day, I was piped into the Civic Center Assembly Hall by the Ottawa Fire Department Pipe and Drum, and it was then that I knew somehow, someway, I would dedicate my energy toward presenting.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ken-Lobster-2-1-1024x819.png
Teammate Dean Dorsey and I at the Ottawa Rough Riders Lobster Gala!

Rather than embarrassingly make my way to the podium on stage, I opted to walk in like I was the heavyweight champion of the world. I chose to own the room before I even entered it. Before I even said a word to the sold out audience, I knew I had won.

Initially, the suit was a tad uncomfortable but not from the perspective of fit but rather from the perspective of the experience being so new. Sure there were stares of astonishment from everyone in attendance, including teammates and my girlfriend, followed by laughter, but any concerns I had were far outweighed by what the moment brought me. Sometimes you need to stand up when everyone is sitting down. Sometimes, going with something new despite the discomfort is the way to go. Stepping out from the comfort zone and out of what we have worn in the past may be just what the doctor ordered.

Having Jo-Anne there with a smile of affirmation certainly helped as well.

The power that comes with self determination is significant to say the least.

Today, when I am not introducing, “There is an “i” in Team” concepts or tailoring client specific strategies, I am doing my best to help my children find the courage to wear their lobster suits and discard them after they have learned what they needed from them.

We are all going to spend our time doing something, so make sure it is something worth spending your time on. By doing so, you will find your “right place and right time”.

Wearing that lobster suit opened doors to experiences that went beyond my ability to catch a football.

Find your lobster suit and head upstream. You will be amazed at what you find on the horizon.

Ken Evraire is an outside of the box team builder, leadership and coaching consultant who now aspires to become a documentary producer! Stay tuned!

Ken can be reached at ken@kenevraire.com.

Invest in self is a step in the right direction.

Well…a new year is upon us! The obvious blog would be to suggest the value of a life altering resolution that will either help you get past a tough 2018 or to build on a prosperous 2018.

Either option is far too easy. Rather than adopt and all or nothing approach that will likely set you up to fail, let me suggest another avenue of thought.

Take time out to recognize what will be the arrival of an abundance of momentum building portals that accompany all decisions that you make. No matter what turn comes your way, good bad or indifferent, consider it a momentum building opportunity. Every crossroad is a potential investment opportunity.

Get into the habit of investing, be it in yourself, those you care for or those you may lead. Now, the process is not perfect. There are no guarantees but the mere effort is a victory in and of itself. Swing the bat! Don’t let it sit on your shoulders. Should you strike out, don’t stop swinging the bat. If you do, you fall into the New Year’s Resolution trap. The all or nothing inevitably leads you to nothing. Casino’s stay open because they win. They always have and always will.

So, what are the next best steps? First and foremost, know that you are human and perfection is not the goal. Being perfectly imperfect is!

Here are 4 keys that can help you invest in yourself and in turn invest in others around you.

Key #1- BREATH. Breathing connects the physical to the mental and provides a great physiological and psychological balance that will allow you to slow things down and see the entire board. Slowing things down is the difference between a major league baseball player making 20 million dollars a season and a guy riding a bus in double A baseball wondering how he can get to the next level. The star slows down a 98 mph fastball, the minor leaguer see’s the 98 mph fastball as a 100 mph fastball!

Check out former Navy Seal Mark Divine and founder of Seal Fit training as he explains breathing techniques when facing stressful situations. If it works for a Navy Seal, it should work for us just fine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1sBsaDy0FQ

Key #2 – POSITIVITY.  Positivity will allow you to establish mental control when combined with healthy internal dialogue. I admit at times, It’s easier said than done, but positivity allows you to manage stress and the health benefits that accompany the positivity approach are invaluable. Our thought process highway can race on the edge of control. How we manage the hundreds to thousands of thoughts we have each day is key to our success.

