In 2002 I was a very green PR intern for the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League. One of my jobs with the team was to give VIP tours to celebrities and other dignitaries.
Typically, the tours were for friends and family of the players, and my main role was to get them as quickly as possible from the VIP boxes to the dressing room through a labyrinth of stairs, doors and hallways.
So, despite the somewhat fancy title, VIP tours were typically non-descript.
During a game in 2002 when the Canucks were playing the Carolina Hurricanes, I was asked to assist a guest. When I arrived at the box, I was greeted by four very serious guys in dark suits, ear-pieces, and glasses. I had a feeling right away that this tour was a little different.
I met my guest, Paul, who I could tell was important. However, I really didn't know who he was, and he was very warm and kind to me. So, we started chatting sports. Paul told me he was a Patriots and a Bruins fan (which I found strange, since we were at a Canucks v. Hurricanes game).
As we headed down to the Hurricane's dressing room I asked Paul who he wanted to meet. I assumed he'd ask for Ron Francis (the fifth leading scorer in NHL history) or Markus Naslund, who at that point was one of the NHL scoring leaders.
"I'd like to see Craig Adams" he says...
"OoooooK," I say.
To me, this makes to sense. Craig Adams went on to have a wonderful NHL career, and has accomplished more in the hockey world that most people could dream. But... Ron Francis is a legend, and Markus Naslund was the most lethal winger in the NHL. Craig Adams?
Thankfully, I did a half-decent job of hiding my confusion. We got Craig out of the dressing room, they exchanged pleasantries, and it was obvious that they knew each other. We parted ways, and after that I didn't really think much of the encounter.
Three days later I saw "Paul" on the cover of The National Post, which in Canada at the time was the equivalent of The Wall Street Journal.
It turned out that I had given a tour to Paul Celluci, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada. I also found out that Craig Adams was engaged to his daughter. After learning this, it made total sense why he had no interest in meeting Ron Francis.
Ambassador Cellucci passed away two years ago of ALS, and while he doesn't know me, he taught me a lot in the 15 minutes I spent with him.
- Be kind and humble. He could have easily told me how important he was and bulldozed me. I was nobody important, but he took the time to chat with me.
- Don't assume you understand a situation. After learning Craig Adams was engaged to Ambassador Cellucci's daughter, the whole thing made sense. I was so glad I kept my mouth shut.
- Be real. Part of why I was so shocked that I had met the U.S. Ambassador is because I got to know "Paul from Boston" who enjoyed the Pats and The Bruins. Ambassador Cellucci was a terriffic example of how to not let success go to your head and be good to the little people.
RIP Ambassador Cellucci, from what I could tell you were a terrific guy.