ANTHONY CALVILLO

Greg Meakin’s
MASLOW AWARD

A Maslow Award is my own creation, and formally honors individuals I have personally met who have greatly inspired me, and in some cases changed my life. I have always had an obsession with excellence, and this is my way to identify and applaud these truly elite people, and to hopefully pay tribute in an insightful and personal way.

These tributes I write are not just meant to recognize incredible achievement. I also hope they encourage younger people to watch and learn from these individuals; to recognize and chase their own personal dreams and goals in life – regardless of how lofty or “unlikely” those dreams might appear. The active, daily pursuit of a happy and fulfilled life is the rallying cry to youngsters here, and us youngsters at heart :

Keep striving for the top of your pyramid in life, whatever that may be. It’s so cool when you reach it.

A common trait I’ve discovered about these “Maslow” individuals, is they had no idea when they were growing up just how successful they would become, never mind the top of the pyramid of success and happiness. This is so important to realize. They just continued climbing the ladder of life, and did not quit along the way.

A Maslow Award winner must have indeed reached the very, very top of his or her field. A winner can also be a team, like the 1972 Miami Dolphins, or even a non-human champion, like Secretariat. Or, as with the less famous I will write about in the future, they have overcome a virtually impossible obstacle in life, and still reached the top.

So, Greg Meakin’s message here is especially for Millennials, and the upcoming Generation-Zs:

Reach for the stars everyday. Don’t give up. And most importantly, question everything, and don’t follow the crowd. Never give up on love, happiness, or success. That’s all, really. That’s all any of us need.”

And, the winner is


ANTHONY CALVILLO
Anthony Calvillo photo credit thestar.com V2.jpg
I have yet to meet an American who even knows the name Anthony Calvillo. And only the rare American journalist, like ESPN’s Chris Berman, knows his name. Matter of fact, Berman correctly acknowledges Calvillo as the top passing quarterback in the history of professional football. Number One. Just ahead of that Peyton Manning fellow.

And I don’t care if it’s Pop Warner football, throwing for more yards than Peyton Manning is a bunch of yards.

In 2011, Berman devoted his 2-minute drill segment to Anthony Calvillo, recognizing him as having surpassed Brett Favre at the time, and describing him as a “Montreal civic treasure.” The video, full of classic Chris Berman Quebecois schtick, is still on YouTube, and is worth a watch. Especially for you America dudes who think you’re really, really smart about football.

Watch two-minute video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZozDXcyg8MA

Yes, Anthony Calvillo is the top passing quarterback in the history of professional football, with 79,816 yards. I love cold, hard statistics, and that number is absolutely ridiculous. Just a few more tosses to Cahoon and you’d hit 80,000 yards? Are you kidding?

I didn’t realize Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas had such paltry 40,000-yard careers.

This combined with a 20-YEAR career (a pro football Old Folks Club with only a handful of members with names like Blanda) definitely drives Calvillo into Maslow territory.

(And in this conversation, I have no desire to debate the purist NFL fans about the merits of the CFL. Not the place, and not relevant. This piece is about excellence, and the featured gentleman here is the poster-child for pure and utter excellence).

Anthony Calvillo, for a big bucket full of reasons other than gridiron exploits, is the prototype of what I call a complete Maslow guy.

Obviously, I deeply admire Mr. Calvillo, but not just from watching him play for my Montreal Alouettes. Indeed, having moved to the Seattle area in 1983, and becoming one of those crazy Seahawks fans, I just didn’t follow Canadian football that much anymore. I watched the odd game and a few Grey Cups on TV, but not to the extent of the good ol’ Johnny Rodgers, Marv Levy, Mark Kosmos days I

followed so rabidly in the ’70s.Anthony Calvillo photo credit NBC Sports.jpg

To get the feel of this quarterback’s impact on the city of Montreal, I relied on my brother, and my old football buddies back there. Much like the love Seattle has for Russell Wilson, all raved about Anthony Calvillo. My pals had endless kudos about his play on the field, of course, but what always seemed to be brought up was his manhood and class off the field. Especially with his family, and devotion to charitable causes. The ultimate Role Model, in an age where they are so needed.

His career success is incredible. He is statistically the best-of-the-best in Canadian football, and with three championship rings, he was a first round CFL Hall of Famer – and also a first round Maslow Award winner, of course!