Key #3 VISUALIZATION – now that you are slowing things down you can see the board with a new sense of clarity. You can now make decisions that ebb and flow rather than stand disjointed and disconnected. Elite athletes always talk about muscle memory. Now the brain is not a muscle but it certainly behaves like one. The brain can be trained to improve to improve cognitive functions like working memory or math skills. One can’t help but believe it can be trained to become a better decision making machine. We believe what we think we see. See the forest beyond the trees.

Key #4 MICRO-GOALS…breakdown your to-do list into pieces so you can enjoy smaller victories and in turn build the type of momentum that will take you in the direction you so desire.

Success begets success. NHL teams break down their regular seasons into 4-5 game segments. The idea of trying to win 50 of 82 games can feel daunting on so many levels and can lead to the all or nothing approach to failure. Asking your team to win 3 of 5 over period of 10 days is far more manageable. Rather than focus on one large victory, turn your energy toward 10-15 micro-goals.

Flying is a lot easier when you don’t have a piano on your back!

I wish you the best in 2019!

If you are thinking of hosting a leadership seminar, coach up clinic or a team building session, consider creating a tailor made opportunity with me. Simply email me at ken@kenevraire.com.

Best of the best,

Ken

Ken Evraire is a team building, leadership and coaching consultant. He combines over 20 years of experience from his work in the corporate sector and from over 10 years during his time as a professional athlete.

Friend first…G.M. second. My time with Jo-Anne Polak aka JP Superstar

I had forgotten that she was given the nickname, JP Superstar! Wow, how time flies. I may have forgotten her nickname but I will not ever for forget how she personalized professional football.

I of course refer to Jo-Anne Polak, the first female General Manager in professional football.

 

For the many who don’t know and sadly, for those who forgot, Jo-Anne joined the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1987 and was named the teams business manager in December 1988. The title should have been Business Miracle Worker! She became co-GM with then head coach Steve Goldman a month later! As general manager, Polak became the first woman to hold an executive role in the Canadian Football League and the first woman general manager of a North American sports team. She held the position of general manager until stepping down in November 1991. I first met her in the off-season of 1989. I was heading into the locker room for a workout and she was there hosting a tour and working on her latest marketing marvel to re-connect fans to a team that had under-achieved like no other. The team’s hopes had been placed on the shoulders of Canadian RB Orville Lee, QB Damon Allen and K Dean Dorsey. Lee was drafted 1st overall the previous year, Dorsey had returned after a stint with the Philadelphia Eagles and Allen arrived from Edmonton thanks to his connection with Head Coach Steve Goldman . The team also acquired warrior OL Gerald Roper and Rob Smith in 1989. Smitty beat Matthew McConaughey to punch when it came to not needing an excuse to go shirtless! All were significant pieces in the effort to build a team that could compete. 

Truth be told, Jo-Anne inherited a 6 ring circus. I could go on about my teammates and their love for Jo and I could go on about how she changed the football landscape in Ottawa and how she excelled in what was an “old boys” setting but that would be too easy and too obvious.

Yes, when we got our pay cheques the morning after a game we would  indeed race to the RBC on Bank St. and First Avenue before team meetings, to get them cashed knowing full well that there may not be enough money in the teams account to cover the payroll! Forever teammates but in that moment, arch enemies! Nothing personal but I got to get paid! Some guys got paid and some guys came back pissed off! Funny how you could pick them out in the crowd!

I could go on about the charity hockey game between the Rough Riders and the Perth OPP and how it got out of hand real quick, like at the drop of the puck. Ah, alpha males!!  Jo was our “coach” and she got out from behind the bench real fast. As the competitive energy rose, she took on this panicked look on her face! She booked it away from the bench and into the stands despite our assurances that all would be fine. She arrived worrying about  about branding and selling and was now worried about a full line brawl! Yes, Damon Allen always played the wing furthest away from the bench so he could extend his shift to about 7 minutes at a time and yes, Loyd Lewis would undo his skates between each shift and get riled up when he would miss a shift as he laced back up!

For me it was about her leadership under very personal and challenging life experiences.

