When Guy Lafleur arrived in 1971, he wanted to wear my number four, just as he had done in junior. I was flattered by this, because I’d worn Maurice Richard’s number (nine) in both junior and senior hockey. Rocket, however, still wore his number when I joined the Canadiens, so I had to settle on another one for myself. I remember warning Guy that the number four might weigh heavily on his shoulders, intensifying the inevitable comparisons. I counselled him to make a fresh start: ‘Find your own number, and make every boy in Quebec want to wear it.’ Which he very wisely did. – Jean Beliveau (My Life in Hockey)
Our heroes and role models can be great examples of the qualities that we want to be ascribed to us, but at the same time you have to write your own story. Create your own identity. Gretzky’s idol growing up was Gordie Howe, but he chose number 99 and made it his own when 9 was already taken. Instead of being another Howe, he formed his own identity and developed his game around his own strengths.
Considering marriage or becoming parents, we actively think about what our parents did and how we want to model that or what we want to do differently. But we actually participate in that process all throughout our lives with our parents, our peers, and our role models. In decisions about what sport to play (should you take up what your dad played, or something different?)… whether or not to go to university… the type of person you want to be and what your goals look like. Let other people’s stories encourage you, not stifle you. Find your own number.
Game Plan: Think about what parts of your parents and role models have become a part of you, the good and the bad. How can you take the best parts and make your story your own?
Source: Jean Beliveau: My Life in Hockey