Hockey tends to have some of the better behaved athletes in sports. The culture of hockey lends itself to kids needing parents who are financially stable because the cost of playing hockey is higher than most sports. It's come to the point where some are concerned about hockey's future, worrying it's becoming too elitist.
Not all NHL players grew up in wealthy families who basically had everything. Not all NHL players grew up in underprivileged neighborhoods, surrounded by crime either. There's a combination of both, just like athletes in other sports, especially the NFL and NBA. But this is an NHL-centered list, so we'll turn our attention to some hockey stars since they're not talked about a lot in the media anyway.
Just a general notification, you probably won't be surprised by some of these names. The contrast between these three players and beyond will most likely shock you and cause you to see the NHL in a different way instead of the usual puppies and rainbows you might've thought about by simply watching hockey games on your television and/or following your favorite teams on social media. That being said, success comes to people from all walks of life.
Here are 10 NHL players who were rich before making it pro and 10 who were poor.
20 Rich: Zach Parise
You're probably wondering why Zach Parise isn't at the top of this list.
Yeah, Zach plays for the Minnesota Wild (the same market of his late father's team) as a left winger, but it's very obvious Zach grew up in a wealthy, hockey family. Zach's father J.P. Parise (left winger) played for the Minnesota North Stars and New York Islanders as well as Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series. Zach's older brother Jordan Parise is a retired semi-professional goalie who played for the AHL's Lowell Devils and Connecticut Whales as well as the ECHL's Wheeling Nails. So that's all Zach wrote. With Parise now coasting on a huge $100 million contract that doesn't expire until 2025, so the wealth will be passed down to the next generation as well.
19 Poor: Bobby Ryan
Bobby Ryan is far from a household name, but he sure has a story to tell.
Bobby was born and raised to a dysfunctional family in New Jersey. When Bobby was just 10 years old, his father Bob Stevenson badly beat his mother Melody Stevenson after getting drunk. Melody was taken to the hospital with four broken ribs, one skull fracture and one punctured lung. Bob was charged with attempted murder and escaped bail in order to flee to Canada.
Bob's family later forgave him and joined him in Canada, but later moved to Southern California, so Bobby could play youth hockey. Three years later, the United States Marshal Service arrested Bob for illegal gambling. Bob was unable to get away with gambling in order to "support" his family.
18 Rich: Mike Comrie
Mike Comrie often looked disinterested when he was playing hockey and we have a possible reason why. Mike grew up in a rich family based in Edmonton, Alberta.
Mike's father and two of his uncles are the founders of a major Canadian retailer called "The Brick." Mike's older brother Paul Comrie played a brief stint with the Oilers in the 1999-00 NHL season. Both of Mike's younger half brothers Eric and Ty play professional hockey.
Mike also received $2.5 million from his ex-wife Hilary Duff as a part of their divorce settlement, which was finalized in 2016. So it's safe to say Mike has always had a financial cushion to lean back on, even after his NHL career fizzled out.
17 Poor: Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson is now an alternate captain for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he has made headlines for the wrong reasons. No, we're not talking about the good boy gone bad tabloids, but the victim of a serious mistake.
It's understandable if someone like Johnson wanted to help their parents out, but Johnson should've never granted his mother power of attorney over ALL of his finances. It wasn't long before his poverty-stricken parents started monetizing to spend tons of money on cars, homes and vacation trips. As a result, Johnson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and sued for $1.5 million in punitive damages. Johnson eventually reached a settlement that all but $240,000 of his NHL salary would go to paying off his debts for two years, which briefly made him the lowest paid player in the NHL.
16 Rich: Max Domi
It's often a tough task for a second generation NHL player to replicate his father's footsteps, but Max Domi seems to be on track as he has already topped Tie Domi's best single season goal record.
Max grew up as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan because Tie played with the Leafs in 1989-90 and from 1994-2006. However, Max got drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes (now Arizona Coyotes) with the 12th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, so he's stuck in scorching hot Arizona. But it shouldn't matter to him as Max has enjoyed a comfortable early life, thanks to Tie, and will continue to accumulate more money for years to come. With Arizona seemingly nowhere near contention, we'll see if Max decides to follow in his dad's footsteps if he ever becomes a free agent.
15 Poor: Donald Brashear
Donald Brashear is an NHL player turned MMA fighter, but he has had it rough since the start. Donald is the youngest of three kids born to an African American father and a French Canadian mother.
Brashear's father was an alcoholic who constantly abused his family. He slashed him with belts and electrical cords. At one point, he even threw him out a window. What a scumbag!
Brashear eventually moved in with his mother and stepfather in Lorrettville, Quebec, but his stepfather had a racist attitude, so he suffered even more abuse. He then lived in at least a few foster homes before finding a stable home, where he played hockey with his new siblings and later worked as a paper boy to pay for hockey clinics and equipment.
