Professional athletes tend to have a terrible time with money.
Really, it’s not their fault. Their whole life is dedicated to getting really good at their craft. Nobody cares if a football or a basketball player takes a real degree at college, as long as he’s good at his sport. There’s a reason why we all make jokes about college athletes getting degrees in basket weaving. If they don’t learn this stuff, how can we expect them to manage their money successfully?
According to a study done by Sports Illustrated, 78% of NFL players face either bankruptcy or serious financial problems after just two years out of the game. The NBA is a little better, but an estimated 60% of its alumni face financial hardships within five years of retirement.
Geez, I guess a posse really is expensive. Excuse me while I scratch that off my bucket list.
No study has been done to figure out just how many NHLers face financial difficulties after they retire, but it’s definitely an issue. Both the NHL and NHL Player’s Association do help players to avoid many of the things that trip up NFL and NBA players, by telling them to invest their money into things like publicly traded stocks and bonds, rather than a new kind of strip club dreamed up by their cousin.
Still, a fair share of NHLers do end up running into money trouble.
15. Michael Peca
Mike Peca was a defensive-minded face-off specialist that spent 14 seasons in the NHL, accumulating 864 games played with six different teams.
He also got caught up in an investment scam involving his investment adviser Phil Kenner, who convinced Peca and more than a dozen other NHLers to trust him with their life savings. Kenner even somehow managed to get himself listed as power of attorney on Peca’s line of credit, which he promptly drained.
Kenner has been convicted of a number of charges, but Peca still hasn’t seen a dime back from his investment worth millions in Kenner’s sham developments. He’s since began to work on as a TV analyst, which is likely enough to allow him to remain comfortable, but he lost a sizable amount of his money and his ability to ease into retirement.
14. Chris Neil
The only thing uglier than this tough guy’s face is his bank account.
Ottawa Senators forward Chris Neil decided to get into the construction business with his brothers, which wasn’t a smart move. In 2010 he declared bankruptcy, telling the courts that he had assets of just $544,451, while owing creditors $2.4 million. And that was before he paid the bankruptcy trustee more than $100,000 for their services.
The funniest part? The bankruptcy came just months after Neil signed a 4-year extension with the Ottawa Senators, paying him $2 million per year.
13. Ray Whitney
Ray Whitney enjoyed one of the most underrated careers in NHL history, very quietly putting up nearly a point per game over parts of 21 NHL seasons. He even cracked the 1,000 point plateau.
Unfortunately for “The Wizard,” these days he’s more remembered for his $3 million investment in a failed golf resort, a project that was the brainchild of Len Barrie, former owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Unlike Mike Peca’s failed investment, Barrie has not been charged with any wrong doing. Whitney just made a poor investment in a project that failed.
12. Mike Vernon
Ray Whitney’s investment with Len Barrie seems like pocket change compared to Mike Vernon’s.
The former Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings goaltender ended up losing $2 million from his ownership of the Bear Mountain golf resort in British Columbia, and he also guaranteed a $7.6 million loan that HSBC Bank gave the development.
Vernon’s post-career investments haven’t all turned out that poorly. In 2009, he sold off his Calgary-area home for $10.3 million, which set a record at the time for the most expensive house sale in Calgary history.
11. Camille Henry
Because Camille Henry played from 1953 to 1970, he really didn’t get paid a whole lot. Player salaries exploded after he retired.
It gets even sadder for the diminutive center once he retired. After a brief stint in coaching, Henry held down security jobs before eventually falling into poverty because of alcoholism and medical issues. He finally got his share for the players’ pension fund in 1997 (worth $85,000) and then passed away shortly after at the age of 64. He didn’t get a chance to enjoy any of the money.
10. Brian Spencer
Brain Spencer’s pro career was heavily tainted by tragedy.
It started in late-1970s, when Spencer was called up by the Toronto Maple Leafs to play his very first NHL game. The game was scheduled to be broadcast coast-to-coast on CBC’s iconic Hockey Night in Canada franchise. Spencer phoned his father Roy in British Columbia and told him to tune in.
Instead, CBC showed a game featuring the Vancouver Canucks and California Golden Seals. Enraged, Roy Spencer drove to the nearest CBC television station and ordered station staff to switch to the Leafs feed — at gunpoint. The RCMP showed up and after a brief stand-off, shot and killed the elder Spencer.
After a solid career that lasted eight seasons, the younger Spencer spiraled out of control, constantly getting into trouble with the law and battling addiction. After being cleared of kidnapping and murder charges in 1988, Spencer was killed three months later in a Florida trailer court when he was shot shortly after buying crack cocaine.
9. Dany Heatley
Like many of the other players on this list, former Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild sniper Dany Heatley was led astray by trusted advisors pushing investments that didn’t work out.
In 2012, Heatley sued his former agent Stacey McAlpine for $11 million, alleging that McAlpine and his parents used various corporate entities to shield themselves from any personal liability while Heatley put up the cash needed to invest.
