Millions of hockey fans marvel at the talent displayed by their favourite players. All players eventually retire from the league, making way for new generations of talented hockey players. Very few often follow the players after they leave the NHL spotlight and enter the largely uncertain world of retirement. Many former NHLers struggle with this and are unable to cope with the change of pace retirement brings, and this is a problem. There are those, however, who find ways to keep busy. This might be humanitarian work or actually going back and earning an income outside of playing hockey.
Many former NHL players return to hockey in some capacity. That might mean coaching in the minor leagues or in the NHL, being part of the front office, or as a broadcaster. NHL Hall of Famer Bobby Orr is now a player agent. Their NHL experience often makes them a great fit for these types of roles. We will not be focusing on these types of players for this article. Instead, we will be taking a look at fifteen NHL retired players who found careers outside of hockey altogether.
Though these players experienced varying degrees of success during their playing days, each of them have kept busy in their own way. Some of these players have taken their high-profile name and money made and tried to open businesses, such as restaurants or memorabilia shops. The transition to normalcy is never an easy one and not everyone will make it in broadcasting or coaching. With that in mind, here are fifteen retired NHLers who found more regular jobs not directly involved in hockey.
15 MIKE RICHTER - Opened Private Equity Fund
Mike Richter is arguably one of the most successful American goalies in NHL history. He spent his entire career (1985 – 2003) with the New York Rangers, and helped lead the team to the 1994 Stanley Cup. Richter was a member of the U.S. hockey team at the 2002 Olympics, where they won the Silver medal. Richter has also been inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and has been honoured by having his jersey hung in the rafters at Madison Square Garden. One would think he would retire satisfied and maybe land a job in coaching, but he took a different path. He attended Yale University after retiring, and has since opened a private equity fund. Richter is the now a founding partner of Environmental Capital Partners, a $100 million private equity fund!
14 MARCEL DIONNE - Diner Owner
Marcel Dionne almost certainly has to be in the conversation for one of the greatest hockey players of all time. He might not have been as famous as other greats such as Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Sidney Crosby more recently, but he had an excellent playing career. The Hall of Famer played 18 seasons in the NHL and achieved 100 points in eight of those seasons.
While Dionne continues to remain close to the sport, he has opened up a few businesses as well. He runs and operates a large sports memorabilia store in Buffalo called Marcel Dionne Inc. He also runs a diner called “The BlueLine Diner” in Niagara Falls, ON. Maybe if you visit one of his businesses, you will come across the Hall of Famer!
13 KEN DRYDEN - Author, Politician
Ken Dryden was perhaps one of the best goalies in NHL history. He is a five time Vezina Trophy winner and won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens! He was also the goalie for the Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against Russia, which Canada won. He had a relatively short career of seven seasons compared to other top goalies, when he retired in 1979. He has since entered politics with the Liberal Party of Canada (the Canadian equivalent of the Democrats). He served in the House of Commons as an MP for York Center between 2004 and 2011, when he was succeeded by Conservative Mark Adler. Dryden also ran for the Liberal Leadership but, despite being a high-profile name, was unsuccessful. Outside of politics, Dryden is also an accomplished author having published 6 books, most of which came after his playing days ended.
12 GUY LAFLEUR - Restaurant Owner
Guy Lafleur is another former NHL great who appears on the list, who just so happened to also spend time with the Montreal Canadiens. He is maybe best known for being the first player in the NHL to score 50 goals and 100 points in six consecutive seasons. Lafleur first retired in 1985 following an acrimonious departure from the Canadiens, returned as a player for a few years after already being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and then retired again in 1991.
Lafleur certainly kept busy after retirement. To this day, he operated a helicopter rental company in Montreal, which shuttles VIPs to and from the airport. He also owned two Quebec restaurants that were somewhat successful. His first one, “Guy Lafleur Mikes Signature”, opened in 2002 and exists to this day. His second one, “Bleu, Blanc, Rouge!”, opened in 2008 but he sold it for $5M before closing in 2012. On top of this, he was also appointed an honorary colonel of 12 Radar Squadron from 2005 to 2008.