14 Rich: Carey Price
As valuable as Carey Price has been to the Montreal Canadiens, there are some fans who feel Price has been overvalued by the organization. Whatever way you feel about his incoming contract of $10.5 million a year over eight years, it seems Price was well off long before his NHL career.
As a kid, Carey Price lived in the small town of Anahim Lake, BC, a population of 700. In order to get to hockey practice, his parents had to charter an airplane to get young Carey to hockey practice three times a week. The round trip of 640 km to practice, combined with Carey's father's pilot license convinced him a plane was a good investment.
"Eventually it got to be a lot of hours in the car so he just bought an airplane so he could fly it," Price explained.
Carey's parents even bought a second car and condo in Williams Lake to make it more convenient for Price to get to hockey.
While it doesn't exactly make Price a spoiled rich kid, getting a plane to practice as a kid certainly is a bigger privilege than most kids get.
13 Poor: Steve Downie
Steve Downie grew up with an older brother Greg Downie and their parents Anne and the late John Downie in Holland Landing, Ontario. Sounds comfortable, right? Not really.
Steve's father John died in a fatal car accident while driving him to hockey practice in 1996. Not only that, Steve was born with a hearing disorder called otosclerosis, so he's deaf in the right ear and had to wear a hearing aid.
Steve is currently an unrestricted free agent, but when he was on the road with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he would share rooms with his friend and fellow teammate Steven Stamkos (captain and center). Steve seems to know how to manage his money since he didn't grow up with a whole lot of moolah as a kid.
12 Rich: Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin is one of the biggest names in hockey. Ovechkin plays hockey in the American nation's capital. The Capitals are a tremendous team who just happens to fall short in the playoffs even if they earn the Presidents' Trophy. But have no fear as Ovi continues to live the good life with a stunning model wife Nastya Shubskaya and the couple's adorable dog Blake.
Ovi has always seen bright lights though. His father Mikhail Ovechkin was a soccer player and his mother Tatyana Ovechkina was a Soviet Union women's basketball player who won two Olympic gold medals in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Quebec, and at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Russia.
Ovi's late brother Sergei Ovechkin first introduced him to hockey years before he died in a car accident when Ovi was just 10 years old. However, Ovi's parents had the money for their son to continue playing hockey instead of feeling the need to start a new career in a cheaper sport like football or basketball.
11 Poor: Theo Fleury
If you're a true hockey fan, you've heard of Theo Fleury before. No, Theo Fleury isn't related to Marc-Andre Fleury, but Theo was a right winger who played a physical style that often led to altercations on the ice...and battled addictions off the ice.
Theo's addictions didn't stem from his success, but went way back with his troubled parents. Theo's father was a former athlete whose career was marred by injuries and turned to alcohol to drown his sorrows. On the other hand, Theo's mother was a religious woman, but was secretly suffering from addiction herself. On top of that, Fleury wrote a detailed autobiography that he was abused by his youth hockey coach.
Luckily, Theo eventually overcame his addictions, opened a concrete business in Calgary, Alberta, and serves as a motivational speaker and country singer in his spare time.
10 Rich: Joffrey Lupul
Joffrey Lupul's last name literally means "wolf."
Lupul is a Ukranian-Canadian who grew up in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, but he was far from a poor kid who lived in a farm in the middle of nowhere. Lupul's father Craig Lupul is an award-winning attorney based in Edmonton, Alberta.
Not only that, Lupul's maternal grandfather Tom Mayson was a member of the Edmonton Investors Group. The EIP was a limited partnership that owned the Edmonton Oilers at one moment in time. At this time, Lupul is sitting on the sidelines while still being under contract to the Leafs for this year. He's unlikely to play again, but luckily, he's been privileged most of his life.
9 Poor: Kevin Labanc
Kevin Labanc isn't a normal rookie who always had things going in his favor.
When I first interviewed Labanc for my first job (San Jose Sharks reporter for Inside Hockey) out of college (San Jose State), Labanc was just fine with honing his skills with the Sharks' AHL affiliate San Jose Barracuda. I was happy when Labanc got called up by the Sharks for the first time. Though, Labanc went through his ups and downs, but I can see why that happened as he didn't take the conventional route like other rookies did.
Labanc's early life wasn't normal either. Sure, Labanc lived with his parents and an older sister (a Penn State graduate), but Curtis Pashelka of The Mercury News did an interview with Labanc once...and guess what he found out? Labanc probably wouldn't have been a Shark if his parents didn't emigrate to the U.S. and stayed in their native Slovakia. There's just something about immigrant and/or refugee parents who push their kids to succeed in life.
8 Rich: Paul Stastny
Like Kevin Labanc, Paul Stastny (St. Louis Blues alternate captain and center) comes from a family of immigrants. Paul's father Peter Statsny was a defector from Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), but Peter was a 1998 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and former NHL center who played for the Quebec Nordiques (now Colorado Avalanche), New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues.
Paul and Peter weren't the only members of the Stastny family to play pro hockey though. Paul's older brother Yan Stastny played in the NHL and two of his uncles Anton and Marian Stastny also played in the NHL. Paul certainly wasn't starving in his early life. He now is well established in his whole career, albeit not quite the star his father was for the Nordiques.