The first came on July 5th, 1989. We had played the Toronto Argonauts the night before in pre-season play. Guys were on pins and needles knowing the roster was being cut down. I was in a special teams film session when I was told Head Coach Steve Goldman wanted to see me. There was a pause in the entire room. Was I being cut? Perhaps traded? I had a great training camp and had really found my groove going into my 2nd year as a pro. When I entered the office I saw Jo-anne first. I had laughed about a million times with Jo by then and when we looked at each other, she had an expression of sadness. I thought, “shit, I am gone!”.  Steve was seated behind his desk. He was clearly uncomfortable so Jo-Anne took the lead and I think Steve and I were both glad she had.

That morning, my cousin David had been struck by a car and had passed away.  He was working for a courier company and had been making a delivery downtown when the accident occurred. David was the oldest of 3 boys. His father is brilliantly funny! At social events, Uncle Gerry would make my dad laugh until his lungs fell out. Still does to this day! Aunt Claudette did her best to eliminate the hi-jinx, largely because Gerry’s humor was at the expense of french hockey players even though he and Claudette were fluently bilingual! David has two younger brothers, Shawn and Chris. Shawn was the quiet thoughtful one. Chris, known as Cricket and Boots, had more energy than anyone I had ever met. I didn’t get a lot of details when I was given the news. I just knew the loss was going to carry a lifelong magnitude that no one should ever have to experience. I know because I had a sister pass away when I was 4 and she was 5. Her name was ‘Jo-Anne”, and she was likely as spirited as my boss. Jo-Jo was riding a bike that was too big for her and she had fallen into a parked car, bumping her head. No need for details but I still cry to this day when I think about her. I imagine Uncle Gerry, Aunt Claudette, Shawn and Chris will always shed a tear for David as well.

Having Jo-Anne there, sitting close by as I called my Uncle Gerry, not knowing what to say or do will be etched in my memory bank forever. She wasn’t just about the bottom line and football. Jo was about the relationships.  In the blink of an eye, she had earned my trust. She was a “show me, don’t tell me” type of leader! Always had been, always will be.

The second memorable, emotional moment came in 1991. I had established myself as a CFL pro by then and was part of a team that had a lot of potential. In the off-season, the team signed big name free agents Glen Kulka, Tony Cherry, the late John Mandarich, and David Williams. Some would argue that the team crossed the line in terms of the unspoken gentleman’s agreement that teams not sign other teams big name free agents. Some would call it the art of collusion! Coach Goldman and Jo-Anne opted to go big and create some positive heat around the team. The result was a vengeful group of competing General Managers. Fortune favors the bold but it could also come back to bite you in the ass.

We played Calgary on October 13th. I injured my knee and had anticipated being placed on the teams injured list. It was an eventful morning after the game because the team doctor opted to drain fluid build up in my knee. I was assured it would accelerate my return to the roster. When he drew back the syringe, there was blood and not the fluid he had anticipated. This was indeed good news. My knee was fine. I did have a 2 inch tear at the base of my quad but that would heal. I was going to miss some time but nothing to worry about. At least that’s what I had thought. Now, in the CFL, teams use re-callable waivers as a tool in building their weekly rosters. If a player is place on re-callable waivers and claimed, the original team can recall the player. Through all of this, the player has no idea all of this is going on. We are just a pawn in the game of football life! The fly in the ointment is teams can only place a player on re-callable waivers once a season. Now, if a player is injured and is placed on waivers, the odds are a team won’t claim him because they don’t want damaged goods. That is in a perfect world but things were not perfect between other teams General Managers and the Riders. Ah, yes…those vengeful general managers?

So, out of the blue, I get a call the next day from a guy I know from my football circle that I choose not to name. He is chatty with me than asks me about my knee. I told him that I would be fine. I explained the injury believing I could trust him. in football, trust, like contracts, is often broken. The next morning, I am called into Steve Goldman’s office. He broke the news that I had been claimed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. I was stunned. He went on to tell me that I was placed on waivers in a bid to hide me because of my injury and that Hamilton had crossed the line and claimed me. I asked him how that could happen. I then learned that I had been placed on re-callable waivers earlier in the season. WHAT! In a blink of an eye I was property of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In one moment, I was on the rise and an active community member and the next, I was an after thought. I remember flying to Hamilton and being met by absolutely no one from the team and staying at some roach motel in a sketchy part of town! What a disaster!