11 SEAN AVERY - Model
Sean Avery was a left winger for the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, and New York Rangers during his playing career (2000 – 2012). Avery just seemed to have a knack for being at the center of attention and involved in some sort of controversy. Somehow Avery stayed in the NHL for 12 seasons despite not being a good enforcer and never achieved 40 points in a season. Avery did, however, seem to have a good exit plan. Interestingly, Avery worked at Lipman, an advertising and creative agency until it closed in 2013. He has also campaigned for ending homophobia in sports and for same-sex marriage. If that weren’t enough, he was also a restaurant owner, a fashion model, and a Don Draper ad man. Avery has maybe been the busiest former NHLer with his wide range of interests.
10 BRIAN BELLOWS - Broker
Brian Bellows played 1,200 games in the NHL and bounced between a number of teams: Minnesota, Montreal, Tampa Bay, Anaheim, and Washington. He actually had a good amount of success in the NHL. He will always be able to say he won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens and was named to three All-Star teams. Upon retiring from the league in 1999, Bellows moved to Edina, Minnesota. He found a job in Minneapolis as a broker at the Piper Jaffray investment bank. Since embarking on this new career path, Bellows has been named one of the “Best Ice Hockey Players in Finance” by Business Insider in 2013.
9 CLINT MALARCHUK - Veterinary Technician
Clint Malarchuk spent just over a decade in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres, as a goaltender. He survived a very scary in-game accident when Steve Tuttle’s skate blade sliced Malarchuk’s carotid artery and jugular vein. He lost a lot of blood and miraculously survived the life-threatening injury, and play in the league for a few more years. After leaving the NHL, Malarchuk struggled with mental health and addiction issues. He attempted suicide in 2008 as a cry for help, and eventually did receive medical attention and overcame his personal demons.
Malarchuk is a certified veterinary technician and opened up a horse dentist practice from his home on the ranch. In addition to this interesting career change, Malarchuk and his wife are also public speakers about mental health issues covered in his autobiography, The Crazy Game or A Matter of Inches – How I Survived In The Crease And Beyond. Malarchuk went from being in the NHL to being a horse dentist, author, and public speaker!
8 JOHN CULLEN - Car Dealership Manager
John Cullen played for Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Toronto during his decade-long career as an NHLer. He was a two time All-Star, and finished his playing days with 187 goals and 363 assists. Despite playing on some good teams, Cullen never managed to capture that elusive Stanley Cup. It was his battle with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma that would ultimately end his career. After retirement, Cullen moved to the Atlanta area where he worked with his brother at a car dealership. While he briefly owned his own dealership, the recession caused his business to fold.
He has since been named a General Manager at his brother’s car dealership. So, if you happen to be near Atlanta and need a new or used car, maybe you will run into a former NHL star.
7 CLAUDE LEMIEUX - President of 4Sports Entertainment
Claude Lemieux had a 21 year career in the NHL, spending time with the Canadiens, Devils, Avalanche, Coyotes, and the Stars. Although he played in forty games with the San Jose Sharks organization in 2008-2009, he formally retired from the NHL after the 2003 season. Not including his brief venture back into hockey, he has become a successful businessman. He served as President for Graf Canada, a hockey equipment company who specializes in skates, before they unfortunately folded and closed their doors in 2016. Lemieux is also still a President of 4Sports Entertainment. According to their website, they act as advisors to many accomplished athletes in gold, hockey, tennis, and skiing.
Lemieux became known for having his best games in the post-season, just as it seems like Lemieux is also becoming even more successful in his post-hockey career.
