If it had been up to Ross Bernstein, his public speaking career would have been best remembered by one speech: his acceptance into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Rather than working on books with idols such as Wayne Gretzky, Bernstein would have preferred to have played on the same line putting up 100-point seasons for his (then) hometown Minnesota North Stars. Bernstein’s hockey career ended short of the NHL, but he was accomplished enough to join his hometown Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team as a walk-on. His experiences in collegiate athletics were enough to launch his career as a sportswriter.
Bernstein’s sports writing career has been unique in that he did not get his sports writing start logging game recaps and box scores. He skipped right into the longest of forms—writing books. First about his own experiences, and then about many of his idols who he grew up following and admiring as a Minnesota sports fanatic. He’s written almost 50 books now, and seeing these elite professionals has taught Bernstein what it takes to win at the highest levels as well as some of the temptations to cut corners, which has led to the downfall of some of his most famous interview subjects.
He went into his career as an avid fan and looked up to athletes as his heroes, but some of his earliest encounters alerted him to just how human his idols were.
“I could have been more disappointed,” he says about meeting one of his favorite athletes from his childhood, a former Vikings quarterback and Hall of Famer.
At the same time, he also realizes that famous athletes are in a nearly impossible position. Former Timberwolves and Celtics star forward Kevin Garnett, Bernstein saw him sign countless autographs, while also seeing the disappointment in the faces of the kids who missed out because there was not enough time to accommodate everyone.
Bernstein has worked with some of the biggest names in sports: Phil Mickelson. Drew Brees. Michael Strahan. But the person who taught him perhaps the most important lessons on winning and losing on the playing field and in life was Herb Brooks. The architect of perhaps the greatest American victory in international team competition, the 1980 US Men’s Hockey victory remains the gold standard for sports upsets continuing to stake its claim to the title Miracle on Ice.
Beyond this triumph, Brooks enjoyed a long career that included years as a coach and executive in the NHL and a silver medal as coach of the 2002 US Olympic hockey team. To Bernstein, Brooks became more than just a hockey coach known for his off-color inspirational quotes, Brookisms. They became close friends. Their relationship is documented in the book, “America's Coach: Life Lessons & Wisdom for Gold Medal Success; A Biographical Journey of the Late Hockey Icon Herb Brooks”, and will be at the heart of Bernstein’s keynote address, “Do You Believe in Miracles? Lessons in Team-Building, Leadership, and Motivation”, at CHEST 2017.
“[The keynote] will challenge listeners to think differently about how they look at their patients, and how they provide care,” Bernstein says. “I want to help them to be better leaders and offer a few take-a-ways on how they think about their relationships and how they treat their staff.”
Bernstein also wants to show people the power of saying no so that they can focus on their passions.
As far as his own future, Bernstein has focused more on speaking in recent years, but this does not mean that he’s finished with writing. He has plans to turn his talks into a book. While sports glory might have eluded Bernstein, as it does most of us, the lessons of sports can help us well after our careers on the field, court, and ice have ended.
Get to Know Ross Bernstein: Sports Favorites
Favorite current female athlete: Lindsey Whalen, point guard, Minnesota Lynx (WNBA Team) (Ross’ take: She’s a role model in all aspects of life.)
Favorite current male athlete: Zach Parise, left wing, Minnesota Wild (Ross’ take: Zach gave up money to stay near family in Minnesota. Something I admire greatly)
Favorite current coach: PJ Fleck, Minnesota Football Coach (Ross’ take: He’s finding success by “speaking Millennial.”)
Favorite sport moment: Attending Game 6 of the 1991 World Series at the Metrodome. Game is remembered for Kirby Puckett’s game saving catch against the wall. (Ross’ take: Only taste of victory for a long suffering Minnesota sports fan.)
One event than all sports fans should attend: Ryder Cup
Must see venue for sports fans: Wrigley Field (Ross’ take: The Mecca, hotdogs and beer taste better there.)
Favorite sports writers: John Feinstein, Don Yaeger, and Sid Hartman (Minneapolis Star Tribune sports columnist since 1945) (Ross’ take: Sid just goes and goes and goes. He’s old school still takes his tape recorder to press events. It’s really inspiring to look at him and think I can still be doing this in 50 years.)
Sports book that inspired him: "Friday Night Lights" by Buzz Kissinger
Bernstein will present his keynote during opening session on Sunday, October 29 at 8:45am in Exhibit Hall G.
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