It wasn’t just Heatley with problems with McAlpine. Just a month after Heatley’s lawsuit, Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips filed his own suit against the former agent for $7.5 million. McAlpine responded by countersuing for $230,000, also known as they “hey, we might as well” legal defense.
8. Bryan Berard
Bryan Berard hasn’t had a very lucky life.
He was the first overall draft pick in the 1997 draft, going to the New York Islanders. You probably remember him best as the guy who wasn’t wearing a visor when he took a high stick from Marian Hossa in the right eye, resulting in one of the more horrific injuries in NHL history. To his credit, he fought back and still had many productive seasons after losing sight in the eye.
Off the ice, Berard also got caught up with Phil Kenner, the same shady financial adviser who milked millions out of Mike Peca and Joe Juneau, among others. Berard gave Kenner almost everything he had and hasn’t seen a penny of it back.
Berard is now working in finance, partly because he has to, and partly to help young players not make the same mistakes he did.
7. Darren McCarty
During his 13 years playing with the Detroit Red Wings (and a two season cup of coffee with the Calgary Flames), Darren McCarty was a favorite among both fans and his teammates. He didn’t score much, but he could always be counted on to back up a teammate in trouble.
Unfortunately for Darren, that giving attitude followed him off the ice as well. After the 2004-05 lockout, the gritty winger was forced to declare bankruptcy. He owed $6.2 million to everyone from friends to several casinos in both Detroit and Las Vegas. The combination of not getting paid during the lockout, a divorce, and a cut in salary was enough to do him in.
6. Theoren Fleury
Theo Fleury spent 15 seasons in the NHL, with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks. He’s best known for his time in Calgary and struggling with substance abuse issues while a member of the Rangers. It seemed like all of Fleury’s problems culminated in 2003 when he and teammates were involved in an incident at a strip club in Columbus, which effectively ended his career.
Even though Fleury had career earnings of more than $50 million, though he sadly lost pretty much all of it.
These days, Fleury is doing better. His autobiography Playing With Fire was a best-seller and he’s a successful motivational speaker. He’s also been sober for the last ten years.
5. Mike Modano
Mike Modano is possibly the greatest American-born player in NHL history, amassing 1,359 points in 20 seasons with the Dallas Stars, along with one season for the Detroit Red Wings, a season Stars fans refuse to acknowledge.
For the most part, Modano was a cautious investor, but decided to take some chances back around 2003. He invested $4 million in a series of high-risk private investments in the entertainment industry. That worked out as well as his last season with the Red Wings.
At least Modano got 15 points to his credit as a member of the Red Wings. He doesn’t even have $15 to show for his big investment.
4. Derek Sanderson
During his height as a player with the Boston Bruins in the 1970s, Sanderson felt underpaid, like many of his peers.
So Sanderson did what anybody with functioning grey matter would have done. He signed with the upstart World Hockey Association for a then-record $2.6 million contract. He lasted just a year in the WHA and was then paid $1 million to return back to Boston.
Sanderson spiraled downhill from there. He spent lavishly, made many terrible investments, and was all but broke when his career ended. He ended up sleeping on a park bench in New York City for a short while. Bobby Orr spent his own money to check Sanderson into rehab, where he beat his substance abuse problems and ended up becoming a successful financial adviser for hockey players.
At least some of these have happy endings.
3. Bryan Trottier
After a Hall of Fame career playing for the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins (including a very impressive six Stanley Cup championships), Bryan Trottier settled into a position as assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Penguinss in 1994. After a stint as an assistant coach in Colorado, in 2002 he ended up as a head coach for 54 games for the New York Rangers before being fired.
Trottier’s hockey prowess far surpassed his investment ability. Shortly after his career ended in 1993, Trottier’s ice-rink business ran into difficulties and he was forced to declare bankruptcy. Court documents listed his total assets as just $141,629, while he owed $9.5 million to creditors.
2. Bobby Orr
One of the greatest players of all time just about ended up penniless.
During his hockey career, Bobby Orr trusted agent Alan Eagleson with everything. Once he retired, Orr discovered that he was nearly broke, owing money to tax authorities, along with mortgages against certain investment properties, part of which was a joint real estate venture with Eagleson.
It gets worse. When Orr was negotiating with the Boston Bruins before the 1976-77 season, Eagleson reportedly told Orr the Bruins no longer wanted him, leading him to sign a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. This wasn’t true; in fact, the Bruins offered Orr probably the most generous contract in NHL history at that point, worth $295,000 per year and an 18% ownership stake in the team.
According to Orr, he never did hear about Boston’s offer. He dumped Eagleson as his agent and friend a few years later.
1. Jack Johnson
The amount of money Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson lost is staggering.
When Johnson was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2014, he had amassed more than $18 million in earnings and was in the middle of a contract that paid him more than $4 million per season.
What happened? Johnson was betrayed by the people who are supposed to have his back no matter what, his parents. Tina and Jack Sr. borrowed at least $15 million against Johnson’s salary, as well as using his money to buy themselves houses, cars, and to travel. At least some of the cash was used to watch him play.
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