It's tougher being a professional hockey player than people recognize. You grow up focused on a sole goal: to make the pros. If you're lucky and don't end up as a draft bust, you spend between five and ten years in the NHL. For some really lucky players, they get to have long careers that span up to 20 years before it's time to retire. From that part on though, you're kind of on your own. While some players get jobs in coaching, scouting, and management, for others, they go enter the normal working world for perhaps the first time in their lives. How that goes varies wildly.
This list will take a look at how retirement from NHL hockey has played out for various famous pros. For some, it has been smooth sailing ever since they hung up the skates. Smart investments have paid off, and substantial earnings from years of playing hockey have multiplied into substantial fortunes. For the less lucky players on this list, risky investments have gone sour, spending has gotten out of control, and these woes have been amplified by problems with drugs and alcohol. These days, young players in the NHL are all given plenty of financial planning advice so that they'll be able to manage their finances correctly to ensure that they'll have savings when they retire. But this hasn't always been the case. When you're young and talented and rich, it must be easy to become disconnected with the real world and start living in an unsustainable way. Let's take a look at NHL players who have both shockingly high and shockingly low net worths in 2017.
For whatever reasons, it seems like players who played with a lot of energy and toughness over their careers have seemed to have a harder time with their finances than calmer players. Perhaps it's that tenacity and grit that enables players to succeed in their roles as energetic players that also leads them to situations where they're too ready to whip out their wallets. Theo Fleury was one of the highest scoring players in the league in 1999, and he was rewarded with a $28 million contract. He says that that kind of money lead him into a party-based lifestyle, and he ended up spending over $50 million over the course of his career. Nearly all his money was gone by the time he retired in 2003, but he says he is happier now with his stable, modest life than he was when he was making and spending $8 million a year.
Chris Pronger is said to be worth a stunning $75 million, as he made just shy of $100 million during his impressive NHL career, in which he won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks back in 2007, and was one of few defencemen in NHL history to be the league's most valuable player. He signed a huge contract when he was already 35 years old, and the contract only expired this year, although he did not receive all of the money, because he stopped playing hockey back in 2010 because of injury problems. He recently took on a new role in the NHL, signing on to become an advisor of hockey operations for the Florida Panthers. He's retired from playing hockey, 43-years-old, rich as hell, and working a cushy hockey-related job in sunny Florida. Things are continuing to work out in Chris Pronger's favour.
For most of the players on this list who have gone broke, it's hard to have a whole lot of sympathy for them. How do you blow millions of dollars a year on partying? How do you get scammed by phony investors when you have access to the best financial advisors in the world? However, in the case of Jack Johnson, it's hard not to have pity on the guy. While in the playoffs in 2014, Johnson was given bankruptcy papers because his parents and financial advisors had mislead him so badly that he owed far more than he earned. Now, he's making $5 million a year and only gets to keep a couple hundred thousand of it for living expenses, with the rest going to paying off his debt. He's a good player and he's only thirty, so there's still hope that he'll be able to save up some money before he has to retire in around a decade. As it stands though, Jack Johnson has is broke despite being one of the league's highest paid defencemen.
I always forget about Vincent Lecavalier when I'm thinking about the richest former NHL players in the world, because his time as one of the NHL's premier players was short-lived. He won a cup, and put up over 50 goals and 100 points in his best season. But even with these accolades, it's surprising that Vincent Lecavalier is one of the highest paid hockey players of all time, with career earnings of $87 million. He has been retired since 2016, but he is still getting paid this year, both for a salary that doesn't expire until 2018, and from a buyout. With contracts in professional sports, there's a little bit of luck involved. You want to sign a long deal when you're at the peak of your performance, right before your decline sets in. Lecavalier is an example of a guy who nailed this balance, which is evidenced in the fact that he's still getting paid and not even playing any more.
It's bad enough when a guy like Darren McCarty—who was a solid NHL contributor but not a superstar by anyone's definition—goes broke. But when it happens to someone like Bryan Trottier, it's even worse. Trottier is one of the greatest hockey players to ever play the game, and is in the top ten for all-time points. He won four Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders, constantly putting up point totals in excess of 100 with the team. He also won two cups coaching the Colorado Avalanche. However, as good as he was at playing and coaching hockey, he was really bad with his money. Back in 1994, he filed for bankruptcy. Somehow, he had assets of around $140 000, but owed just about $10 million, due to failed business ventures.
There's no doubt that Ed Jovanovski was a pretty good defenceman over the course of his NHL career. He played just short of 20 NHL seasons, but many of them were shortened due to injury. Jovo has a huge net worth of $53 million, mainly through his salary of just under $60 million, which included contracts that paid him up to $7 million per year. Jovanovski had some great seasons for the Vancouver Canucks, which resulted in him commanding too much money for them to be able to keep him around under the salary cap. He spent seasons in Phoenix and Florida, and since his retirement half a decade ago he has also done small amounts of television work. His huge net worth is made all the more impressive by the fact that he didn't begin playing hockey until he was 11 years old.