But Maslow winners stand much taller than just numbers and awards. Where my personal admiration of this man really came into focus was only a few years ago. My brother Bob, sadly and suddenly was stricken with pancreatic cancer. He was blessed to have spent his last days in comfort at an amazing facility, West Island Palliative Care in Pointe Claire, Quebec.

Bob lived for football, almost from birth, and his eyes flew open with disbelief when he watched Anthony Calvillo stroll into his room that afternoon. It was just, “Hi Bob,” from Anthony. The hour he quietly spent with my brother, later presenting him with an autographed football and handwritten personal message, melted my heart. Those of us who witnessed this man’s warmth towards my brother that day were completely moved.

Afterward, I was able to visit with him and meet his gracious wife, Alexia, and two wonderful daughters, Athena and Olivia. He is a proud papa, and is thrilled his girls are growing up bilingual. He loves multicultural Montreal, and plans to continue raising his family there. I told him I was surprised he wasn’t returning to the U.S. to spend his retirement, especially having been a California kid.

But, I guess it is a living testament of his love for Montreal, and Montreal’s love for him.

I took him aside in the lobby, and thanked him for spending time with my brother the way he did. I relayed that Bob was thrilled, and deeply honored to have him visit.

This is where Anthony Calvillo took a moment and said quietly, “The honour was mine.”

Not to be mushy here, but there was something about that moment I will remember forever. How calmly he said it. How deeply he looked into my eyes. I believed him. I believed he was completely touched in his own heart, just to have been able to make Bob Meakin happy that afternoon. Just for Bob.

I realized then that Anthony Calvillo is a very special guy. I told him I wanted to write about him in the future, especially to introduce him to people who have no idea who he is. His humility, compassion, and gentlemanly demeanor reminded me of another special guy – the late great Jean Beliveau.

In fact, since meeting Anthony, I have described him on blogs as a modern day Jean Beliveau – an incredible sports legend, but also an incredible example of a class act. A true gentleman.

And as a final note here, I so look forward to visiting with Anthony Calvillo in Montreal, for a sit-down interview after the Alouettes season is over. I plan on learning more about what makes this gentleman tick. Also, what I have not discussed this time around, is Anthony’s tough childhood in East L.A., and his and Alexia’s courageous battle with cancer. Those are definitely stand-alone discussions I will write about after the first of the year.

So, trying desperately to not sound too Man-Crushy here, it’s so cool to be scheduling a date with Anthony Calvillo. Just a sports junkie’s dream, perhaps?

Or, maybe just a Writer’s Maslow Moment of my own.

Probably both.


Copyright 2018 Greg Meakin

Anthony Calvillo photo credit Montreal Gazette.jpg

Anthony Calvillo photo credit cbc.ca.jpgAnthony Calvillo photo credit Montreal Alouettes.jpgAnthony Calvillo photo credit thestar.com.jpg

Wayne Gretzky

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Photo: Greg Meakin and Wayne Gretzky

The first thing Wayne Gretzky ever said to me was, “Tomorrow we’re going to change the rules so you can score — the goalie won’t wear any pads.”  

To those not raised with hockey, or those without a Canadian birth certificate, this remark represents a grave insult (even if tongue-in-cheek) to me as a hockey player — and to me as a man.

Another industry’s example of Mr. Gretzky’s wisecrack might be, “Tomorrow we’re going to make sure the audience isn’t bored with your speech – we’re going to turn off the microphone.” You get the drift.

This trash talk came in 2004, during an elegant and star-studded reception following a week of playing the great game at Gretzky’s camp in Arizona. I think you had to be like, 70 years old to play. I know Paul Coffey was on the ice.

At first, being a competitive guy myself who just happened to be over-the-hill, I was about to fire back, “Who the heck do you think 
you are?”

I then held my tongue when thinking the answer through. You know, that little voice, “He’s, uh, Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player in the history of the world. Ever, ever. And you are complete garbage on the ice compared to him.”

The voice then whispers, “And few, by Cosmic Law, are permitted to criticize a fellow man. Jesus was one. Gretzky another.”   

(And yes, Jean Béliveau is there. It’s just a matter of which place on the list).  

A hand-rolled cigar in one hand and expensive liqueur in the other, eyelids closing and opening so slowly you sense he’s analyzing something inside them, he then continued the smack talk. Looking me dead in the eye, he asked, “What were you trying to do out there?”

