January 11, 2014

Clement Mixes Humor, Inspiration in LaxCon Keynote

by Paul Krome | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Convention and Fan Fest Home

Bill Clement was the US Lacrosse National Convention keynote speaker, appearing Friday night in Philadelphia, where he spent years as a member of the 'Broad Stree Bullies'-era Philadelphia Flyers. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

PHILADELPHIA – Bill Clement's keynote speech at the US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion, Friday evening centered on encouraging attendees to choose to be a leader regardless of any title that may precede their name.

"Everyone can choose to influence others," Clement said to the throng of coaches and officials inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center's ballroom to kick off the lacrosse world's largest professional development event.

The former two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Philadelphia Flyers may have made his first such choice when he was 15, leaving home for the first time to spend extended time in Chicago at a junior camp.

"I was competing for four openings with guys that were 17-20 mostly," Clement said during an interview with Lacrosse Magazine before taking the stage. "They moved us into a house with parents who had five kids. Trying to eat dinner with 10 people around the table, I got lonely. But I got two goals in the last intrasquad game and they kept me."

That tough choice not only helped launch a legendary hockey career, but it also laid the groundwork for his victory over a post-career free-fall that bottomed out in bankruptcy and depression at age 35 following a failed venture in the restaurant business.

"Hearing someone like that who had gone through the dark days and come out OK on the other side of it – there's something to learn from that," said Joey Subasic, a coach in Wheeling, W.Va., after joining about 100 autograph seekers following Clement's speech. "Being a leader, you put your neck out there and learn something from that as you go through it. I'll take that back to my kids. I bought the book on Amazon.com as I was listening in the seats. It was very beneficial, for sure."

Clement helped the Broad Street Bullies win two NHL championships in the 1970s, and his appearance at the convention had more than a few local attendees waxing nostalgic.

"I love Bill and what he stands for," said Bernadette Connor, in her first year as an assistant coach at Kean University after six successful years in the New Jersey high school ranks. "The idea of an 'EveryDay Leader' resonated with me. Everyone can be a leader some time. If the captains are down, someone else has to step up. That kind of idea is something you don't think about and the kids don't think about."

Clement mixed humor into a concise, impactful address that garnered praise among attendees. Seconds after chastising ex-athletes for dwelling on their glory days and getting the audience to repeat three times, "I will not live in the past," Clement placed his sport coat on a railing behind him, revealing "Clement 10" on the back of his dress shirt in the shape of his old jersey.

But life was not all fun and games for the former two-time NHL all-star.

"Retirement started the most interesting two-and-a-half years of my life," Clement said. "I didn't know what I was going to do. I acquired the rights to a Canadian restaurant franchise with the money I'd made and family and friends' money, and I decided I was going to open a pilot store and become this restaurant mogul in the south. By the time I was 35, I filed for corporate and personal bankruptcy. My marriage dissolved. I lost my home. I lost everything. I had no job. I had no career. I had no training. I had no college degree.

"Fighting through bouts of depression, I decided that would be a good time to figure out how this success thing works."

Clement had failed, so he took to studying successful organizations, along the way discovering the successful groups had plenty of people that he would coin "EveryDay Leaders" – those who, without regard for job titles, chose to positively influence others, confront and overcome fears, and be energy sources for those around them. He would go on to author "EveryDay Leadership: Crossing Tightropes on Gorges to Success" as part of a rebound in life that now has him acting, speaking, and covering the Flyers on Comcast SportsNet.

Clement closed with the story of explorer Norman Vaughan, who at age 88 returned, with help, to Antarctica and climbed the summit of a mountain named for him by the leader of previous expeditions there. Paraphrasing Vaughn, Clement encouraged attendees to "dream big and dare to fail."

He has certainly embodied that.

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