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Off-Ice Performance Sessions | Rob Martini - SkateGuard

So far at 3/8ths of a Thought, I have talked a lot about how I think about the world of hockey and what I have observed in 30-odd years around the game. I’d like to spend a little bit of time in this post talking about what we do at SkateGuard and how we think we can help.

The genesis of SkateGuard traces all the way back to the mid 2010s, when co-founder Mike Jaczko was approached by a group of Calgary Flames alumni. They had just watched one of their own, Steve Montador, take his own life. Mike was asked to put together programming for this group of alumni revolving around a wide array of matters, from business and financial advice to life skills, that would help them evolve as individuals and transition from life as an active player to life as an effective and productive retired player. The feedback from the group was that the material Mike presented was both useful and informative, but the greatest impact he could make would be to find ways to spread the word to the next generation of players. Their challenge was to get this information out to younger players, ideally in a way that they could digest it and be able to put it into practice before the die had been cast on their careers.

That’s where I came in. I met Mike in 2018. When he told me what he was setting out to do, I immediately loved the idea. I played my last competitive hockey game in 2012, but hockey has remained a big part of the next phase of my life. I moved to Singapore shortly after graduating from Niagara University. In the five years I lived there, in addition to working full time, I helped run hockey schools in Singapore, the Philippines and Taiwan. I worked with the winter sports council in Pakistan to help build their first outdoor rink, on an air force base, in the far north of the country. And I began working with the Singapore National Team, first as an assistant coach, and then taking over as the head coach in 2016. (I still coach the team today; I went with the team to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the Division 3B World Championships at the end of February). Since moving back to Toronto in 2018, in addition to continuing to coach the Singapore National Team, I have helped out as the defensive skills coach at my prep school alma mater, St. Andrew’s College.

Bottom line? I love hockey, and I love helping the next generation of hockey players.

This brings me to today, where after launching SkateGuard in book form at the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville, we have set out to bring to market a series of workshops where we go in to speak to teams—ideally starting with the ages of U14 through junior and college hockey, all the way to the pro ranks—about how they can leverage their on-ice success into a highly successful next phase of their life, whenever that arrives.

For some of us, that next phase comes sooner than we think. I still recall a high-school friend of mine who was selected the fourth overall pick in my OHL draft year – within a few months of his 18th birthday, he was finished with hockey. There are plenty of stories like that, of course, but for others the end of the game may come after a long career in the NHL. Make no mistake, though: even the vast majority of players who make the NHL will have to find some type of employment after their playing career is over. Even for the very small group of players that are in a position financially to not work for the rest of their lives, your playing career is generally finished by age 40 (unless your name is Jaromir Jagr). To find yourself in a position where you have no purpose and no responsibilities from age 40 onwards is not a recipe for personal or financial success.

This is where SkateGuard comes in. We are committed to working with players to visualize and realize a path to post-playing success. We work with teams to help introduce this concept to players, and we try to get players thinking about how they can leverage the opportunities and social capital that they have built during their sports career to set themselves up for success at every stage of their hockey journey. We discuss how they can manage the resources they accrue during their time playing the game to secure their own, as well as their family’s future, and how they can continually add high-value contacts to their personal networks that they will be able to leverage both during and after their playing career.

If you are a player, parent, coach or player agent and this sounds like something that you or the athletes you work with could benefit from, please reach out to us, and we will set up a conversation about how we can go about creating superior outcomes for all players.

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