“I was trying to emotionally come to grips with taking a feather pass in the slot from Wayne Gretzky” I confessed. And that was true. Earlier in the day, scoring on the goaltender was the last thing on my mind. Even if it was an old guy fantasy game, actually centering a line with number 99 on my right wing, now that was on my mind.

Also, being decades past my prime – and a prime that amounted to absolutely nothing anyway — I was rusty to say the least.

And Gretzky let me know it.

It dawned on me amid the chic ambiance of the evening, that regardless of any lifetime success or worldwide acclaim earned, a jock is a jock. Type-A people can’t be anything other than Type-A people, even if they try.

And although many have blended in seamlessly with the planet’s sheer mortals like me and you, their career accomplishments, gifted talent, and hard-wired competitive edge sit stealthily poised in another galaxy.  

Poised to strike. Poised to win.

Whether it’s a dagger-quip with a smile, or a knock-down game of checkers, you will know that at the end of the day, these nice folks love to win. And the lifelong quest for victory — the obsession for winning, really — is not a character flaw by any means. I see it as a character trait and believe it is the reason they are where they are.  

And amid the eloquence and polish that compose Wayne Douglas Gretzky, every now and then his DNA profile reveals itself.

A sniper with a target at hand. A laughing kid flipping puck with stick.  

In my mind, the Ultra-Achiever can be a different kind of cat. Those who are the very best at their craft usually carry it with grace, but one can almost see the competitive streak lurking just below the surface. It’s in the eyes. Perhaps it’s ϋber-confidence, or a sort of body-of-work satisfaction, I’m not sure.

It’s something though.         

After all, they don’t call him The Great Runner-Up, or The Great Contender. He doesn’t sit alone atop his place in history for no reason, that’s for sure. Nor do The Great Ones of other sports and professions.

And beware asking them who the heck they think they are. You might just get the answer.    
greg@gregmeakin.com
Copyright©2010 by Greg Meakin

Rare photo of Jean Beliveau and a young Wayne Gretzky. Beliveau heard about prodigy Gretzky and attended one of the kid’s games. Wayne scored 5 goals.  

Screenshot 2018-02-22 at 4.36.01 PM

Hockey Mums and Nestle’s Quik

THE SPORTSPAPER

Bremerton, Washington

Originally published February 2003

HOCKEY MUMS AND NESTLE’S QUIK

by Greg Meakin

It’s 5:30 Saturday morning. Outside, it’s pitch dark. A blistering Canadian winter awaits, scowling. Only a few courageous souls will venture out, only to be met by the ferocious wrath known as January in the northeast.

The temperature appears to be hovering right around five thousand degrees below zero. Being a dual citizen, it’s unclear to me whether it’s five thousand below Fahrenheit or Celsius. Whichever is coldest would be my guess.

Only cars with block heaters will even discuss starting-up this morning. Very large shovels will be essential to open negotiations leading to a peaceful settlement with the driveway.

Inside, it’s cozy in the tiny flat. A single lamp embraces the kitchen with a warm glow. A steaming bowl of Quaker Oats Cream of Wheat invites the sleepy ten year-old to the table. With Nestlé’s Quik mixed in, no less. You know, the way only moms used to make cool stuff like that!

The good old days when mothers could feed fun doses of sugar and fried foods to their kids without having CPS called.

Forget logic or health issues here anyway. You simply haven’t lived until you’ve tasted chocolate Cream of Wheat!

A peek at the clock and a tired mother hides her dread and says quietly, “Your hockey game starts at 6:30. We need to get going pretty soon.” She knows she’s facing the driveway, hoping the car starts, scraping the icy windows and the treacherous drive to the arena.

The freckle-faced, sandy-haired boy, sporting the Standard Issue brush cut and ‘60s plaid pajamas, sat reveling in the serenity and warmth of the moment in that kitchen.

He looked up smiling and said, “Isn’t this fun, Mum?”

I have listened to my mother tell that story to many people over the years. She would laugh because FUN was the LAST thing in the world she was having that winter morning in 1969. For adults, after a grueling and stressful workweek, a 5:15 alarm clock on a freezing Saturday morning is not historically known as a good thing.

My mother had no idea what the moment meant to me. The child was oblivious to the cold outside, and simply experienced the warm and cozy moment inside. Once she realized, it became a Kodak Moment for her, as well.

