The world of professional sports is a tough one. First of all, it takes a lot of work, skill, and a little bit of luck to make it into the big leagues – there are so many hopefuls competing for a limited amount of spots that you truly have to be something special to make it onto an NHL roster in the first place. Then, you have to show your skill season after season to ensure you’re not replaced by the next rising star. And, something that many professional athletes forget about, you have to set yourself up for retirement so that you’re taken care of when you finally decide to hang up your skates.
While some play until they’re a little bit older, the majority of NHL players retire at a relatively young age – in their late 30s, generally. That means they still have decades of life ahead of them and while some players have made smart enough financial decisions that they don’t really need to worry about bringing home a paycheck every month, that’s still a lot of time to sit around your estate twiddling your thumbs and channel surfing. Most players get involved in some venture after retirement, and pursue other interests or find other ways to get involved in the hockey world.
So, what exactly do former NHL players do in retirement? Well, there are a ton of options to pick from, and a ton of different career paths they take. Here are 15 of the most interesting NHL “where are they now?” stories.
15 Frank Mahovlich
Professional athletes get accustomed to being around other people on their team and helping work together to achieve a common goal – and Mahovlich knows it better than anyone, as he’s a six-time Stanley Cup winner who excelled in his career. However, he took things to an entirely new level when he retired from the NHL and stepped into the Canadian Senate. That’s right – Mahovlich went from being a part of a team to being a part of a body of elected officials. While some people are satisfied to either achieve the one in a million goals of being an elected official in the government or of being on a professional sports team, Mahovlich managed to do both in the course of his career. He retired a second time, from the Senate, in 2013 and is now just relaxing in retirement. We have a feeling that he has a lot of great stories from both of his careers, though.
14 Claude Lemieux
Claude Lemieux had a bit of a reputation for being, well, a bit violent on the ice and treating the rink like it was an MMA ring. He frequently did things like bite his opponents, and even once gave opponent Kris Draper a concussion, broken jaw, broken nose and cheekbone – all at the same time! As you might expect of someone with that kind of personality, Lemieux went on to appear on a few reality television shows in his retirement, such as Pros vs. Joes and Battle of the Blades. And, while you might thing his violent streak meant he did something like opened a boxing gym, he actually went a far more corporate route. Nowadays, he’s the president of GRAF Canada, a hockey equipment company, as well as the president of a company representing hockey players called 4Sports and Entertainment. Who would have thought he’d end up involved in the far more white collar side of things?
13 Teemu Selanne
Teemu Selanne was one of the first big names to make hockey crazy popular in his home country of Finland, but unlike many hockey players who are from different countries, he didn’t return to his native country after retiring from the NHL. No, Finland has a cold climate, so Selanne decided to head to sunny California in his post-NHL years. Today, he runs a restaurant in Laguna Beach, California (yes, the Laguna Beach made famous on MTV reality shows). He’s done a few other things, such as joining the pro sports world in a far humbler capacity as a caddy for Finnish golfer Mikko Illonon, but mostly, he runs a restaurant and has fun relaxing in his retirement. We wonder if any of his old team mates, or perhaps even current NHL stars, ever stop by Selanne’s restaurant for a quick bite during the off season – they’ve got to fuel those bodies somehow, after all!
12 Al Secord
The majority of NHL stars who retire end up involved in the hockey world in some way, whether that be as a coach of a lower league team, as an agent, or simply as someone involved with the business side of hockey. Not Al Secord. After spending an impressive 12 seasons in the NHL, Al Secord decided the next spot for him to shine was in the cockpit. He trained as a pilot and is now a commercial airline pilot with American Airlines, a job he got when he was already 40 years old, which proves that you don’t have to be young to transition to a successful career after already having a great career in pro sports. Secord has said that not many people recognize him in his current role, so he’s basically just another pilot – albeit one who probably has a lot of opinions about hockey if you ever chat with him in the airport before a flight.
