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Leading by example

by Derek Jory @NoJoryous / Canucks writer

Carolyn Crippen and her husband Al were at home channel surfing in December 2009 when they stumbled upon a Canucks game. The couple, which relocated from Manitoba to BC a year prior, knew nothing of the Canucks, or their opponent, but they're Canadian and hockey is hockey.

Crippen was awe-struck by everything, and two players in particular.

"There were these two guys with red hair and red beards, they certainly caught my eye," explained Crippen. "I watched their dynamics and listened to the announcers talk about them being the Sedin twins. It was truly something."

Crippen, an associate prof of Leadership Studies at University of Victoria, is a qualitative researcher who focuses on servant leadership. She recognized something unique about Daniel and Henrik Sedin, something familiar.

The Sedins exemplify servant leadership.

Seven years later Crippen has published three papers on the Sedins, her most recent titled "A Case Study of Servant Leadership in the NHL," published December 2016 in Volume 48, Number 1 of Interchange, A Quarterly Review of Education.

Crippen visited Rogers Arena Monday to discuss her recent case study with the media.

In her latest paper, Crippen investigates the organizational culture of the Canucks, beginning with Pat Quinn and moving through Trevor Linden to focus on Daniel and Henrik, who she deems to be exemplary examples of servant leaders.

What is servant leadership?

Crippen references Robert Greenleaf, the founder of the modern Servant leadership movement, stating: "The philosophy of servant leadership illustrates the values of character, the belief in putting others first, of working collaboratively, and making wise decisions in an organization and using experiences of the past to show foresight in the present and future. It lateralizes leadership within an organization."

To Crippen, the Sedins display evidence of The 7 Pillars of Servant Leadership, as first introduced by James Sipe and Don Frick. They include: putting the needs of other people first, being skilled communicators, being compassionate collaborators who build teams and community and displaying a moral authority including responsibility and creating a culture of accountability.

That sure sounds like the pair of 16-year Canucks veterans who have amazed us with their Sedinery since 2000-01.

After watching a few games on TV, Crippen knew she was on to something. She began religiously filling notebooks with observations from games, TV and radio interviews and print articles, and before long she knew as much about the Sedins as anyone. It was time to take her research a step further and interview Daniel and Henrik, which proved to be impossible at first.

"I mentioned it to one of my students that I'd like to speak with the Sedins," said Crippen. "He laughed and told me that wasn't going to happen. I laughed back and reminded him I'm an old lady, I wasn't going to hit on them - this was for research!"

Emails from Crippen explaining her research and outlining her request began arriving at Rogers Arena and although she didn't get an immediate response, she pressed on.

More emails, more emails, more emails. Even some phone calls.

Remember in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when the owls are inundating the Dursley home with Hogwarts acceptance letters? It wasn't quite that intense, but Crippen was not taking no for an answer.

She was given a sit-down with the Sedins in 2011, and 70-minutes, a full notebook and two tape recorders later, Crippen had not only confirmed her Sedin servant leadership theory, she became a fan of the brothers.

"They are two of the most humane and genuine people, not just athletes, but people, I've ever met," she said. "They're exactly what you want to see in role models for children, they take the high-road and lead by example. They are the real deal and what you see is what you get."

The 36-year-old Sedins won't play hockey forever, despite fitting the ageless wonder mold to a tee. One day they'll hang up their skates and their jerseys will be be raised to the rafters at Rogers Arena, but Crippen says their legacy will be forever felt within the Canucks.

"They have influenced the organizational culture by maintaining a solid work ethic, a humbleness, respect, plus responsibility and accountability to themselves, their team, and the Canuck organization," she wrote.

"They are examples of positive, well-prepared athletes whose civility and respect define them on and off the ice and they are the legitimate cultural carriers for the Vancouver Canucks and its legacy for good."

Crippen hasn't missed a game since accidently finding the Canucks and their servant leaders eight years ago and she doesn't intend on missing one any time soon.

"Everything happens for a reason," she laughed. "I was meant to find the Canucks and the Sedins and I'm grateful it happened."

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