Throughout the years, athletes have become some of the highest paid people in the entire world. The NBA and MLB lead the way in terms of career earnings for athletes in America (at $24.7 million and $17.9 million, respectively), but the NHL is actually ahead of the NFL in third. The average yearly salary for an NHL player these days is $2.4 million and their careers last for an average of 5.5 years, meaning that they are making $13.2 million in a career on average.
That wasn’t always the case, as some NHL players, even the best ones out there, weren’t making more than just $2 million per season in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Despite salaries that were just a fraction of what they are today, there are still some former NHL players that have been able to secure financial stability now that their careers are over.
Just to think, in 1990, Bryan Trottier was the fifth highest paid player in the NHL with $575,000. Now, the fifth highest paid player is Evgeni Malkin at $9.5 million. It’s crazy to see how much things have changed in such a short period of time. Can you imagine a league where a player of Trottier’s talent was being paid just one fifth of what Malkin is making?
So how much are the players that you grew up watching worth and what have they been up to since they hung up their skates for the last time? Here are 15 former NHL stars with net worths that might surprise you after knowing just how little they made during their playing days.
15 Darren McCarty - $500,000
We start off the list, not with a player that has made a ton of money post-career, but instead has lost most of it. Darren McCarty spent well over a decade playing with the Detroit Red Wings and Calgary Flames, becoming a fan favorite along the way for being an enforcer. McCarty’s salary totaled more than $15.5 million during his career, but he fell on some hard times when his playing days were over and blew through much of his money, leaving him with an estimated net worth of $500,000. McCarty’s financial problems were even featured on television’s “Hardcore Pawn” when he took up a job with the shop.
14 Steve Yzerman - $50 Million
Another Detroit fan favorite, Steve Yzerman makes the list not because he is broke like his former teammate, but because you thought he might be worth a bit more than his estimated $50 million. Yzerman made more than $64 million throughout his playing career and immediately became a vice president of the Detroit Red Wings after retiring in 2006. Yzerman is now acting as the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, so you would think that his net worth wouldn’t be much lower than his career earnings. Why his estimated net worth is lower than what we thought it would be is a mystery, but maybe Yzerman has spent more than he seems to.
13 Mike Modano - $50 Million
Mike Modano is widely considered to be one of the best American players of the past 25 years, becoming a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014. Modano made his debut in 1989 and retired after the 2010-11 season after a long stretch with the Stars franchise. Modano made a total of nearly $75.8 million in his long career and is now worth an estimated $50 million. Modano has spent most of his post-playing career golfing with Brett Hull and the two ran a restaurant together in Dallas that lasted from 2008 to 2012, showing that he hasn’t been great with investments.
12 Keith Tkachuk - $60 Million
From 1992 to 2010, Keith Tkachuk played for the Jets/Coyotes before heading to St. Louis for a few years, then returning to the Blues to end his career. Tkachuk, like Modano, is one of the best American players in recent memory and is one of just five Americans to finish with more than 500 goals. Tkachuk made $80.5 million in salary during his nearly 20 year career, with his highest paying year coming in 2002 when he earned $11 million, leaving him with an estimated net worth of $60 million. Tkachuk has been a bit quiet in his post-playing career and his son, Matthew, is now playing with the London Knights.
11 Ed Jovanovski - $53 Million
Ed Jovanovski is a former defenseman that was drafted first overall by the Florida Panthers back in 1994. Jovanovski played through the 2014 season, spending time with the Canucks and Coyotes during his time as well. Jovanovski was named to five All-Star Games in his career and earned a total of $59.7 million in salary during two decades in the NHL. Jovanovski has only been retired for a little bit, which is why there isn’t much of an update of his post-NHL career. Jovanovski is likely to stay quiet for awhile and is living full-time in Florida.
10 Peter Forsberg - $54 Million
Swedish hockey legend Peter Forsberg played professionally from 1989 to 2011, spending 13 of those years in the NHL. Forsberg played with the Nordiques/Avalanche, Flyers and Predators. The Hockey Hall of Famer was most known for his Avalanche days where he was a part of two Stanley Cup Champion teams. Forsberg’s salary totaled $65.4 million over his NHL career and he made upwards of $11 million in one season. These days, Forsberg is still worth $54 million and is back in his home country of Sweden most of the time.
9 Paul Kariya - $62 Million
One of the best players in the short history of the Anaheim Ducks, Paul Kariya was the fourth overall draft pick for Anaheim back in 1993 and he stayed with the team until after the 2002-03 season. Kariya then spent time with the Avalanche, Predators and Blues. In his prime years, Kariya was making $10 million per year until his time with the Ducks ended. In total, Kariya earned a salary of around $82.6 million. Kariya is still worth quite a bit these days at an estimated $62 million and has had a quiet retirement.