11 Randy Gregg
While many professional athletes focus simply on athletics and don’t really bother with the whole book learning side of things, Randy Gregg has always kept an eye on academics. After all, before turning pro, the former Edmonton Oilers player was working towards a degree in medicine at the University of Alberta. After hanging up his skates with five Stanley Cup wins under his belt, Gregg remained in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, the town where he had spent the majority of his NHL career. He returned to the world of medicine in retirement, completing his residency program. Now, he works as a family physician at a sports medicine practice, the Edmonton Sport Institute, where he helps other athletes with sports related injuries. That’s right – you should probably call him Dr. Randy Gregg now. We wonder how many of the athletes he treats beg him for stories of what it was like playing with the team during their glory days.
10 Brent Gretzky
Unfortunately, when your brother is arguably one of the best players the NHL has ever seen – ever – it’s a bit tough to shine and develop your own reputation as a hockey player. Brent Gretzky managed to make it to the NHL, but unlike his brother Wayne who went down in the record books, Brent only played 13 games on NHL ice with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He played in the minors for several years, primarily in the UHL, and hung up his skates for good in 2006. After that, Brent went into the world of law enforcement and became a police officer with the Ontario Provincial Police who works in Brant County. While many former NHL players are likely too recognizable to go on to such public careers in retirement, Brent didn’t quite spend long enough in the pro leagues to become a household name on his own. Hopefully his brother Wayne flies him out to Los Angeles from time to time to escape the chilly Canadian winters they both grew up in.
9 Derek Sanderson
Like many professional athletes, Derek Sanderson became tempted to waste his pro athlete sized salary on things like drugs, sex and other reckless endeavours and eventually managed to waste pretty much all the money he had made in the NHL. Granted, they weren’t handing out as many millions back when he played as they do in the current NHL, but still – that’s a fair chunk of change to waste with nothing to show for it. After retiring, he was homeless for a while as he rebuilt his life and tried to find his way back to the right path. Nowadays, he’s helping players avoid the fate that he suffered by working as a financial adviser. We have a feeling he probably does pretty well, given that he can literally tell the players that he’s been where they have been, and that he’s made some pretty bad mistakes that they definitely shouldn’t repeat.
8 Jason Allison
Many professional athletes trade in a team of players for a team of employees as they move from the world of pro sports to the world of business – but Jason Allison took a bit of a different path. Allison was drafted in 1993 and spent time with teams including the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs before leaving the league around 2009. Instead of moving into another role within the hockey world as a coach or something along those lines, Allison did something completely different – he headed out to the countryside. Nowadays, he owns and operates a horse farm north of Toronto. We bet with all that land at his disposal, he’s created a few DIY skating rinks from time to time to showcase his skills on the ice. We have a feeling that the horses aren’t too impressed with his tales of being in the NHL though – they just want to get fed.
7 Jari Kurri
Kurri spent a large part of his legendary career as the right hand man of hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky, as they brought the Edmonton Oilers to win after win during their time with the team. And, in retirement, his personal life looks pretty similar to Wayne Gretzky’s – Kurri also married a model and had several children. His professional path in retirement is similar as well, albeit in a different country. Kurri became the general manager of Finland’s national men’s hockey team, helping shape young players with his expertise and experience. According to Kurri himself, he spends a lot of time scouting Finnish players in the NHL, KHL and other leagues to hand pick the best and brightest that Finland has to offer. And, he’s certainly doing something right – he’s helped take Finland to two World Championship bronze medals as well as an Olympic silver and bronze. We can’t help but wonder if the young Finnish players are a bit star struck having someone like Kurri giving them pointers on the ice.
6 Bobby Orr
Bobby Orr is without question one of the most recognizable and legendary players the NHL has ever seen, and in retirement he hasn’t wandered too far from the arena. Nowadays, Orr works as a sports agent, advising and guiding today’s young players to ensure they make good choices that benefit their careers. In fact, he recently gained a pretty major client – Mr. Connor McDavid himself. In an interview with CBC, McDavid sang Orr’s praises, saying “he’s been a great support guy for me that I can go to if I have any questions or any concerns. He’s been through it all, he’s done anything that a hockey player wants to do. He’s done it all.” He certainly has – and he probably has a ton of great insight to share with his clients to ensure they’re getting tons of great opportunities and making the right choices for their careers. When he’s not helping shape young players, he also plays golf and is involved with various charities.
