At the beginning of the shortened season, Coach Randy Carlyle decided he needed to change not only the way the team played, but the team’s whole culture. He renovated the locker room, adding new carpets, more bright lights, stainless steel, and a huge chunk of quarried limestone rock at the entrance to bring a modern feel to the space. As a reminder of the way he wanted his team to play, he also added the slogan “Burn the Boats!” above the whiteboard in the dressing room.
“When Spanish commander Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico in the 1500s, he decided there was no going back to Spain,” Principal Hardy said. “By burning the boats, his men had only two choices: fight, or die.”
While hockey is not life-or-death, this phrase symbolizes the attitude Carlyle wanted players to take into every game. “They had to commit to not only play hard, but to play for each other,” Principal Hardy said. “They had to work together to be successful.
“In my life, I’ve probably played on, or coached, 75-80 teams. The ones I remember most are the ones who set high expectations, and worked as hard as they could to exceed them,” he said. “Teams I have tried to forget are ones where players complained selfishly about not getting enough playing time, or about the coaching, or about each other. That kind of negativity soon takes over and gets in the way of any team goal.”
The lessons we learn from the Leafs apply in every aspect of life. “Whether you’re on the field or in the classroom, always remember to pick a goal, to stick together, and to stay positive,” Principal Hardy said.
The gathering of fans near the Air Canada Centre for May 13’s playoff game also demonstrated how lucky we are, as Canadians, to be able to use our public squares as places of celebration. “Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and Tehrir Square in Cairo, are just two examples from other parts of the world where public gatherings are a matter of life or death. To be able to use our public squares in this way is a privilege.”