Former Nanaimo Hockey Player Now an Author and In-demand Motivational Speaker
By Mark MacDonald
NANAIMO – It took a demotion and a brawl to help Shaun Peet find his dream job.
As his junior/college/minor professional hockey career came to an end, Peet was recruited to be a jackman for Bill Davis Racing on the popular NASCAR car racing circuit in 2002 while he was serving an 18 game suspension for his part in a hockey brawl. He worked for other teams before joining Chip Ganassi Racing, where he has served as the Pit Crew Coach for the past six years.
“I tried for 25 years to get to the National Hockey League and I made it to NASCAR in six weeks,” he laughs.
Not only that, but Peet, based in North Carolina, has joined with Ganassi team member Mike Metcalf in a passion project called D.E.C.K. Leadership, which stands for Diversity, Efficiency, Culture and Kindness. They are coveted keynote speakers across North America, delivering a message of motivation, inspiration, team building and impactful lessons on diversity and inclusion.
They have co-authored a book, titled 12 Second Culture, the basis for their presentations to audiences and corporations. They use a race car and accompanying pit crew tools to provide hands-on demonstrations about how teamwork utilized by their NASCAR pit crew can translate seamlessly into organizations to foster teamwork and increase productivity.
Peet has strong Nanaimo roots, as his parents, Bill and Sandra Peet, are well known business owners. Sandra operated Sandra’s Place in Woodgrove Centre for years and now runs her aesthetics company as a home-based business. Bill formerly owned Nanaimo AutoPro and now works for Lordco in Qualicum Beach. Being raised in a small business owning household has definitely been an asset to Peet.
He plied his trade as a defenseman/forward known as much for his pugilistic talents than his goal scoring prowess for minor league teams like the Corpus Christi Icerays, South Carolina Stingrays, New Mexico Scorpions and the Macon Whoopee. He made it as high as the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre-Scranton Penguins, which made it to the Calder Cup final in 2001.
His minor pro career added not only his resume, but to his character.
While trying to make the East Coast Hockey League’s Hampton Admirals, he was unceremoniously released by the infamous John Brophy, a crusty, old-school coach who had a cup of coffee coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After what turned out to be his final exhibition game, Peet was sitting in the dressing room when Brophy demanded that Peet remove his skates. He promptly tossed them in the garbage can, declaring to his Admiral teammates: “You don’t deserve to play hockey.”
Brophy later announced in the media that his biggest disappointment was Peet, stating: “He came to camp looking like Captain America, but he played like Miss America.” Peet laughs at the story now, but he has definitely used it as fuel, as it taught him two important lessons:
“First, John Brophy’s opinion was none of my business. Secondly, never put a period where life intended a comma. If I would have believed what Brophy said, I would have never done anything in my life.”
His keynote presentation, One Good Shift, is a story about getting through 100% of his failures, including having Brophy throw his skates in the garbage.
D.E.C.K. was created after Peet and Metcalf were asked to speak at the annual National Football League Combine several years ago.
“We didn’t think the talk went very well,” he recalls. “But at the end of it, 30 NFL people stuck around and asked us questions.”
He knew he was on to something after a lengthy discussion with a member of the New England Patriots, and they’ve since worked with the Dallas Cowboys, corporations like Michelin tires, pharmaceutical multinational Merck and universities. Last year they made over 100 presentations.
“We go around and talk to companies about how to inspire human brilliance and build high functioning teams,” he adds. “There’s a lot of talk in the corporate world that businesses want to operate like pit crews, but they don’t know how. We show them how to do that. “We’ll bring the race car to their parking lot and teach them how to work as a team by using the tools we use, in a simulation.”
Peet says they understand what drives human behavior and performance, and they focus on elevating people over process.
“Speed is the new currency of business – it’s fast versus slow – and efficiency is paramount,” he states. “The best way to build efficiency into your business is trust. There is a bunch of things you can do to build trust in your organization. It starts with caring about people.”
Peet notes that the biggest compliment they get from clients is regarding their authenticity.
”We didn’t go to leadership school to talk about leadership. . .we’re doing it,” he states. “It’s 100 per cent authentic. Ours is the story about how we built the culture at Chip Ganassi Racing with limited resources, and how we inspire human brilliance.”
Peet says their team is the most racially diverse team in the history of NASCAR.
“NASCAR was the first major sport to ever mandate diversity and inclusion training before you can go to the race track, and they hired D.E.C.K. to do the training,” he adds. “Now, we’re doing a lot of presentations on kindness.”
The Chip Ganassi team includes a former member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a Clemson University linebacker, and two ex-U.S. Navy Seals.
“The Seals are fascinating,” he observes. “They call the rest of us ’40 percenters’ – because with their training, they understand we are capable of so much more. “They say the problem with a lot of us is that it’s not that we aim too high and we miss. It’s that we aim too low and we hit. And there’s just so much more for us. We often end up making peace with mediocrity.
“I’d never been around people like that. One of the guys re-wrote the Seals sniper handbook, and he shared how everything they did was planned and measured. There was intention in everything they did, and now I’m working side-by-side with these guys, and learning from them, too.”
Peet also draws from a well of experience that includes playing in the B.C. Hockey League for the Nanaimo Clippers and Penticton Panthers. Former Clipper coach and part-owner Billy Bestwick has played a significant role in his life, including helping Peet earn a scholarship to play NCAA Division I hockey at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire – while Peet was playing for Penticton.
“Of all the jerseys I have, my Clippers jersey means more to me than anything,” he says, proudly. “When I got the call I had made the team, I just couldn’t believe it. “That was when I started to realize that my dreams could come true, and now we’re helping others do the same.”