When the news broke, I went to my apartment to pack. Jo-Anne had been on her way to Fort McMurray for a charitable event with Bobby and Dennis Hull when she called me. Before I could get pissed off she apologized and was in tears which led to my breaking down. The transaction had not been her call. Our conversation, her dismay and apology was genuine. In that moment, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was no longer a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders but would forever be connected to Jo-Anne. Here is the kicker. She was going through her own difficult time as she and her first husband had separated.

I am grateful. Who wouldn’t be. It’s not everyday you spend time with JP Superstar. I know being the first female GM of a professional football team was not easy but she did it with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a diet coke with Wendy Lisowski laughing her ass off in the passenger seat!

The cool thing about Jo was she could sell. Whether it was kazoo or paper airplane themed nights or convincing me to wear a lobster suit and host the teams keynote off season fundraiser!

The next season, as a member of the Tiger-Cats, I paid Jo-Anne a visit with a couple of teammates in tow. No appointment necessary. We walked into her office, hung out with her and laughed. My teammates were astounded. Then, to no one’s surprise, Jo gave the guys tickets to the game so they could hand them out to people we met downtown.  The guys added about 12 new female Tiger Cat fans to our fan base that afternoon while walking around Sparks Street!

There will never be anyone like JP Superstar! She had me at hello! Can’t say the same for opposing GM’s like Cal Murphy, Bill “The Undertaker” Baker or Joe Zuger! All great guys but don’t take this personal when I say, with Jo…it was personal.

I can’t tell you the score of any game but I can talk Jo-Anne Polak until the paper planes land from the top of the south side.

——————————————

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder, a talent specialist with Cistel Technology in Ottawa, Canada and is a former professional athlete. 

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would have left the bench Razor!

As the day unfolds, this loss is running me over! I am so sad for his family. As a father, coach, former athlete and a real fan of the man, I am crushed.

I remember meeting Ray Emery for the first time during rookie training camp. He was a confident, off the charts athletic young man playing what was and to a degree still is a very white game. In his time with the Ottawa Senator’s he became a celebrity of sorts for the great things he did and the not so great things he did. If he could stop the puck, he was granted an unconditional love from all. If he won, we would turn a blind eye to the behavior that the came with the trappings of success.

Fans loved the fact that he loved to fight but I always wondered why he enjoyed it. Did he enjoy it? Was it about something that ran deeper inside him? Were there demons behind the goalie mask? Was it part of his approach in his bid to succeed? Did it fuel him to succeed and in turn become his Achilles heel?

As a Senator, he drove a white hummer which would not have been a big story if he played in the NFL or NBA, but in the NHL it just didn’t sit well with the traditionalists. Everywhere that white hummer went so to did the attention of fans and critics. The white hummer reminded us of Ottawa’s small-town identity. Many a time I wished he played in New York or Florida.

He always seemed like he was trying to find his way. He got into trouble with the team for his tattoos. I was with The New RO and we did a story on Ray getting a tattoo at a local tattoo parlor on Rideau St. The team reprimanded the station and me for the story. His dying his hair blond created a stir even though a teammate a few stalls down had tattoos and had also died his hair blond all without recourse. I am not saying the team was racist, I just think the team was not prepared for an outspoken black athlete who was trying to find his way. Ray was an athlete trying to find his way in a bid to stay true to himself. He had Mike Tyson painted on his goal mask and the argument that he supported Mike Tyson the criminal, the rapist became a hot topic. The team convinced him it would be a bad idea to wear it after just 1 game. It was not a mistake by some kid who was unaware. It wasn’t about Tyson’s criminal actions. Sadly, very few saw the connection between the challenges Tyson endured as a young man making is way to the top of his sport and the challenges Ray faced growing up with his single mom and then eventually after she re-married, growing up in a bi-racial family. Like Tyson, Ray was a competitor. Ray was fierce and unstoppable. He would not take shit from anyone who judged him. He was okay with going through the door first and getting bloodied. Not sure if he was okay with being the hero in one moment and the villain in the next. Those close to him would know better. Would his fight get the best of him? Sure…just ask the equipment man for the team in Russia he played for. Ray slugged him after being pulled from a game. The mistake was the equipment man trying to get Ray to wear a baseball cap.

