Shaun Peet was 22 years old when his hockey coach in the East Coast Hockey League ordered him to take off his skates and proceeded to throw them in a trash can.
“He told me I didn’t deserve to play hockey again,” Peet said. “But I didn’t let him define me.”
Instead, Peet says he believed in himself enough to work even harder to overcome his shortcomings on the ice. He wound up on another ECHL team and later became a member of the American League Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguin team that made it all the way to the Calder Cup.
That was an amazing feat given that Peet spent his entire hockey career repeatedly told he wouldn’t make the team and that he couldn’t skate.
He refused to listen.
“I was the worst player on literally every hockey team but I made it on, just barely,” he said. “And when things didn’t go well, I knew I was only one decision away from a completely different life. If anyone was going to change the narrative, that had to be me.”
That decision came when he was playing for the Greensboro Generals in North Carolina. It was his first game and he got into a brawl that landed him an 18-game suspension.
“Sitting in the stands during the suspension, I met a fan from NASCAR,” he said. They became friendly, he was invited to a race and tried his hand at a pit change.
He was 27 years old and offered a new job as a NASCAR pit crew jackman for Trackhouse Racing. Today he’s 48 and is the chief culture officer with Concord Carolina, part of the team that trains eight people to change four tires and add two cans of fuel in eight seconds.
“It’s easy to say no one can do that. Well, yes we can,” he said. “So many of us see something we want to do and are addicted to our stories that stop us from shining.
“My parents always said never put a period where life intended a comma,” Peet said. “I believed in myself to work hard enough to overcome my shortcomings.”
During his time in pro hockey, he met Stephanie Purdy, a Point Edward native who was living in British Columbia and teaching power skating.
When Purdy learned Peet was going to take lessons from her, she assumed he’d come with an attitude.
“I’d heard he was the hometown hockey boy with a scholarship and played pro hockey,” she said. “I thought he’d be arrogant and was prepared for that.
“I found out right away, he’s the exact opposite of that,” she said. “He was the most willing athlete on the ice and he never settled, he always wanted to better himself. I have mad respect for that.”
Purdy said Peet doesn’t view failure as a negative. “You just shift and head down a different road,” she said.
So when he became a motivational speaker four years ago, she agreed to help manage his Canadian presentations.
He is appearing at The Imperial Theatre on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. to speak about the “1 Good Shift” that makes people of all ages shine in all walks of life.
“Kids who come learn about resiliency and about chasing joy instead of the dollar,” Peet said.
“I have a unique story and I want to share how I reacted to failure and the decision I made after I didn’t get the things I wanted,” he said.
On top of his hockey and NASCAR careers, Peet graduated with high honours and a double major in psychology and sociology from the Dartmouth College.
While in Sarnia, Peet is also holding a team building workshop for 100 people at the Sarnia Yacht Club. Seats are still available. Contact [email protected] for more info.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “1 Good Shift” with Shaun Peet, former hockey player and currently a NASCAR pit crew coach.
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Imperial Theatre, 169 Christina St. North.
TICKETS: $30 each. Hot Pass All Access tickets for $45 are available to attend the show as well as a catered meet-and-greet afterward with Shaun Peet. Call the box office at 519-332-6591 or purchase online at imperialtheatre.net.