Ah…The Wonders of Golf

What? Not a hockey post? Well, it kind of is.

It’s mainly about a lesson I learned last summer when I was at the NHL Awards and the NHLPA meetings (and also a lesson that most of you should learn that are trying to become a big player in any kind of business).

But let me start off with an activity that’s even more boring to me than anything else in the world…POKER.

While I could care less for poker…everything I ever learned about poker and the various variations of the game…I learned from hockey players.

Crazy, huh? But it’s true. I learned all about the game as well as how it ties into the game of hockey from some of the biggest names in the sport…that is, the sport of hockey and the ‘sport’ of poker.

Understanding poker is very important…and I’ll explain later.

While I was in Vegas, I was invited to go golfing with a few hockey players. Sure, I was sick and weak because of the allergic reaction I was having to all of the cigarette smoke, but I was also missing out on an important opportunity.

I would have been the only member of the media out on the golf course with all of these hockey players. Oh, I had a list of everyone that was going, but I said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to play golf.”

It was then that I realized…like poker…I could have gotten ahead of the game as a hockey columnist, out on the greens talking about X, Y and Z with some of the biggest names in hockey. But because I didn’t know how to play golf, I missed out on an opportunity to get ahead.

Lesson learned.

Sure, playing golf has always been on my list of things to do in this lifetime, but I never put forth an effort to cross that item off of my list. Now, I can.

While everyone’s been staying toasty indoors, I’ve been down at Chelsea Piers (NYC) learning how to play golf (outside in the freezing cold). I’m preparing during the hockey season for the off-season.

Sure, I’ve been concerned that my doctor would say no to this, but I don’t see how she could say no. Playing hockey…sure, I can understand why both of my doctors would say ‘Absolutely NO!’ But golf…there’s no way I’d get that answer.

When I first started out, I was concerned with how my lungs would react to it (since I have half lung capacity and the lungs are prone to malfunctioning with too much stress or exertion). After my first full day of hitting balls…I was so excited that I had finally found a physical activity that I could do that required no stress on my lungs whatsoever. Tie in the zenlike peacefulness that goes into watching the ball sail across the green and then fall to the ground…and I just may have found my new sport.

Now I’m starting to get why people love this game so much.

But I’m not the only hockey type that is frequenting the Chelsea Piers driving range. There are retired hockey players like THE Captain that shows up rather frequently. He’s just one of those guys that wants to become a pro-golfer. [Things you pick up when you share the same instructors as the biggest names in hockey.]

Now, if I wasn’t learning how to play golf do you think I’d pick up on that information? It’s just like Mats Sundin announcing that he was going to become a pro-poker player when he retired (learned that bit of information directly from Mats in Las Vegas).

And for those who don’t know…Mats is currently a pro-poker player. He released that information directly through Inside Hockey (thanks to the only reporter in the room covering the poker game back in Las Vegas learning everything she ever needed to know about poker from a bunch of hockey players…i.e. ME).

So there are benefits in understanding what happens off the ice just as well as knowing what happens on the ice. But I will tell you something, you learn more when you are off the ice.

Someone told me recently that knowing how to play golf is one of the most critical things you should know if you want to succeed in business. It doesn’t matter what business you are in. So much of the world’s business is actually conducted on a golf course. The people that get ahead in this world are the ones that are on the golf course.

That was told to me by a woman. And you know what…she’s right.

When you spend hours upon hours with these guys focused on a different kind of sport, you start to understand hockey better. With poker, I learned how important strategy comes into play, especially as it relates to developing strategies on the ice. This is where the term ‘smart hockey’ comes into play.

On the golf course, you learn how to connect with the play rather than just hitting a puck into the net.

You learn the different elements that go into being a professional hockey player. It goes far beyond just the game of hockey.

That’s how I learn about hockey…not based on what’s happening on the ice. Everything I know about hockey is what I learned from hockey players off the ice while playing a different kind of game.

Now, from a single female standpoint…I can’t tell you how many men have hit on me after seeing me with a set of golf clubs. Even the guys going into the driving range will stop and say hello to me. It’s like a major pickup joint…this golf thing.

Even if the guys don’t play golf, they immediately start hitting on you the second they see the golf clubs in hand. Trust me…I had the box of Callaway golf clubs on Friday and so many guys stopped to talk to me (even in line at Starbucks). [Oh, and one guy forgot his girlfriend was with him. Big no, no, but I’m glad I got out of there before World War 3 erupted in the NHL’s Starbucks.]

So there are a lot of benefits to playing golf (especially as a woman).

For the budding hockey columnist, golf is your ticket to bigger things. Can you imagine what you would learn spending several hours with hockey players off the ice instead of the 15-30 minutes after a game in the locker room?

I spent 13 hours with Roberto Luongo while he was playing cards [something we joke about…especially when it comes to spending our 3 hours with Lord Stanley]. Pat LaFontaine, Glenn Anderson, Mats Sundin, Scott Hartnell, Jeremy Roenick, Sheldon Souray, Alexander Ovechkin, Kris Versteeg, Eddie Olczyk, Georges Laraque…and many other names…were all there too. I spent multiple hours with those guys all in the name of poker…and I learned a lot from them.

I even picked up “The Outliers” because Pat LaFontaine told me to…he had been reading it on the airplane on the way to Vegas (which I actually DO NOT RECOMMEND reading this particular book while you’re on a plane…I was reading it between Santorini, Greece and London…it freaked me out reading about plane crashes while I was sitting on a plane flying over the Swiss Alps).

How many of us can sit down with hockey players for hours and talk about hockey to this degree? This goes beyond a standard interview.

Just imagine spending several hours out on the golf course with some of the top hockey players in the league. You don’t get an invite like that too often…that’s why I’m taking them up on the invitation next time they ask. Why? Because people that get ahead in this business are the ones talking about hockey out on the golf course with the elite of the hockey league…or we’re in a VIP room talking about poker. Same thing.

Because guess what? Hockey…poker…golf…all essential things you need to know to get ahead in this business called hockey. Not everything takes place in a locker room or in a press box.

Now…I have a former NHLer to email (no, it’s not Shanny)…so today’s post is for all of you up and comers. :)

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