Leadership fascinates me, it excites me, and it is what keeps me motivated to grow. I think about all the amazing humans I have crossed paths with whether it be in sport, at school or at work. There is no right way to lead but there are qualities and characteristics that when you hear the word leader, I’m sure you think about, or your mind immediately thinks about that person that you look up to.

One of the amazing humans that crossed my path is Kim St-Pierre, who in my eyes and the eyes of many others is breaking barriers and leading the way in women’s hockey. St-Pierre is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time IIHF world champion. She was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, making her the first female goalie to be inducted.

I read in a recent article her teammate Ouellette describe her as the team’s rock and said, “Kim was certainly an outstanding goalie, the best that I played with, but she’s an even better person. If you ask anyone who knows her, it’s probably her kindness and her awareness of others that is going to be mentioned first.”

I had the honour to sit down with Kim to discuss what leadership means to her and how her hockey career played a significant role in the leader she is today.

Kim before we get going, I need to know what your favourite snack is?
I’d have to go with a smoothie, fruit with avocadoes for sure. Green smoothies are my favourite.

Can you tell me about your journey with hockey?
It all started with figured skating and being surrounded by family who had a passion for hockey. My dad was drafted for the New York Rangers and I had two brothers that got into hockey quite quickly. I really wanted to play the sport, so I asked my parents to put me in hockey and I was the only girl playing all boys hockey until I was eighteen years old. I started playing the position of goalie because a hockey coach when I was younger asked the team one day “who wants to be goalie today?” I raised my hand and the rest is history. I fell in love with the position and every time I stepped onto the ice with my goalie equipment, I felt a rush over my body of excitement. I wasn’t playing hockey to be the first female to do anything, I was playing hockey because I loved it so much.

When I was 14 and 15, I tried out for the Quebec Female team and for three years they told me I was not good enough. I continued playing boys hockey and having two brothers really helped. My parent also played a significant role in my journey as they taught me never to give up. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to watch the Canada vs. U.S. with my mom and that is when I realized one day, I wanted to put that jersey on.

A miracle happened when Dan Madden came to watch one of my games and invited me to come play for McGill University. This was the decision that changed my life. A few weeks into my first semester I got a call from team Canada to come to the training camp in Montreal, and they gave me an opportunity that led to my career.

When you hear the word leader what do you think of?
For me you can be a leader in so many ways, but our leadership absolutely evolves as you continue to grow. For me personally, it was mostly by example and hard work. As a goalie you are always a leader – being a good teammate and being there for everyone.

What qualities do you think a great leader has?
Leadership is a feeling that allows us to build trust throughout our time together in an authentic way. To build this trust some qualities a great leader has are being a good listener, ask questions, someone who is confident, caring, passionate, real, kind, a great decision maker, and open-minded. When I think about my journey with hockey this speaks so much truth when I started playing on the Women’s team. There were many of my teammates that I looked up to. They had so much confidence in themselves, and I learned so much from them on the ice and off. I think leaders who inspire us, it really comes from that feeling that you feel when you are around them.

I am curious to hear what you think are the most important qualities of a good team leader from the goaltender position.
The style of your leadership doesn’t change because you put on your goalie equipment. You see the game differently being the goalie. I would say that body language is huge – I always made sure that I had to look and act confident. When I let in a goal, I would never let my body language express to my team that I wouldn’t stop the next puck. Leadership for a goalie is built a lot in practice- this is when your teammates observe your skills and have open communication to receiving feedback.

How has your experience as an athlete changed your leadership style as a coach/parent/colleague/teammate?
As an athlete, especially a goalie, managing stress and pressure was something I had to work through daily. My ability to stay calm is absolutely one of my biggest strengths today in all facets of my life. I don’t really get stressed easily. When I watch my own sons play hockey, others always ask me “how do you stay so calm?” I respond always telling them that I am just trying to live in the moment and always focus on asking them questions like “did you have fun? “Were you a good teammate?” “What was your favourite moment?”

As an athlete we are always looking forward to the “next” practice, so having short term and long-term goals was ingrained into my every day. Goal setting played a huge part in our team’s success over the years, and this has transferred into my work life whether it is the goals the team is striving for or myself individually with my role, setting goals is super important.

How do you translate what you learned on the ice to the work environment?
One of the biggest lessons I learned was that you must be prepared- the more you prepare, the better the outcome or at least you know you’ve done everything you could to succeed. Hockey and life are all about preparation and confidence. As a team we prepared for the Olympics every practice on the ice, in the gym, to be able to deliver a great performance in competition. It’s the same with work- the more you prepare for a presentation or TV broadcast the more confidence you will have to deliver. For me, I use visualization. This helps to create readiness in my sport but also at work. When I gave my speech at the Hockey Hall Fame, I visualized myself on stage and it really helped!

How did you feel during your Hockey Hall of Fame weekend?
You don’t really dream about being in the hockey hall of fame but when it happens it is so special. You realized it was all about everything else but hockey. It’s about the people and support that you had that played a significant role that helped me to get to this moment. I’m honored to receive this award but being given an individual award for a team sport was a little awkward. You realized that so many people had an impact on your journey that made this moment possible. To be able to celebrate this honour with everyone was truly so special. Sport has so much power to influence our growth and bring people into our lives and that weekend showed me why we want our kids to play sport. It’s not the sport itself but the friends, the experiences, and lessons that it can bring to your life.

How St-Pierre fought through adversity to reach Hall of Fame

If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
To enjoy every moment and surround yourself with great friends and energy. Remember confidence comes from within and to be a leader in your own way!

This conversation was so much fun! I couldn’t be prouder of Kim’s success and recent induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame as the recognition is so well deserved! Kim is an amazing role model that has impacted so many lives on and off the ice. One example that sticks out to me is when a friend of mine texted me one day and said, “I’m super jealous you work with Kim St-Pierre, she was my childhood hero.”

This goes to show you that you truly never know the impact you can have on others, so in the words of Kim St-Pierre “be a leader in your own way, always”.

Kyla Crocker
BOKS Canada