All of us in Chicago are still giddy celebrating the huge Stanley Cup victory of our beloved Blackhawks – with two million people expected to line Monroe Street for a spectacular parade. I admit to being a latecomer to the fan base – but I’ve loved cheering during the playoff games and finally feel like I can follow the puck, most of the time. But it was a moment after the final win that struck me. Jonathan Toews, just 27 years old and an outstanding captain for the team, raised the 35 pound cup high into the air. He held it for a minute or two, and then everyone wondered who he would choose to hand the cup to next. Would it be the remarkable MVP Duncan Keith? How about the amazing goalkeeper Corey Crawford? Or maybe scoring phenom Patrick Kane? All of those are great choices…but Toews went a different direction.
Character is evident in the small but significant decisions a leader makes in key moments. The Hawks captain deliberately handed the cup to a 39 year old veteran hockey player, Kimmo Timonen, who retired after this game but had never before been on the Stanley Cup winning team. What a classy move by Toews, to honor the long career of Timonen and acknowledge that every player on the team, no matter how many minutes of play they skated on the ice or sat on the bench, contributed in some way to the victory. As the Chicago Tribune editorial page stated, “The Blackhawks have given Chicago a thrilling winner of a team, but there is something else there: a reassuring knack for getting caught doing and saying the right things about teamwork, preparation and dedication.”
Church leaders, corporate leaders, and academic leaders could all take a lesson from Jonathan Toews. Do we seek to honor those who have gone before us, those who have faithfully paved the way and are coming to the close of a career or ministry? Are we the first one to, in effect, hand them the cup and acknowledge that we know we all stand on the shoulders of others? I would guess that all of us can think of at least one person who opened up a door for us, who left a legacy of wisdom and skill, who is worth a note or a moment of thanks. Let’s not assume that individual knows how deeply they are appreciated. Let’s take the time to let them know and hoist a cup of honor and praise.