And such is the life of hockey moms and dads. It can be an ordeal, as I’m sure it was for my mother. But from all accounts, it is remembered as an equally fun time.

Obviously, this is not exclusive to hockey. It includes all sports, activities and interests that our young people pursue, or trip into.

And we’re not talking here about the handful of idiot parents who give youth sports a black eye, such as the “hockey dad” incident last year. It is widely recognized that – as with behaviors like “road rage” – such incidents are a social problem, an industry issue, not a hockey issue.

And that includes crazy parents that push their kids too hard, usually trying to have the child fulfill past dreams of the parent. Let the kid do what he or she loves. The youngster will let you know if hockey or figure skating is something to be taken seriously. Most parents oblige — financial issues and scheduling allowing of course.

But it is indeed disappointing that since the dawn of time, it seems, a few bad apples can spoil it for all.

Adding to negative public perceptions is a national media, which tends not to write “boring” stories about the millions – indeed the great majority – of people in North America who are nice, regular folks and good parents.

Wherever there is an athlete who is too young to drive an automobile, there will be honorable parents or guardians hauling him or her to games and activities. It was then. It is now.

And tomorrow holds the same promise.

Promise or threat, depending on how you look at it

 

HUMBLED BY A HOCKEY HERO

JEANBELIVEAU

THE SPORTSPAPER

Bremerton, Washington

Originally published December 2002

HUMBLED BY A HOCKEY HERO

by Greg Meakin

The other day I received a personal telephone call from Jean Béliveau.

Oh my goodness – JEAN BELIVEAU!

In the professional hockey world, Béliveau is a man Wayne Gretzky looks up to. We’re talking a BIG name here.

Mention the name Jean Béliveau to anyone remotely familiar with hockey – or anyone with a Canadian birth certificate – and the recognition will show immediately. It’s a certain “knowing” look in the eyes, a kind of formal glow of respect and admiration.

Jean Béliveau, now 71, is the prototype class act – a polished man of grace and genuine humility – and an elder statesman of his sport. Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Unitas, these names, past and present, come to mind from other sports.

Beliveau comes to mind when you say “Hockey.”

As insanely difficult as championships are to win these days, Béliveau has 17! He hoisted 10 Stanley Cups as a player and 7 as an executive – an absolutely astonishing statistic, in any era. Compare it to Michael Jordan’s six, or Wayne Gretzky’s four.

The man’s résumé and lifetime accomplishments read like a world-class TEAM, not a single individual.

Think about it. With 17 championships, Béliveau’s only rivals are the New York Yankees and Montreal Canadiens, with 27 and 24 respectively. Béliveau has more rings than the Boston Celtics, Green Bay Packers, and 16 more than the Chicago Cubs!

And unlike most athletes today, Béliveau’s accomplishments only BEGIN with championships won.

During a 20-year, Hall of Fame career starting in the 1950s, he was selected to 13 All Star teams and eclipsed the prestigious 500-goal and 1000-point marks. Béliveau was awarded NHL trophies for the leagues’s MVP and leading scorer. He was also crowned with an MVP award for premier playoff performance.

Add these awards to the 17 Stanley Cups, and we’re talking big-time hardware here.

After retiring from the ice in 1972, Béliveau brought his magic touch of winning to the executive level as president of his legendary Canadiens. But perhaps the deepest admiration for Jean Béliveau – among his peers, as well as gourmet hockey enthusiasts – lies not in his exploits on the ice or the front office, but rather his manhood.

In a sport notorious for aggression and antagonism, Béliveau was and is a true gentleman. In today’s age of nine-figure salary packages and managed entities known as pro athletes, Jean Béliveau was unconditionally dedicated and non-pretentious, putting his team and respect for the sport above all.

With the understated integrity of a Cal Ripken Jr. or a Tony Gwynn, Big John wouldn’t dream of playing for another team, period. I doubt whether the words ‘money’ or ‘contract’ are even in his vocabulary.

These financial details – so obsessively prevalent today – were pale, non-issues for Béliveau, compared to the honor of playing an entire career with one team. Not to mention the opportunity to contribute – significantly as it turns out – to a chapter of sports folklore known as the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.

