Warning…after reading this BLOG you will never be able to look at (or eat) ham and eggs the same way ever again.
I heard an amazing speaker this weekend at my sons’ hockey camp. Lou Vairo was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1945. He has directed national and professional hockey teams in both the United States and Europe for three decades. Vairo’s coaching resume is vast and includes being former Assistant Coach for the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils, head coach for the U.S. Men’s National Hockey Team from 2000-2003 and head coach for the 1984 U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey Team. In 2014, Lou Vairo was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.


Coach Vairo studied under the legendary Anatoly Tarasov. Tarasov is considered “the father of Russian ice hockey” and established the Soviet Union national team as “the dominant force in international competition”. The Soviet National Ice Hockey Teamwon nearly every world championship and Olympic tournament between 1954 and 1991 and never failed to medal in any International Ice Hockey Federation tournament they competed in.
Coach Vairo once asked the father of Russian Ice Hockey what was the most important quality to look for in a hockey player and in building a championship team? Anatoly Tarasov, who was one of the first Russians to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, answered snarkily, “Ham and Eggs!”.
When Vairo pushed Anatoly Tarasov to expand…here was his response.


“The difference between a good hockey player and a great one is the same difference between being dedicated versus being committed. Eggs come from chickens. Ham comes from pigs. Chickens lay an egg once a day and then walk away. They are dedicated. Pigs, on the other hand, must get slaughtered to make ham. They are committed. If you want to build a championship team you need to look for pigs, not chickens!”


Pigs, not chickens. Ham, not Eggs. That was the secret sauce for Russian hockey world dominance for nearly four decades.


When I was a teenager growing up in Rockland County, New York I remember a conversation I had with my father. I wasn’t much of a complainer as a kid, but I remember asking my father why I had five part-time jobs, while most of my friends had none. At twelve years old I had my own newspaper route. At thirteen years old I had my own snow shoveling business…grew it big enough that I bought my own gas-powered snow blowing machine. When I was fourteen, I started to work at McDonalds. At fifteen I worked at the local florist shop in my hometown. And at sixteen I started delivering pizza for Domino’s. I remember complaining to my father that most of my friends were going on summer vacations and sleep away camps…and I was flipping burgers, pruning flowers and delivering hot pizza pies across town.


My father did not know the “father of Russian Hockey”, Anatoly Tarasov. He did not give me the Ham & Eggs speech…telling me the difference between a chicken and a pig. But my father did tell me something that stuck with me forever. “All these part-time jobs that you have as a teenager will help you grow a work ethic in you that will prove to be successful as an adult.”


I remember my junior year of college. I was walking the halls of my fraternity house with my, then graduated big brother, Chris Townsend. I didn’t complain much in college, but I remember telling my big brother how frustrated I was that 10% of the brotherhood did 100% of the work around the house. I remember complaining to Chris that most of the brotherhood sit on the couch and play video games while I’m President of the fraternity, working four jobs…at a car wash, waiting tables at Chico’s Mexican Restaurant, bartending at Cameron’s Bar & Grill and was a care attendant for my roommate who was a quadriplegic. “Why do they get to sit on their butts all day while a few of us do all the hard work?” I asked.
My fraternity big brother did not know the “father of Russian Hockey”, Anatoly Tarasov. He did not give me the Ham & Eggs speech…telling me the difference between a chicken and a pig. But Chris Townsend did tell me something that stuck with me forever. “All the guys going through college sitting on the couch will be the same guys going through life sitting on the couch!”


So, the father of Russian hockey was right. There is a difference between ham and eggs. There is a difference between a chicken and a pig. You want a championship team? You want a winning culture? You want to reach unprecedented success? Then you need to surround yourself with teammates and work colleagues that know the difference between being dedicated and being committed. It is not enough to just lay an egg. We need to put our lives on the line and make ham. And when you put a team of pigs together…you will build a winning resume like Lou Vairo and Anatoly Tarasov…and like them, have thirty to forty years of world dominance on and off the ice!