In Part 2, Dean is asked about his decision to become a lawyer…his baseball and hockey careers as a player…how he categorizes NHL players…
JF: Let’s change the tact and just talk about the law and your interest in it. We all have decisions to make and crossroads but that was a pretty intensive decision, to go that way?
DL: I think I probably made that when I was realized I wasn’t going to be a pro hockey player. I had a couple of good teachers in college but what fascinated me…the first time was my junior year of college. You start to think about what you’re going to do afterward and so it was a lot of philosophy tied into the preparation and it was the first time I started learning to “think”. I mentioned that in the speech when I went back to Tulane…about regurgitation. I got straight A’s in college but it was regurgitation. It was my work ethic, again, I wasn’t going to be beat because it all goes back to your father’s values about working your tail off, but it was taking notes, get the teacher back-and I got straight A’s, I got one B in four years but “it wasn’t thinking”. I started getting a touch of that my junior and senior year…from my teachers…to start delving into philosophy. There’s no right or wrong answer and it starts with Plato’s Republic and you work you’re way up and you realize, when they start asking, wow it doesn’t lend itself to “black and white”. And in a lot of ways I found that fascinating and it’s the first time where you learn the saying-“intelligence is asking the right questions”-“issue recognition”-“speaking precisely” and so it probably was not the law per se but it was the first time I was being taught to think and that’s a very different thing than just reading and writing and that’s what law school is all about, it’s not necessarily you’re learning the law. I always tell this story about how my first semester of law school was C’s and I never seen a C and I was devastated. I had some great teachers that pulled me out, I graduated with honors once I figured it out but that was a huge hurdle. You’ve got to think here, this isn’t about this and those skills, I use them every day, every moment and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. So I don’t think it’s the law per se, it was that “training of the mind” that I think we take for granted so much.
JF: You touched a little bit on it earlier so I’m going to ask you two different things. What type of player were you in baseball and what type of player were you in hockey?
DL: Oh ballplayer…I could throw a curve ball at eight years old, it could drop off a table…that’s the only natural ability I ever had in sports. I was playing at legion level at 15, which was pretty young, but the athletic ability, the ability to run, I didn’t have that. But hockey provided a way where…baseball…they’re fat and everything else…it’s hard to play like this (gritting his teeth) and hockey provided you a way of, okay, I can’t get to the top of baseball because I just can’t run a 3.3 down the baseline and my fast ball is now topped out at 88 and you’re not…you can see the guys when you start getting up there, you see these guys…oh holy smokes…look at his legs…so strong…incredible athletes…the first time I saw a guy get a full-boat to Michigan and I was like holy smoke…guy’s got a cannon…can run like a deer, it’s like whoa, but hockey was the way. I played a little as a kid but hockey you can go further, it came down to grit (gritting his teeth again), like I say ‘you can’t get mad at a baseball’ (gritting his teeth AGAIN) or grinding out so to speak, but I always loved hockey more, I was a better ball player but I loved hockey more. I think we were much closer as teammates. Back then, certainly you know, where I was from the “toughness element” back then you didn’t have to wear the mouth guards or the face shields so the fights were whatever (tough) and I took the bus rides, again I wasn’t your junior hockey (OHL/Ottawa 67’s) but New England junior hockey was pretty big at the time but hockey was…it fit my personality better because if you had a work ethic and willing to pay the price, it seemed to lend itself to that more than anything. Essentially I was captain of every team I ever played on from the time I was eight years old on and up and it wasn’t the talent, it was all about, again, work and being a teammate. So when I saw guys that were out of line as far as teammates I gave them a lesson my father taught me. (Laughing) ‘DAMN did he hit me hard’, I’ll never forget that…it came…you don’t know where it was coming from-DAMN-(remembering back in time)…to this day, I still remember exactly where I was standing’!
JF: One of my first conversations I ever had with you, you went through the levels-categorizing players. “Player”, “Star”, “Superstar” and then “Winner”. How easy is it to identify that? Maybe I should say, how difficult?
DL: I think at times you can see it, you really can, but it also can be learned. I’m convinced that a player in the right atmosphere…you talk about the Red Wings…I think that’s an “environmental skill” as much as an “innate skill”. Yes you have your guys like Clarke (Bobby Clarke), they have that certain “IT” or whatever, we’ve talked about Mike Richards, he always has that certain “It”, Jeter (Derek ) clearly, Montana (Joe), the great ones…Larry Bird, so there is a segment of born leaders but Vince Lombardi said it best, ‘Leaders are about hard work and you can work at being a leader‘. (Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal)…so Lombardi, if you read that famous quote, I think he’s dead on, like any other walk of life right? There are piano players who just pick right, guitar players, pick any skill you want…it’s a very small segment but what broadens it is people who work towards those values every day and you’re in the right environment, somebody’s there to guide them, keep them on the right line.
I think that’s why when you see dynasty’s or whatever then they say ‘handing down the mantel or the flame’…the Montreal Canadiens had it…what’s being handed down…what it means to be a champion. And so that’s why you’ve heard me say ‘culture, culture, culture’…people talk culture all the time but you got to “do” culture and that’s a lot of work and that’s again why you can say its micromanaging but it’s not. When you sit in this seat, everything has to be done right, it’s not to be anal about counting the paper clips but these guys like Vince Lombardi and Lou Lamoriello and things, ‘what they’re after is culture’. And it’s every little thing and the belief you put in a good person, a good athlete with the right values in that setting and you can “breed them”, and once you got it, it’s an incredibly powerful thing. You see Detroit (Red Wings)…how many times have you seen them through the years rise to the occasion at big moments and again you know what the Yankees are all about, so that can be taught or put in the right seedling…no question…Lombardi said a long time ago and I think he’s dead on.