5 Borje Salming
Swedish superstar Borje Salming was one of the first Swedes granted the honour of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he played with the Toronto Maple Leafs from about 1972 to 1989 – quite a span of time! After he hung up his skates in 1993, Salming’s focus went to the world of underwear. We’re completely serious – he moved from the world of professional sports to the fashion world, creating a business that specializes in, well, underwear. Plenty of professional athletes lend their name to apparel brands, but we’re not sure many are quite as involved as Salming has been. According to Salming’s website, the brand specializes in sports underwear and can be found in retailers in Sweden, Norway and Canada – “a natural choice for the active man who wants to combine functionality and design with a perfect fit and comfort.” Hey, he spent nearly 2 decades in the pro sports world, he probably has a good idea what is truly comfortable during long games and training sessions.
4 Kevin Dahl
Kevin Dahl may not have been anyone’s first round pick, but he managed to successfully carve out a pro hockey career for himself, spending about eight seasons in the NHL (with a few stints bouncing down to the AHL at times). He tried to prolong his professional sports career by playing three seasons in Germany, but eventually realized it was time to face the music and pursue something outside of the sports world – but he wasn’t really sure where to go or what to do. After deciding to retire, Dahl really had no idea what the next step should be – and eventually he founded NexGoal. NexGoal is a recruiting company that specializes in helping former athletes find positions at companies, and removing some of the stress of ‘what now?’ that Dahl experienced when he stepped into retirement. NexGoal doesn’t restrict its focus to hockey players, instead opting to help both minor league and big league players from a variety of sports.
3 Marcel Dionne
Marcel Dionne is a name that most hockey fans will recognize, but in retirement he seemed to want something a little bit quieter than an arena full of cheering fans. So, he opened up Marcel Dionne Inc., a sports memorabilia store in Niagara Falls, as well as a restaurant, The BlueLine Diner. That’s right – you can buy sports memorabilia from the former NHL great, or perhaps chat with him about hockey over an omelette and bacon in the morning. Given that so many former NHL players decide to stay in the hockey world by coaching or working with young players in some way, it’s kind of refreshing that Dionne took a bit of a step back and opted to lead the quiet life of a shop owner. We bet any hockey fan that wanders into his diner without knowing likely gets the surprise of their life – and hopefully some great stories.
2 Gary Roberts
Succeeding in the world of professional sports is tough, and no one knows that better than former professional athletes – so it only makes sense that they’d want to help the next generation of pros develop their skills and physique. After retiring from the NHL, Gary Roberts teamed up with Steven Stamkos, training the rising star one on one and helping hone his physique to ensure he was performing at his peak level on the ice. Since then, Roberts has trained countless other athletes with a program that includes high intensity training, endurance training, and an organic diet. Roberts works at the High Performance Institute in Ontario and the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex outside of Pittsburgh, helping whip the next generation of athletes into fighting shape – after all, he has inside knowledge on exactly what it takes to succeed in the pro leagues and what shape you have to be in to make it happen.
1 Wayne Gretzky
The question isn’t what Wayne Gretzky is doing now – it’s what isn’t he doing? When you’ve had as much career success as Gretzky, you can afford to play around with whatever you want in retirement because you really don’t need to sweat about money. Gretzky owns a restaurant in Toronto, is a partner in First Team Sports, which makes sports equipment, is a partner in Worldwide Roller Hockey, Inc., a company that operates roller hockey rinks, and has endorsed countless brands and products from Domino’s pizza to pillow cases. He’s got a wine label, he’s helped coach Canada’s next great stars on the national level, and he’s a father to his children with model wife Janet. He’s not too worried about his next success, though – as Gretzky himself said “I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t really overly think about it.” He’s just enjoying the luxuries that a crazy NHL career affords and being a great family man.