From the Ivy League to the Big League: NHL Champion Kevin Westgarth

This story was featured on NHL.com.


To NHL Stanley Cup Champion Kevin Westgarth, the value of learning hockey does not lie solely in the fact that it makes you better at the sport.

"The true value of hockey is that it makes you a better person, giving you skills on the ice, in the classroom, and eventually in the work place," he told a crowd at Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) on Tuesday. "The best part is that while you are learning, you're making lifelong friends and memories along the way."

WAB invited Kevin, a Princeton University graduate, on campus to speak to the Beijing community as part of its Distinguished Speaker Series. Leading up to the National Hockey League's (NHL) inaugural China Games in Beijing and Shanghai in September, Kevin shared his hockey story, the lessons he learned along the way, and coached students through a shootout against the WAB Tiger mascot.

Kevin said he hoped the kids and parents at WAB took away two things from their time together. One is that hockey makes you a better person, not just a better athlete.

"The second is that just because we're good in one area – whether it's school, music or sports – doesn't mean we can't be good at everything. We should ask ourselves for excellence in all areas of our lives, working hard to achieve our best."

Before signing autographs and playing hockey in Founders' with the kids, Kevin shared the eight values he learned on his hockey journey – from his parents, brother, coaches, teammates and friends.

Work Ethic and Respect

Kevin grew up in a town of 8,000, where the Ivy League and NHL seemed a million miles away. It didn't seem realistic. While Kevin and his brother played many sports, his parents always stressed the importance of an education and well-balanced life. "It was always a battle to manage your time and take care of business in the classroom. I saw the way my parents worked hard, and the lessons I learned from them were reinforced on the ice. I learned not only to respect my parents, but everyone including my teammates, coaches, and even opponents."

Humility and Perseverance

At the age of 13, when most hockey players who have dreams of making it to a higher level expect to start making progress, Kevin was cut from his Triple-A team.

"It taught me to be humble. It taught me that if I wanted to live my dream then I was going to have to stick with it and work harder than everybody around me."

Confidence and Team Work

Looking around Princeton and seeing so many accomplished and brilliant people, Kevin said he lost confidence in his own abilities. "With the support I got from my teammates playing hockey at Princeton, I was able to overcome that. I learned confidence on the ice, and took it off the ice. Demanding excellence should become a habit in anything you decide to spend your time on."

Kevin talked about his underdog LA Kings team in 2012, which, through great efforts as a team, overcame all odds to win hockey's greatest prize, the Stanley Cup.

"That was the most surreal and amazing experiences of my life. It was hard to believe it was actually happening. I still pinch myself when I see videos of it, because it was an absolute dream come true."

Communication and Discipline

Kevin's first shot at playing professionally came during his final year of university. His professors allowed him to finish his coursework while playing for a team five hours away from campus, which required great communication and discipline. While his teammates were watching DVDs after practice, Kevin was in his room studying and finalizing his thesis. "It was a great lesson. I graduated with a degree from Princeton, and my brother had taken a year off, so we actually graduated the same year. [My parents,] Reg and Gilda Westgarth were a couple happy parents when they came to the Princeton graduation that year."

To learn more about how WAB connects its community with influential speakers, visit our Distinguished Speaker Series page.

Watch the entire DSS Presentation below.