Of all his accomplishments he will likely be remembered most (on the ice and off) for his fighting Buffalo Sabres G Martin Biron and F Andrew Peters during a line brawl in Buffalo.

So many celebrated his willingness to fight. So many had hoped for it.

Watch the video and tell me what you see?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulyEnFh9Wvo

Now answer this question. If that had been any other NHL goalie and the opposing team’s tough guy went after him would anyone, everyone have stepped in? You damn right they would have! Would guys have left the bench? You damn right they would have. I was always struck by the mere fact that no one jumped in that night in Buffalo. No one left the bench. No one stepped up to protect their goalie. Forget the argument that Ray can handle himself. That is beside the point. Goalie on goalie fights happen (much to the regret of Martin Biron) but a tough guy going after your goalie is a no-no, or at least it had been until that night. Ray puts on a brave face, a knowing smile. It was as if the moment unfolded just as he had expected. He was on his own again. If Tie Domi went after Patrick Roy what do you think would have happened? If anyone breathed on Mike Vernon or Chris Osgood in Detroit, do you think the opponent gets to pass go and collect $200? Hell no.

The sports news will play his fight video over and over again to commemorate his passing and each time I see it I will get pissed off.

As a guy who has a background in team sports, I can say that if I was on the ice, I would have jumped in and it would have taken me a fucking millisecond. If I was on the bench, I would have jumped into the fray regardless of the consequences, come hell or high water. Someone was going to get fucked up. It may be me but at least I entered the fray. I take great pride in knowing that my teammates knew I would have jumped into the fray, win, lose or if I got my ass kicked. No teammate should ever be left on his own.

As popular as he was, I always felt like Ray was on his own.

One day after a Sens practice when Ray’s star was shining its brightest, I had a brief conversation with him, a conversation that began in the elevator and then down the walkway at the rink. Ray knew I played football and I guess it garnered me some semblance of respect and some of his time.

At the time, I was working with The New RO. the city was celebrity starved. How bad was it? We celebrated the likes of Marlen Copeland who was famous for a diamond nipple on a gold breastplate and not much more! By then the rumors of mischief were swirling around the hockey team like a tropical storm. It was the cities big little secret. Everyone wanted a piece of the team, with Ray being the preferred choice. A couple of my police contacts had told me stories about Razor and his teammate’s antics. The rolled BMW found in the farmer’s field. The pissed off husbands. Ah, the players were kings. Everyone wanted to be close to them. Every Jr. B wanna be wanted to have a beer with them. Single and married women have their tales to tell. The white hummer parked near a certain socialites residence in the middle of the day on a consistent basis traveled through the gossip mill. I don’t think anything can compare to the party that was the 2006-2007 Stanley Cup run. Maybe that’s why it’s so tough to buy into the present edition of the Senators. The party could never be the same. The team was great on the ice and the postgame was greater!

In a subtle, it was none of my business but I really cared way, I suggested he be careful. To keep his head up. That those who love his rise to fame would certainly also celebrate his failure. Again, he smiled that knowing smile, chuckled a little, shook my hand and said thanks. Then he walked on, alone with no one there to jump into the fray should another battle with an opponent or a demon arise. No one would be there to leave the bench.

I will miss you Ray. I will miss the young man who did his best to stay true to himself. The young man who fought, win lose or if you got your ass kicked. Thank you for being a warrior.
Rest in peace Razor.

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Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder, a talent specialist with Cistel Technology in Ottawa, Canada and is a former professional athlete. 

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17