As Derek Lalonde was being introduced as the new head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, he opened up a window into his philosophy of coaching. It’s a mantra we’d all do well to adopt, no matter our station in life or our career choice.
Ask just about any budding young hockey player about their future goals and it will be a shocker if they don’t answer to play in the NHL.
When he got into coaching as a college assistant, the NHL was never the carrot that Lalonde was dangling in front of his own eyes as the ultimate career objective.
"It's time, and I'm very excited about this opportunity, the next challenge in my career."
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) July 1, 2022
“Obviously I’ve coached at every level,” Lalonde said. “I’ve always had an approach throughout my career. It was never about getting to the NHL, it was never about being at the next level.”
Instead, in essence, Lalonde was adopting the philosophy of the U.S. Army. At each stop along the why, he was seeking to be all that he could be at that level.
Lalonde Put Emphasis On The Job At Hand
“I’d concentrate on where I was at,” Lalonde explained. “I wanted to be great at the position I was at. I think that’s probably why I’ve had some success at every level.”
Whether it was working as an assistant coach at Ferris State, coaching the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers, the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, the AHL’s Iowa Wild, or as an assistant with the two-time Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, Lalonde was embracing the moment. Rather than focusing on where he might be going, Lalonde put the emphasis on making the most out of the opportunity that was directly in front of him.
“I grew immensely from the experiences you have to go through,” Lalonde said. “My whole career was like that, though. It was never about getting to the next level. It was about growing, being progressive in your position and the rest of it takes care of itself.”
Derek Lalonde speaks on his growth as a coach and the importance of building good relationships with his players. Needless to say, it's a coaching style that has already yielded prime success. #LGRW pic.twitter.com/Zjc8DuKTrY
— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) July 1, 2022
It’s not necessarily the way that society tries to teach us to approach life. We’re constantly being told of the need to climb the social ladder. Move into a bigger home, acquire a fancier car. To strive for more. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Things like that.
Lalonde took the approach of giving everything he had to give to where he was in that precise moment. Making the most out of the particular opportunity in front of him and not seeing it as a rung on a ladder or the means to an end.
Lalonde’s Philosophy Is Live In The Now
He believes in living in the now. Embracing the chance presenting itself to be great at where he is at that particular moment. Doing it right because it’s the right thing to do and not because it might lead you somewhere that’s bigger and supposedly better.
“Of course, when we have success like we’re having in Tampa Bay, there’s gonna be that talk,” Lalonde said of hearing his name mentioned in connection to NHL head-coaching positions. “You’re gonna be on these lists.
“I’m not lying when I say this, but it was never about when and where. I really was entrenched in what we were doing in Tampa. That’s been my whole career, whether it was in college to wanting to be a head coach in junior and then the levels in pro hockey. It always just took care of itself. This is another example of it. It was never about, or I never envisioned, or I never was like ‘God, this might happen.’
“Probably when this playoffs was over and I was fielding some phone calls and obviously (Red WIngs GM) Steve (Yzerman) reached out. That was probably the first time when it was like, ‘Okay, this may happen’ but I was very content with staying in Tampa and working throughout that window.
“Knowing I was probably ready, if the time came, great but if not, again I was focused and content at the job I was doing and that was to be as great as I could be for the Tampa Bay Lightning.”
At the top of the hockey coaching pyramid, Lalonde isn’t going to change his approach. It’s taken him to the ultimate occupation in his profession, so why would he want to alter his path?
“I just think the timing of this, the growth, the things I’ve learned throughout the way, it’s perfect,” Lalonde said. “It’s time. I’m very excited about this opportunity, the next challenge in that career.”