8 Martin Brodeur - $55 Million
Considered to be among the greatest goaltenders to ever play in the NHL, Martin Brodeur was drafted by the New Jersey Devils all the way back in 1990 and stayed with the team until the end of the 2013-14 NHL season. Brodeur spent his final year in the league with the St. Louis Blues, earning just $700,000 in that season. However, Brodeur earned a total of $73 million in his illustrious career and then landed a job as the assistant general manager of the Blues, and will likely stick around after the season the team just had. We can only expect his estimated net worth of $55 million to remain with his continued work in the game.
7 Mark Messier - $42 Million
Second all-time in career points, Mark Messier spent 25 years in the NHL playing with the Oilers, Rangers and Canucks, winning six Stanley Cups and being named to 15 All-Star Game rosters. Despite being one of the biggest stars in the game for most of his career, Messier never really earned that big of a paycheck, with his top salary coming in at $6 million. Due to his lengthy career, Messier was able to amass $59.5 million in salary. Now, Messier runs a small hotel in the Bahamas and spends a lot of his time fishing, while also doing some part-time work as an analyst, leaving with with an estimated net worth of $42 million.
6 Rob Blake - $57 Million
A fairly new member of the Hockey Hall of Fame (inducted in 2014), Rob Blake spent his first 11 NHL seasons with the Los Angeles Kings. Blake was also a member of the Avalanche and Sharks, before he retired in 2010 after 20 years in the league. Blake cashed in about $80.5 million in salary during those two decades, earning up to $9.3 million in 2003 with Colorado, helping him to an estimated net worth of $57 million. Blake is now working in the front office for the team that drafted him as their Vice President and Assistant General Manager, winning a Stanley Cup in his first year on the job.
5 Nicklas Lidstrom - $60 Million
The second Swede on our list, Nicklas Lidstrom is yet another former Red Wing that made a lot of money in his career, gathering more than $100 million in career salary. Lidstrom won four Stanley Cups in his 20 year career, all in Detroit, and was named to 10 All-Star Game rosters. Lidstrom retired in 2012 and had his number retired the next season while he was working as a scout for the team. Lidstrom was even offered a job as an assistant coach for the Red Wings, but decided to turn it down, likely because he didn’t need the money, as he's worth an estimated $60 million.
4 Joe Sakic - $70 Million
Joe Sakic is a member of the 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame class that was named to 13 All-Star Games. Sakic was drafted back in 1987 by the Quebec Nordiques and played with the franchise during their move to Colorado, spending his entire career there and retiring in 2009. Sakic was instrumental in helping the Avalanche win two Stanley Cups in 1996 and 2001, and was given $93.2 million in salary, topping out at $17 million in one year. Sakic is now worth an estimated $70 million and became a member of the Avalanche front office after his retirement, and was also given the job of Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations in 2013, a job that he still holds today.
3 Pavel Bure - $68 Million
The “Russian Rocket” wasn’t drafted until the 113th overall spot in 1989, but quickly became one of the best players in the NHL by winning the 1992 Calder Memorial Trophy and then reaching a Stanley Cup Finals in 1994. Bure played in the NHL for 12 seasons, also spending a bit of time in Russia and Germany for the SCL/IHL and DEL. The 2012 Hall of Famer made around $66.4 million in salary and hasn’t been very active in business in his post-hockey career. However, Bure has made a recent push for a legends of hockey league for those that can still play the game. with his estimated net worth of $68 million, it's not out of the question.
2 Mario Lemieux - $150 Million
The difference between net worths in our top two players and the rest of the pack is a big one, starting with Mario Lemieux. Lemieux played with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1984 to 1997 and then from 2000 to 2006, winning two Stanley Cups as a player and has the second most goals-per-game in NHL history. Lemieux started to become an owner of the Penguins while he was still a player, transferring most of his salary into team equity, which is why he earned only around $49 million in his career. Lemieux is now the principal owner of the team and has seen the Penguins reach multiple Stanley Cup Finals, and is one of the few hockey players to reach a big endorsement in his career, being signed with Nike.
1 1.Wayne Gretzky - $200 Million
Of course the richest former player is “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky, but not many people were sure how much he was really worth. Gretzky is the pick for greatest NHL player by just about anyone that has ever watched hockey, as he holds the record for just about any category that you can imagine. Gretzky barely made more than $40 million in his playing career from salaries, but it didn’t matter, as he was one of the most marketable athletes of his time, which shows in his estimated net worth of $200 million. After his playing days ended, Gretzky became a part owner of the Arizona Coyotes and coach, and relinquished his share after the team went bankrupt in 2009. Still, Gretzky is worth a massive amount, as he is basically the Michael Jordan of hockey.