The Race for Stornoway: Ken Dryden
"Like a once-rich man desperate to be rich again, we have gotten impatient, spoiled by our own success. The relentless discipline that got us here now bores us; everything must happen fast. So we wait for a moment - one game, one play - to trigger the "roll" that will sweep us along and make the rest unnecessary. But it won't happen that way."
-Ken Dryden, "The Game'
Background: He won’t have a 40 year political career, but if his history is any indication, he’ll make the most of his time in politics. In a seven year NHL career, Dryden won 6 Stanley Cups and 5 Vezina Trophies. But the guy is more than an ex-Jock. His NHL career was cut short to pursue his studies and a law degree, and he has written several award winning books. He was Toronto Maple Leafs President from 1997 to 2004 before bolting for the Liberals, no doubt desiring a return to a winning organization.
Political History: Long courted by political parties, Dryden ran for the Liberals in the riding of York (which must have been like playing goal for the Habs, in that, you’d have to really mess up to lose). After the 2004 election, Dryden was named Minister of Social Development, where he helped launch what the LPC would argue is a national childcare program.
Rejected Campaign Slogan: “Anyone who saw me spend as Leafs President knows I’ve always been a Liberal”
Possible Campaign Slogan: “Stopping Right Wingers Since 1970”
Rejected Endorsement: TV Networks salivating at a Dryden-Harper debate.
In Person: Ken Dryden is not a politician. I went to a fundraiser where Ken Dryden was the guest speaker a little over a year and a half ago and instead of working the room, Dryden would stand by himself in the corner, waiting for people to come up to him. He’d then earnestly talk to them for great lengths. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more genuine politician but he's certainly not "smooth" by any means.
Pros: 1972 Summit Series alumni. Has connections to Canada’s two solitudes (Habs and Leafs fans). Universally respected and bright.
Cons: Not exactly a fountain of youthful charisma. His French is surprisingly weak.
My Take: It’s not strange that the Liberal Party has a Hall of Fame leadership candidate. The strange thing is it’s taken this long for a former hockey all-star to rise this high in politics in Canada. At a time when people are cynical about politicians and the Liberal Party in general, Dryden would be an intriguing choice – an honest, respected, humble politician. Ken Dryden is a very thoughtful individual and while he may be one of the most boring politicians in Ottawa (ever?), he can write quite eloquently and with enough coaching could at least match Harper when it comes to delivering a rousing speech.
But could he be a party leader? It’s really hard to make that leap based on 18 months in Cabinet and Dryden certainly seems like an individual lacking political instincts and skills. Unless there is some major improvements in his speaking skills over the next few months, I just find it difficult to picture him as Liberal Party leader.
Chances: His BC team is looking decent but he doesn’t have an overpowering organization nationally from the sounds of things. But I would never count out Ken Dryden. At a convention where Liberals may settle on a “consensus candidate”, Dryden stands a realistic chance of winning this thing because it is impossible to dislike Ken Dryden.