As far as Grant Fagerheim is concerned, the hockey rink isn’t that different from the office or classroom.
“The most successful teams are those that play for one another, not for themselves,” the Hockey Canada Foundation’s new chairman said recently. “It’s exactly the same in a business environment.With most successful companies, there are leaders that present themselves and lead by making others better, while individuals are seldom specifically named when success is achieved,” he said. “That comes from understanding teamwork and camaraderie … and how to celebrate successes and what successes are. The highs don’t get too high, and the lows don’t get too low.”
No doubt Fagerheim knows a thing or two about business success. Originally from small town Estevan, Sask., he has an undergraduate degree from the University of Calgary and attended the executive MBA program at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. He now lives with wife Penny in Calgary, where he has risen up the ranks of Alberta’s booming oil and gas industry, founding several of his own companies along the way.
Fagerheim is currently chair, president and CEO of Whitecap Resources Inc., and sits on the board of three international-based energy companies.
“It’s hard work, it’s commitment, it’s dedication,” Fagerheim said of life lessons he learned while growing up playing hockey in the Prairies, including in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, and has since applied to both his professional and personal pursuits. “Hard work and sweat equity develop good character."
He has passed that value system down to his sons, including Brandon, who is playing NCAA Division 1 for American International College in Springfield, Mass., and Brett, who is playing for the St. Albert Steel of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
His strong belief that values transfer from sport over to other life experiences is also evident in the groups he chooses to involve himself with, including the Hockey Canada Foundation, where he is entering his sixth year on the board of directors, and the Edge School for Athletes, where he just completed six years serving as board chairman.
“The Edge has three spheres in developing life skills,” Fagerheim said of values emphasized at the Calgary sports school. “They combine academics, athletics and character development.”
He’s also a proponent of financial assistance programs, including those offered at the Edge, currently for between 20 and 30 per cent of its students, and in the overall importance of young people having the opportunity to “combine the education environment together with their sport of choice.”
“We have to try and get as many kids playing the game as long as they possibly can,” Fagerheim said, explaining that means breaking down financial barriers for families who can’t afford to pay for their children to play what is becoming an increasingly pricey game. “One of the biggest initiatives that the Hockey Canada Foundation will focus on is building more facilities.”
Fagerheim said he’d like to see new hockey facilities built on or near school grounds, or within walking distance of neighbourhoods, adding “they don’t have to be high-cost facilities,” in order to get more kids into the game, benefitting from all it has to offer, both on and off the ice.
“What I’m made of is trying to think of creative and innovative ways to keep costs down for people, so they can play the game,” he said of what he plans to bring to the Hockey Canada Foundation board table. Selling and swapping used equipment, in addition to more development programming at the grassroots level and more promotion at the high performance level, will also help keep Canadian hockey at the top of its game, he said.
“There are so many life habits, so many life strategies that are developed when you play hockey,” Fagerheim said. “The foundation very much supports that, and is really just trying to attract and keep as many boys and girls playing our great sport as we possibly can.”
Whether it’s playing pond hockey back home in Estevan, or watching Canada’s National Junior Team capture the attention of an entire nation at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Calgary and Edmonton, Alta., there is something special about hockey for Fagerheim, just as there is for millions of us across the country.
And whether it’s in the rink or the board room, he’ll settle for nothing less than the best from himself – or his teammates.
“It’s one of the things that holds Canada together,” Fagerheim said. “When you think of Canada, you think of hockey.”