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In their own words
Motivational speaker and Founder and Commissioner of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, Brenda Andress , poses for a photo in Newmarket, Ontario on December 22, 2015

Motivational speaker and founder and commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, Brenda Andress.

Michelle Siu/For The Globe and Mail

They call her the Thought Leader for what she has learned and how she conveys that knowledge to others. Andress, founder and commissioner of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, has lived a life full of episodes that started in one direction but wound up in another

You go through growing up and as you get older a lot of other people's thoughts are in your head – you can do this but you can't do that. I call myself a thought leader because when I do motivational speaking or I come in to teach a course, basically it's about how to go back and think your own thoughts…so clearing the way, thinking your own thoughts and listening to the truth.

I played hockey. I never played with a boys' team. When I was 16, they gathered a bunch of girls together. On my very first day going to play hockey, it was a Sunday afternoon in the town of Napanee and little girls got to play an hour. I wanted to go; there was nothing to drive. Dad had taken my brother to hockey in Kingston so I said, 'Come on, let's go, mom. We're going to jump into the van. We're going to be trail blazers.' She asked if I had ever driven a standard before. I said, 'How hard could it be?' Off I went … By the time I got to the rink I had standard down pat … My destiny was set back then. It was just a matter of me following it.

I liked Jean Béliveau, Guy Lafleur because I was a Montreal fan and I was always on the ice thinking I'm the next person like that.

Everybody says there are 10 minutes, eight minutes to the perfect body. I made a pun off it to say, 'Hey, guess what? If you do an eight minute mind workout you'll have the perfect mind.' You can work your body all you want and you still see people with beautiful bodies walk in front of a mirror and go, 'Oh, I don't like this. I don't like that.' It's not really the body you have to change, it's the thought.

[The stroke] happened when I was 40. After my stroke I had to learn to do a lot of things again…It was from there that I went on to do level 6 refereeing.

I tell my kayaking story where I almost died. That was a great lesson in letting go of the small stuff. I was willing to give my life to save a $140 raft.

But then there's no place for me to play. What am I going to do? If only I could earn a living. If only I could do something in hockey. I refereed for a very long time at national and other high level games. I had a lot of great experiences but knew there was no place to play. I remember that feeling, 'Wow. I've got no place to go.' I didn't know at the time, that at 19 or 20 I would be thinking those thoughts, that I would actually do something [in hockey] later in life. And I've followed other phenomenal women who started the WNHL as players. They all wanted to make a difference. I jumped on and tried to do it also.

Look at a lot of top executives and individuals; they played on a team because playing on a team you have to give and take. You have to know what you're good at, what you're not good at. You're going to take some bad days; you're going to take some great days. There are so many lessons within a team and they're so essential.

People ask me a lot of questions about Gary Bettman. I didn't grow up wanting to be Gary Bettman. I wanted to grow up and just play hockey my whole life.

My poor father. There were so many times he was, 'What? You're doing what?' 'Dad, I'm going to play on a men's team.' 'You're what?' 'I'm going to compete in a male golf tournament.' 'You're pushing the limits again, aren't you? 'Yep I am dad.'

I'm not a feminist. I'm very much a person that, if my son holds the door open for me, I smile. I know he's holding the door not because he doesn't think I can't open it, but because he's saying I love you.

I'm not the kind of person who would say, 'Joan of Arc would be somebody who would be great [to have as a dinner guest].' The people I have supper with on a continual basis, these are the people I want to sit down with … I think family is important. It's a thread that's essential to weave through your life and kind of reach back on. There are so many lessons in your own family.

You'll have the big homes, new cars; you'll come to learn those things aren't important. At the end of day, it's your time that's important. And doing what you love to do.

– As told to Allan Maki