WHL Player to CEO

Patrick Odnokon

This year, The Lung Association, Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) together funded $150,000 in innovative respiratory research grants awarded to Saskatchewan researchers.

It is our great pleasure to partner with SHRF led by their visionary leader Patrick Odnokon who has the imagination, insight and boldness to ensure that Saskatchewan continues to be viewed as a leader in health research innovation. Bringing collaboration and partnerships to new heights, SHRF is contributing to the growth of a high-performing health system and the improved health of citizens by investing in health research that is responsive and aligns with the needs of Saskatchewan people.

Patrick learned at a young age what makes for a great leader. As a Saskatchewan hockey player in the Western Hockey League (WHL), many of the skills learned as a youth have served him well as a CEO.

Starting this month, The Lung Association will be in full swing of the WHL Lung All-Stars program. This program has WHL players in both Saskatoon and Regina visiting elementary schools to teach youth about the importance of making healthy life choices and protecting their lungs. We thought who better to ask about why it is important to talk with youth about healthy lungs than someone who has built his career drawing on those early life lessons. 

WHL players go into schools as part of the Lung All Stars program to teach youth how to protect their lungs, do you think this will have a lasting impact on youth?

The influence of these young hockey players on youth at large cannot be underestimated. As a WHL player, I remember doing similar presentations to school children and minor hockey teams and always hoped that the message got through. As role models to our youth, these players are disciplined, have a tremendous work ethic, and are able to deal with the pressures of performing at a high-level everyday at the rink, at school, and in the community. Today’s youth are challenged with difficult decisions, and a message of good lung health and positive choices from role models like our WHL hockey players are bound to have an impact.

How important is good lung health to a young hockey player?

Lung health is extremely important at any age. Growing up playing hockey on the outside community rink, if your lungs did not work, you were not having fun with your friends, even when it was below -20 Celsius. Then as you grow older and hockey gets more serious, training through the summer months was important so you were in “relatively” good shape before training camp. Maintaining lung health with continuous fitness training means that you return to the season in peak condition. As elite athletes, testing fitness levels was the norm and is even more of a focus for today’s hockey players. For the recreational player in all of us, I would think that it is more important to have your lungs in shape versus developing or maintaining that big slap shot.

What skills did you learn as WHL hockey player that you carried into adulthood?

Hockey provides many lessons, including choosing to focus on what you can control. The external pressures and expectations of adulthood are not uncommon to young athletes, albeit on a different scale. Learning to have the discipline to train and take care of yourself physically, eat the right foods, and make good decisions are as important now as they were when I played. l learned how to be a good team player, how to deal with adversity in a positive way, and the basics of how to become a leader. Lessons one can use in all areas of life, not just athletics.

Do you think your early team experience helps you be a good CEO? Why?

I would like to think so. There are many personal attributes that contribute to success in the work place, and I would like to think that the experience of playing sports at a young age and continuing to play at an elite level have contributed to my success. As a team athlete, you are taught that individual accomplishments are secondary to team accomplishments, that you stand by your teammates in times of adversity, and everyone has a role to play if you are to be successful. Many of the leadership skills and values you learn through playing sport are directly applicable in the workplace. Leading by example with a good work ethic, engaging and empowering employees to do their work with purpose, and partnering and collaborating with others on making a difference, are all important qualities that I developed as an athlete and continue to develop as CEO.

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Page Last Updated: 27/09/2018