'I’m of the age that you can see the repercussions': What this retired NHL player says pro athletes get wrong when managing their money

'I’m of the age that you can see the repercussions': What this retired NHL player says pro athletes get wrong when managing their money
'I’m of the age that you can see the repercussions': What this retired NHL player says pro athletes get wrong when managing their money

Kent Manderville isn’t your typical retired hockey player.

Manderville, who played professionally for nearly 20 years, jokes he was probably the only active NHL player to buy a Toyota Camry.

But from a young age, he was keenly interested in money and its management. Before his hockey career took off, he was studying finance at Cornell University. Manderville maintained that interest in finance, even as his playing career took him all across North America, and then to Sweden.

Once he retired in 2007, it was time to find a new purpose — and ultimately, he ended up back where he started. Now he aims to prevent the next generation of players from falling victim to scams, predatory investments, or their own unchecked excesses.

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“For the younger players, I think there’s a culture of kind of just going with the flow,” says Manderville. “The guys that I work with, when you really give them an opportunity to ask questions … they want to know, and they ask really good questions.”

“It's just something that they've never been exposed to, they’ve never been provided the opportunity to ask those questions.”

Saving some from unnecessary trouble

After he hung up his helmet, Manderville hit the books and obtained his chartered financial analyst (CFA) and certified financial professional (CFP) designations.

Now, he runs Hockey Family Office, a division of IP Wealth in Ottawa, Canada, where he advises other players on managing their money at all stages of their career.

Many of the lessons he passes along to his clients come from first-hand experience. The untimely death of a Carolina Hurricanes teammate drove home the importance of estate planning. And Manderville's experiences with his first agent, who didn’t have his best interests at heart, taught him to always look at “investing opportunities” closely and to trust his gut if they don't seem right.

Some of his lessons come from second-hand experiences.

“I’m of the age that you can see the repercussions of those poor decisions when you’re playing,” says Manderville. “It’s easy to paper over those mistakes when you’re playing because you have the cash flow coming in … and then the transition comes.”

Even with his background, Manderville says he was ill-equipped to handle managing his wealth as a professional athlete — it’s easy to fall into the habit of spending without paying attention, taking big risks with money or trusting the wrong advisers.

And not every player comes to the game with Manderville’s strong financial foundation.

Dr. Moira Somers, a financial psychologist and family wealth consultant in Canada, has worked with the NFL Players’ Association, educating rookies about the sudden wealth coming their way. But she’s not aware of any other professional sports organizations that equip their athletes early on with the tools to manage the money they’re about to receive — and the problems that come along with it too.

“Most of us most normal people don't have to worry about people wanting to become our friends because we're wealthy,” says Somers. “But pro athletes absolutely have to worry about that. They absolutely have to worry about determining who's a trustworthy adviser and who isn't.”

The foundations are flawed

Sadly, there’s no shortage of untrustworthy advisers eager to take advantage of young players with more money than they know what to do with.

In 2020, Phil Kenner — a former adviser to dozens of NHL players — was convicted of defrauding his clients of millions of dollars. One player estimated the total amount was in the range of $50 million. And while Kenner is an extreme example, he’s just one of many bad actors waiting in the wings.

Recently, fellow retired player Chris Pronger posted a Twitter thread in which he explored all the ways athletes can see their wealth eroded.

While Manderville doesn’t expect people to sympathize with players earning $6 million a year, he is grateful Pronger is getting the message out there for athletes that their money won’t last forever unless they care for it.

Somers also points out that many hockey players leave home at 13 or 14 years old to attend boarding schools and grow up being promised a huge payoff for their hard work. But so much focus is put on ensuring athletes make it that little thought is put into what happens after that.

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“Especially the superstars are commoditized at a very young age,” says Somers. “They’re told that if they work really hard, they can hit the big time and this is what that will mean. And they don’t learn about the sensible hockey players who have backup plans, and who learned to be successful at investing.”

Even if someone takes the time to explain to athletes how to best manage their wealth, studies show that knowledge rapidly decays, says Somers. That’s why she says it’s important to understand early on that there’s the math side of money, but there’s also a personal side.

That personal side encompasses all your experiences and emotions around money and — regardless of income bracket — shapes how you’ll spend a sudden influx of cash, whether that be a multimillion-dollar paycheck or a $20 bill you found in your winter coat.

“Financial literacy is about financial knowledge, but it's also about self-management and social intelligence,” says Somers. “How do you have conversations with your life partner about goals? How do you stay the course in the face of the multibillion dollar advertising industry that exists to depart us with our money?”

Creating good habits early is essential

Alim Dhanji, a certified financial planner with Assante Financial Management Ltd. in Vancouver, Canada, says all the stories we hear of hockey players dropping $1 million in a strip club or on luxury cars is precisely why it’s important to start financial education young and to keep it an ongoing process. Somers explains this as “a lifelong apprenticeship.”

Dhanji says it falls to parents to have these conversations with their kids.

“It’s kind of a tough topic at home to bring up — nobody really wants to talk about finance,” says Dhanji. “But the more you do today, the better they’re going to be when they start working or when they start earning money. And they’re going to be just that much further ahead.”

“Creating good habits is what it’s all about,” says Dhanji.

And those good habits, Manderville says, will be necessary for athletes when the checks stop. Some hockey players are fortunate enough to work into their mid-30s, but many retire before that.

The average NHL salary is around $2 million, and careers generally last about five years.

Preparing for retirement is something Dhanji emphasizes is important for everyone, but especially in a profession where you earn the bulk of your wealth early on and could be retired for over 50 years.

Finding a new purpose — and making sure they have invested wisely — to carry them through a long retirement is key. Manderville knows exactly how hard these players work on and off the ice to earn their pay. He just wants to see them put in the same effort to protect their wealth.

“You made it and this is us taking care of that,” says Manderville. “Nobody loves to do wind sprints or do time in the weight room, but you do it. And you do it because it makes you a better player.”

For Manderville, what he hears from Pronger’s message is simply an encouragement for athletes at all stages of their career to not just appreciate what they have, but to take control of it.

“The reality is for these guys, it’s a wake-up call to say, ‘I don’t care if you’re a Hall of Famer or if you’re a fourth liner… get your act together’ … Take care of your money — grow it, protect it, preserve it; it’s got to last a long time,” says Manderville.

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