7 Poor: Don Edwards
Unless if you're a baby boomer, you probably haven't heard of Don Edwards. Edwards is a retired goalie who played in the NHL for 10 seasons (Buffalo Sabres from 1976-82, Calgary Flames from 1982-85, Toronto Maple Leafs from 1985-96). Edwards spent his offseasons participating in golf tournaments.
Edwards succeeded in life, but he continues to deal with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Why's that? His parents were murdered by a killer who allegedly violated his sister before committing the cold-blooded crime. His parents' killer remains behind bars, but his other relatives continue to fear for their lives.
It's already difficult enough to grow up with little to no money, but if you were in Edwards' ...you'd have to experience the unfortunate hardships of life before seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
6 Rich: Joe Colborne
Joe Colborne is an example of a young man who hopes to surpass his father's net worth. And no, his father Paul Colborne isn't a superstar hockey player. Paul is actually an oil and natural gas executive who has served as the CEO of Surge Energy since 2013. Before that big break, Paul worked in the oil industry for 20-plus years following a college football career at the University of Calgary.
Joe is currently on his third NHL contract with the Colorado Avalanche with an annual salary of $2.5 million. Despite that income, he still has a long way to go to become the family's breadwinner. It's likely Colborne would have to have a breakout season before reaching that status.
5 Poor: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
You probably didn't think of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but he was indeed an example of an NHL player who grew up poor. Nugent-Hopkins is now an alternate captain for the Edmonton Oilers, but his path to hockey stardom wasn't always easy.
Nugent-Hopkins didn't play in his second season of peewee hockey due to a couple of reasons. He wasn't sick or injured, but his parents separated when he was nine years old, and then his father was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent surgery to remove his spleen.
“Obviously, I knew that he was sick, but they didn’t say anything about it,” Ryan told Dan Barnes of the Edmonton Journal before the 2011 NHL Draft. “I found out a few years later. Obviously, it was pretty tough to hear because something like that doesn’t ever really go away."
Additionally, Nugent-Hopkins had to miss one season of hockey and spent as much time as he could practicing at an outdoor rink. So he has come a long way.
4 Rich: Vladimir Tarasenko
St. Louis Blues alternate captain Vladimir Tarasenko plays as a right winger and is very well known for being on the front cover of NHL 17.
But something you might've not known is the fact Vladimir's father Andrei Tarasenko is a former Russian hockey player who competed in the 1994 Winter Olympics. Following his playing career, Andrei became a coach for HC Sibir Novosibirsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). Also, Vladimir's mother Yulia Tarasenko was an amateur athlete who often traveled to support her husband; which led to her son being taken care of by his grandparents, who supported his academic and athletic dreams.
Vladimir lived a comfortable life and can now return the favor by shelling out parts of his income to his family.
3 Poor: Travis Hamonic
Travis Hamonic is an NHL defenseman who is of Metis ancestry. Hamonic grew up on the Hamonic Farms in Manitoba, where he farmed with his father during his early life. Then, his father died of a heart attack when he was 10 years old.
Following his father's death, Hamonic and his family relocated to Winnipeg, where he continued to improve his hockey skills. He later got drafted by the New York Islanders with the 53rd overall pick in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, where he played for seven years until he was traded to the Calgary Flames on June 24, 2017.
Hamonic did a feature for the ESPN2 series E:60 titled "In the Name of the Father" if you're interested in learning more about his childhood, personal life and religion.
2 Rich: Marian Hossa
Chicago Blackhawks' veteran forward Marian Hossa is a Slovak who was brought up in Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), but he was fortunate to have grown up in an affluent household. Marian's father Frantisek Hossa was a former hockey player and Marian's mother is a clothing designer.
Marian's parents helped him and his younger brother Marcel Hossa pursue their dreams of becoming NHL players. Since the beginning of his career, Marian has amassed more than $80 million and this means his daughters will also be financed with whatever they want to do in their lives. Hossa is still under contract with Chicago for several more years, but with his recent skin allergy diagnosis prevented him from playing this season, with many wondering if he'll ever play again.
1 Poor: Jordin Tootoo
Jordin Tootoo is best known for three things: throwing punches, becoming the first Inuk player to play in an NHL game and the first to grow up in Nunavut to play in an NHL game.
Jordin lives life in the fast lane...and no, we're not just talking about agitating other players on the ice. In his book All the Way: My Life on Ice, he talks about how he made it to the NHL from a small village of Rankin Inlet in Nunavut. He has encountered some bumps along the way, including chronic alcoholism, but he appears to be doing just fine.
Jordin's brother Terence took his own life following a drunk driving arrest in 2002. Terence left him a note, saying "Jor, go all the way. Take care of the family. You’re the man. Terence." That was apparently the crossroad of Jordan's career as he made the most out of his situation to become a better man and player.
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