As a rookie in the NHL, Mike Reilly said he had his Minnesota Wild teammates to provide leadership and guide him as he embarked on his pro hockey career.
But as a student at the Breck School in Golden Valley, Reilly said he had different kinds of leaders, and people who were instrumental in getting him through a very different time.
Reilly talked about all kinds of leadership when he spoke to approximately 60 fourth graders at Breck on Thursday, returning to his old stomping grounds.
"In terms of leadership, it's something that's really important in life," Reilly said. "Whoever you can look up to, whether it's a family member, maybe an older friend, something of that sort, it's going to help you out and benefit you for sure."
From kindergarten through eighth grade, Reilly attended Breck, where he said his two older brothers and his teachers, some of whom he got a chance to get reacquainted with during his latest visit, were instrumental leaders.
"I was lucky to come to school here with my brothers," he said. "I'd be walking down the halls, seeing them running, talking to their friends, and they were two guys who kind of paved the way for me to where I am today. They kind of set me straight, and really had a big impact on my life. They're big leaders to me."
Now, Reilly said, he has the likes of Mikko Koivu, the Wild's captain, whom Reilly said took him under his wing and showed him the ropes during his first NHL training camp about a year ago.
Between Koivu, and an experienced group of Wild defensemen, Reilly said there are many different types of leaders, but encouraged the fourth-graders at Breck to be themselves, and whatever kind of leader that is.
"You've got the more vocal leader, which is somebody who is kind of talking a lot, communicating, always trying to help their teammate," Reilly said. "Then another one is someone who leads more by example.
"You don't have to change who you are as a person, and I know you guys are young, but just for me throughout the years I've been around a lot of great people that definitely have been role models to me."
Reilly talked about his time at Breck, relating it to his current journey. A year ago, Reilly became the freshest fish in a bigger pond that is the NHL. Prior to that, Reilly was a leader at the University of Minnesota, where he spent three seasons, and was a leader in his time there.
"I'm such a young guy right now, I'm one of the youngest guys on the team, so they've been great to me," Reilly said. "That's kind of the position I'm in right now, trying to learn from the older people. It's definitely a new role I've been put into, but over time you guys will learn."
Not unlike the position the fourth-graders are in now, Reilly said, when the soon-to-be middle school students will go from being looked up to, to looking up to older students.
"I'm sure next year when you guys are in fifth grade and you're kind of looking up to the eighth-graders, that's definitely a big thing I looked up to," Reilly said. "I'm sure there are going to be a lot of great kids out there that are looking down to you and showing you the way … because I remember coming up to fifth grade looking up to these eighth-graders and thinking, 'Wow, they're so cool.'"
After Reilly spoke for about 10 minutes, the floor got opened for questions. After first being asked to make sure the questions were specific to leadership, hands shot up when the teachers gave their students permission to ask anything.
And ask they did, with questions ranging from how many sticks he's broken ("I don't break too many sticks."); to if he will be the Minnesota Wild's captain next year ("No, I will not be the captain next year."); to if the students were getting a good experience at Breck ("Yeah, there are a lot of things to look forward to. I remember in sixth grade we had the Washington, D.C. trip, which I'm sure you guys have heard about. There's a lot of other things to look forward to and cherish with your classmates.").
The visit finished with Reilly signing an autograph for each fourth-grader, and then a quick detour to find his seventh grade history teacher, whom Reilly spent a few minutes catching up with.