CITY OF TONAWANDA —
The students, dressed in maroon Tonawanda anti-bullying shirts, also enjoyed the speech. Many rushed up to him after the speech, asking Thibodeau for autographs and sharing some of their own stories.
Thibodeau has a proven track record and got started in the business as an aspiring teacher in 1992. At the time, he was giving free presentations to 8th-graders on preparing for high school.
“I wasn’t a motivational speaker, and I wasn’t realizing my career would take off,” he said. “It was as simple as someone asking me if I could come to their school, and what I would charge.”
Since then, he has spoken at over 2,000 schools in addition to leadership conferences and the Canadian National Conference.
It was clear Thibodeau has fine-tuned his craft. His stories about his own school days were relatable and funny, and he portrayed himself as somewhat of a nerdy, yet well adjusted boy.
His stories of his first slow dance as a 7th grader with the “nice girl” in class had the audience oohing and clapping.
And Thibodeau’s tale of going to high school with hockey all star Brendan Shanahan, now NHL vice president of hockey and business development, made “nice” look pretty cool.
Shanahan took part in a fundraising activity in which younger students could “buy” older students, putting the seniors at the mercy of younger masters for a day.
Shanahan was the NHL’s second overall draft pick that year and was a hot commodity. Girls fought over him for weeks.
At the event, three slightly awkward preteen girls won Shanahan for $120. The 11-year-olds had no clue what to do or how to talk to the hockey star.
“The girls later told me their first thought was ‘the other girls are going to kill me,’” Thibodeau said. “But you know what Shanahan did? He came off the stage, and he was just so nice ... not only was he nice, he was fun.”