His impact was felt off the ice as well. Daily, he bridged the gap between the oft contentious struggle between English and French factions in Canada. No matter the language, religion or socio-economic standing, everyone loved and admired Béliveau.

Even Toronto maple Leafs fans respected him. And that, my friends, is saying a lot.

I had attempted to contact the former Canadiens captain through Dave Stubbs, a reporter for the Montreal Gazette. Stubbs had written an inspirational piece honoring the 30-year anniversary of a wonderful program founded by Béliveau, the Canadian Sports Friendship Exchange Program.

As Stubbs described it, the exchange was designed to foster tolerance, friendship and understanding between young English and French minor hockey players. (Unbeknownst to many Americans today, the political climate of 1960s and 70s Quebec featured language barriers and French/English malcontent which was not dissimilar to the racial hostility witnessed in the United States during that era).

Béliveau’s program featured participants spending a weekend together, playing hockey on a Saturday afternoon at the Montreal Forum, and subsequently attending a Canadiens game that evening.

What a wonderful experience it must have been for these French and English youth, who up to then had lived on opposite sides of the language barrier fence.

The program now includes other sports and non-sports exchanges, and an estimated 36,000 Canadian kids have taken part since 1972.

I e-mailed the Montreal reporter, expressing my interest in the exchange program and, with little expectation, to invite Béliveau to Bremerton Ice Arena’s grand opening in the spring.

The very next day Jean Béliveau called.

A warm conversation ensued. I relayed fond memories of watching him on the old Forum ice when I was a boy – his 500th goal, which I was lucky enough to witness live, as well as other less-historic, but no less memorable Béliveau moments.

He laughed out loud when I recounted playing on the Forum ice myself as an 11-year old Pee Wee hockey player. Most of us fell on our faces as we poured onto the ice, not realizing how much of a drop it was from the entry gate to the ice surface!

Welcome to a professional hockey arena, eh?

In conversing, I noticed how clearly and resolutely this man speaks. With his trademark French- Canadian accent, his English vocabulary and grammar are perfect – a subtle testament of sorts to his commitment to tolerance and multi-cultural life in Quebec.

His voice booms in a way I can only describe as a “commanding, velvet baritone.” It’s apparent this fellow has done much public speaking and media interviews in his life.

His speech is not unlike his demeanor on the ice. At 6-3, 200-plus pounds, he was a statuesque fortress of a man – much like Superman. Check out his early photo poses – even the hair style matches the Man of Steel. But Béliveau is remembered not for his imposing physical presence – somewhat of a rarity for his time – but for his silky smooth stick-handling, elegance afoot, and playmaking brilliance.

Simply put, his grace and style remain unparalleled in the history of professional hockey. He didn’t just impact a game – he rose to become a sports and cultural icon. He serves not as a fading character in tavern war stories of a bygone era in ice hockey, but rather as a cornerstone – a sterling example of how to live one’s life as a consummate professional in a day and age of self-centeredness.

Béliveau’s name comes to mind when pondering what is missing in sports today. His name could serve as a model for what traits would be necessary for modern-day professional athletes (or the business world, for that matter) to come full circle from the recent decades of financial and personal indulgence.

The warmth and compassion of this man’s soul resonated through the phone lines from the other side of the continent. The most moving part of our 20-minute conversation was when he congratulated me for spearheading the Bremerton Ice Arena project – introducing kids to the great game of hockey. It was comparable to John Wooden complimenting the local high school basketball coach, or Joe Paterno calling with kudos for a Pop Warner football team.

Our conversation ended with a pleasant surprise. He provided his home address and phone number and invited me to keep in touch with him.

When I embarked on the Bremerton Ice Arena project in August 2000, I never dreamed I would be speaking with Jean Béliveau on the telephone a few years later. It is this type of memorable and unexpected encounter that makes this ice arena adventure so rewarding. It eases the often sleepless nights and stressful days, and reminds me very clearly why I pursued this mission in the first place.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about this man’s character was when he was considering coming out here for the grand opening. Due to health concerns, he doubted he could make the cross-country trek.

That he even WANTED to visit little Bremerton, Washington to celebrate the opening of a community ice rink, and that he actually APOLOGIZED for not being able to make it, says a lot about him.

But then again I can’t say it really surprises me. After all, this is Jean Béliveau we’re talking about.

 

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Photo of Jean Beliveau and youngster Wayne Gretzky.