6 TOMAS SANDSTROM - Firefighter
Tomas Sandstrom was not exactly a fan favourite during his heyday in the 1990s. He was often criticized for what was described as “dirty play” back then, when he frequently tried to get under his opponent’s skin. Despite all this, Sandstrom was a perfectly solid player during his NHL career. He helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 1997, and finished with 394 career goals and 856 points. Following his departure from the NHL, Sandstrom would go back to his home in Sweden and play three seasons in a Swedish hockey league. He would remain in Sweden and eventually became a firefighter in Skanor, a town of 7,000 people. Sandstrom went from being a 1990s NHL bad boy to saving lives as a firefighter in Sweden.
5 BRETT HULL - Restaurant Owner
Brett Hull is probably a controversial guy, depending on where you live. He is a Canadian who went to play for the U.S., but if you can get past that then you can think of him as one of the best snipers during his heyday. After his retirement in 2005, he actually did some work in broadcasting and managed a junior hockey team. However, Hull’s greatest job outside of hockey was when he tried to his hand at being an entrepreneur and opened up a restaurant. Hull partnered with fellow retired NHLer Mike Modano and opened up a Dallas restaurant called “Hully and Mo Restaurant and Tap Room”. This restaurant unfortunately closed a few years ago, proving that it is very hard to be successful in the restaurant business.
He's now working with the Blues as Executive Vice President over business development.
4 KEN LINSEMAN - Commercial Real Estate
Ken Linseman was in the NHL for 15 years, playing for the Flyers, Oilers, Bruins, and Maple Leafs. For some reason, he earned the nickname “The Rat”. Although he was never one of the best players, he was a good player in his own right and won a Stanley Cup with the Oilers in 1984. Nowadays, could you envision yourself buying real estate from a guy nicknamed “The Rat”? Probably not. He is now living in the Boston area with his family, and is involved in the commercial real estate business.
As someone who was an agitator in the NHL, we can only imagine what those tough negotiations with Linseman must be like. We would be remiss to not mention that Linseman has since taken up surfing since retiring in 1992. “The Rat” on the water is just too good to pass up.
3 BORJE SALMING - Owner of Salming Underwear
Borje Salming has the most unusual post-retirement career of all the entries on this list. While there are many impactful Swedish players in the NHL today and in recent years, Salming is credited with paving the way as being of the first Swedes to make an impact in the NHL. He spent 16 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs as their top defensemen and handled himself well, especially considering the expectations placed on players in Toronto.
Upon retiring from his hockey playing days, he started his own business in Europe – selling underwear! Yes, the former NHLer opened a business called “Salming Underwear” in 1991 that is still in business to this day. According to a translation from the website, the inspiration behind the product is “…that you should barely notice the underwear you wear.” Sounds like an interesting and pretty smart idea!
2 GARY ROBERTS - Personal Trainer
Gary Roberts, considered by some to be a player’s player, had a tremendous work ethic during his playing days. He won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and also scored 50+ goals in a single season. After Roberts retired from the NHL in 2009 after a career that saw him play in 21 seasons, he has kept quite busy. As hard working as he was during his playing days, it should not be a surprise he has worked hard to keep busy. Roberts has trained Steven Stamkos 1 one 1 by putting him through grueling offseason workouts, and runs a training program for athletes. Anyone who wants to get into top shape goes to Roberts, as his tough program focuses on high intensity training, endurance, and sticking to a strict diet.
1 DONALD BRASHEAR - Martial Artist
Okay, it may not be a regular job, but it's too interesting to ignore. Donald Brashear was certainly not the most talented NHL player on any given team, but he can always say he was one of the best enforcers in the NHL. In fact, he was one of the league leaders in penalty minutes for six seasons and ranks 15th all time in career penalty minutes. He retired in 2015 but had a very long career in the league, pretty solid for someone who went undrafted. It is probably not much of a surprise to say that the aggressive left winger found his way to the lands of MMA and boxing. He holds professional records of 1-0 in MMA and 2-1 in boxing, so he can at least hold his own, albeit in small sample sizes.