Most hockey fans probably remember Darren McCarty as a tough-as-nails enforcer who was more likely to throw fists than put a puck in the net. McCarty was really successful in his role as a tough guy, though, playing many seasons for the Detroit Red Wings and racking up four Stanley Cup wins during that time. His career got off track during the lockout season though, and he had to file for bankruptcy back in 2006. He had debts of over $6 million, with barely $2 million of assets. His bankruptcy is due to debts to credit cards, casinos, family, and well as failed investments that he never saw a return on. He also had to pay huge portions of his salary to his ex-wife when he was a player. McCarty is a great example of a born winner without any money
The fact that Brad Richards is worth around $50 million is evidence of the lengths a few good seasons and a Stanley Cup win can go for a person's earnings, much like in the case of his former line mate, Vincent Lecavalier. Richards spent a few years as a quality top-line centre in the league, but he was mainly quite an average player, and bounced around from team to team in the last few years of his career, finally hanging up the skates in 2016. Here's how he got so rich. He signed a huge deal with the New York Rangers, a team notorious for overpaying for aged talent. They bought him out of the deal eventually, so he got a huge payday from them while free to sign a new contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. That kind of double-dipping, while a nightmare for the Rangers, led to him being one of the highest earners in NHL history.
Any time you're talking about NHLers who have lost substantial amounts of money after their playing careers, it's inevitable that you'll wind up talking about the Bear Mountain Resort, in British Columbia, Canada. The resort was run by Len Barrie, who was a former NHL hockey player himself, and secured investments from 13 other former hockey pros. When the resort was mismanaged and went under, Barrie ended up losing his home, and the investors lost millions. Nobody lost more in the deal than Mike Vernon, who had $2 million plus a $7.6 million bank loan on the line. Now, over the course of his long playing career, Vernon made nearly $24 million, but his poor financial investments have resulted in the depletion of that money. A few years back, he had to sell his Calgary home, for which he netted $10 million.
While there are some players on this list—like Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier—who were good players but perhaps do not deserve to be among the richest retired NHL players on earth, Bure deserves his millions. The Russian Rocket has a net worth of $68 million, and what he has in common with many of the players on this list is that he was given a massive contract by the New York Rangers. His net worth may be greater than we know, because he has been assumed to have mafia ties at points in his life. He has also bolstered his wealth with two successful lawsuits, one against an airline and one against a newspaper. He comes from a famous watchmaking family, and has done some watchmaking for prominent Russian political figures since his retirement.
While Pavel Bure is one of the highest earning Russian players of all time, Sergei Fedorov played way more games in the NHL than Bure did, and was more successful overall, winning three Stanley Cups in his career. Like Bure, he had blazing speed. Unlike Bure, though, he was a very versatile player who could play great defence as well as lighting the lamp. However, his earnings are way less than Bure's because he was swindled out of $43 million by a fraudster. It was agreed in court that the scammer had to pay back Fedorov what he owed, but Fedorov has yet to see the money. That means that while Sergei Fedorov made over $65 million in his career, his net worth is way less than that, and he has never had access to all the money he has earned.
Gee, what do we have here? It's another mediocre hockey player who was handed a giant contract by the New York Rangers, that now finds himself filthy rich despite his career accomplishments not being very good. Wade Redden was a solid defenceman for the Ottawa Senators for years. Then the Rangers signed him at six years for $39 million, making him one of the highest paid players in the league. His play dropped off, so the Rangers sent him to the AHL, where he continued to get paid over $6 million a year to play among guys getting paid $65 000 a year, on average. Redden's career did not end gloriously, but it was kind of a dream scenario at the same time. He half-assed it among minor leaguers for millions for a couple seasons. Who wouldn't be happy to do that?
You'd be forgiven for not knowing who Derek Sanderson is, really. Unlike most of the other players on this list, he was never really a household name despite multiple seasons in the NHL, most of which he spent portions of in the minors, and he played his last NHL season in the mid-'70s. However, in 1972, he signed the highest contract in the history of professional sports at the time: $2.65 million. That made him richer than Pele, the greatest soccer player in the world at the time and the highest paid athlete. Sanderson is notable for blowing through his NHL earnings, though. In one incident, he spent $400,000 in 2017 dollars on a Rolls Royce, just to spite a car dealer who thought he couldn't afford it. He drank and partied his way though his earnings, and was completely broke by 1979. Since then, he has worked his way back up, ironically starting a financial management company. Still, the millions he earned during his playing days are long gone.
Is it a surprise that the best hockey player of all time is also the richest? I'm not sure. After all, Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, is also the richest basketball player ever, worth over a billion dollars. Gretzky is worth more than five times less than Jordan, which makes sense considering the NHL's popularity in the United States compared to the NBA. It is surprising that Gretzky, who is from a small city in Ontario, has been able to manage his finances so well, signing huge contracts and never squandering money. His net worth is said to be $200 million today. In addition to his NHL contract money, his earnings include coaching, the ownership of various sports teams, endorsement deals, and more.
Have you ever wondered why you see so many commercials with Bobby Orr in them? Why does the greatest defenceman in the history of the NHL feel the need to do so many car commercials and public appearances? Why write and promote books, Bobby, when you could relax and enjoy retired life somewhere hot? The answer is that, though Bobby Orr signed the first million-dollar contract in the history of the NHL, he went deeply into debt after he retired and had to sell his assets. Orr's money was managed by a lawyer named Alan Eagleson during his career, and Eagleson did such a bad job with Orr's fortune that the year Bobby Orr retired, he had no money, and was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Eagleson ended up being convincted of embezzlement and fraud, and Orr built his worth back up from scratch, and today he's said to be worth $35 million. Still, it doesn't seem right that such a great player was robbed of his playing salary from a glorious career.