As part part of the 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging, Kevin Westgarth, the League's Vice President of Business Development & International Affairs, visited the Western Academy of Beijing on Tuesday to share his hockey story with the students. Chris Clark, the PR & Digital Communications Specialist at the school, was there. Here is his story:
To Stanley Cup champion Kevin Westgarth, the value of learning hockey does not lie solely in the fact that it makes you better at the sport.
"The true value of hockey is that it makes you a better person, giving you skills on the ice, in the classroom, and eventually in the work place," Westgarth, the NHL's Vice President of Business Development & International Affiars, told a crowd at Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) on Tuesday. "The best part is that while you are learning, you're making lifelong friends and memories along the way."
WAB invited Westgarth, a member of the 2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, on campus to speak to the Beijing community as part of its Distinguished Speaker Series. Leading up to the 2017 NHL China Games in Beijing and Shanghai, he shared his hockey story, the lessons he learned along the way, and coached students through a shootout against the WAB Tiger mascot.
Westgarth said he hoped the kids and parents at WAB took away two things from their time together. One is that hockey makes you a better person, not just a better athlete.
"The second is that just because we're good in one area -- whether it's school, music or sports -- doesn't mean we can't be good at everything," he said. "We should ask ourselves for excellence in all areas of our lives, working hard to achieve our best."
Before signing autographs and playing hockey in Founders' with the kids, Westgarth shared the eight values he learned on his hockey journey -- from his parents, brother, coaches, teammates and friends.
Work Ethic and Respect
Westgarth, who attended Princeton University, grew up in a town of 8,000, where the Ivy League and NHL seemed a million miles away. It didn't seem realistic. While Kevin and his brother played many sports, his parents always stressed the importance of an education and well-balanced life. "It was always a battle to manage your time and take care of business in the classroom. I saw the way my parents worked hard, and the lessons I learned from them were reinforced on the ice," he said. "I learned not only to respect my parents, but everyone including my teammates, coaches, and even opponents."
Humility and Perseverance
At the age of 13, when most hockey players who have dreams of making it to a higher level expect to start making progress, Westgarth was cut from his Triple-A team.
"It taught me to be humble. It taught me that if I wanted to live my dream then I was going to have to stick with it and work harder than everybody around me."
Confidence and Team Work
Looking around Princeton and seeing so many accomplished and brilliant people, Westgarth said he lost confidence in his own abilities. "With the support I got from my teammates playing hockey at Princeton, I was able to overcome that. I learned confidence on the ice, and took it off the ice. Demanding excellence should become a habit in anything you decide to spend your time on."
He talked about his underdog Kings team in 2012, which, through great efforts as a team, overcame all odds to win the Stanley Cup.
"That was the most surreal and amazing experiences of my life," Westgarth said. "It was hard to believe it was actually happening. I still pinch myself when I see videos of it, because it was an absolute dream come true."
Communication and Discipline
Kevin's first shot at playing professionally came during his final year at Princeton. His professors allowed him to finish his coursework while playing for a team five hours away from campus, which required great communication and discipline. While his teammates were watching DVDs after practice, Westgarth was in his room studying and finalizing his thesis. "It was a great lesson. I graduated with a degree from Princeton, and my brother had taken a year off, so we actually graduated the same year. [My parents,] Reg and Gilda Westgarth were a couple happy parents when they came to the Princeton graduation that year."
To learn more about how WAB connects its community with influential speakers, visit our Connect page.