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ALLEN, Texas – As recruitment for the 2018-19 hockey season is in full swing, Allen coach and general manager Steve Martinson has a large toolkit at his disposal when talking to players about why playing for the Allen Americans is a good move for their career. I want to talk about just one of these tools in depth, preparing for a post-hockey career, and share the story of Allen captain Joel Chouinard.

But first here is my version of the recruiting pitch coach Martinson might make to a player he is recruiting:

–  Allen has never missed the playoffs in my six years as the coach and we have won four championships. You can count on many additional weeks of pay as Allen makes a deep playoff run along with a couple of extra months of lodging and playoff bonuses. This can total $10,000 – $15,000 more in compensation for a player over a team that does not make the playoffs.

– You will play in an upbeat, aggressive offensive system in Allen that is also dedicated to defensive hockey. Points you score in the ECHL won’t keep you in the American Hockey League (AHL) but points will get you noticed. You have to be able to play without the puck and you have to understand the game and that is what we will help you with in Allen. With our system, you will have plenty of opportunities to get points. We won’t handcuff you in the third period with a lead. We will take less risks, but we will keep our foot on the gas. If you want to play in a system where you can score a lot of points come to Allen.

– You will play in a great facility in the nine-year-old Allen Event Center which is surrounded by shopping and restaurants.

– You will play for a team that has a history of moving young players to the AHL. Our goal is to see you progress in your hockey career.

– You will be able to develop your skating technique by working with skating coach Luke Chilcott who also works with AHL and NHL teams.

– While playing in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, you have access to whatever interests you may have including the Stars, Cowboys, Mavericks, and Rangers. Playing where you have a major international airport makes it easier for you, your friends and family to travel in and out of DFW and for players to get to AHL cities quickly if called up.

– You will live in a place where you can play golf year around. The average high temperature during the hockey season is 79 in October, 66 in November, 57 in December, 55 in January, 61 in February, 69 in March, 77 in April and 84 in May. It is a great place to live whether you’re single or married.

– If you like to fish, there are plenty of opportunities within 30 minutes of your apartment. Fishing is excellent.

– One of the biggest detriments in recruiting in the past was that it was well known Allen traveled by bus more than other teams and players would bring that up as a problem. With new ownership, Martinson can now tell players the team will be flying more and they have a newer, better bus when they do drive. One of the bigger obstacles has been overcome.

– You will be helped with whatever your post-hockey career interests are through our intern program and other corporate contacts. You will be able to develop business contacts while you are still playing that will be useful after you retire. The DFW metroplex is a great place to build a post-hockey career network whether you are planning on retiring in the area or just building your resume. Dallas-Fort Worth is the corporate headquarters to 22 Fortune 500 companies and 42 Fortune 1000 companies.

– It is this last point I would like to explore in more detail through the eyes of Allen Americans captain, Joel Chouinard.

Life After Hockey

I had the chance to sit down with Allen Americans captain Joel Chouinard to talk about preparing for a post-career while still playing professional hockey. Joel had dreams of playing in the NHL and gave his all to that dream after being drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL draft. While he was chasing his NHL dream, Joel was keenly aware of the importance of an education. After all, his entire family has advanced degrees. His dad is a retired neuropsychologist, his mom was a school principal and his brother is in his last year of a Master’s program in Economics at McGill University.

Joel started our discussion about preparing for a post-hockey career with this comment, “I started thinking about my post-hockey career when I still had playing in the NHL as my primary goal. The NHL is not my goal anymore. I gave it a good shot, I gave it everything I had and I have no regrets.”

Joel started taking classes the first year he turned professional (2011) through the University of Athabasca and is now just nine credits short of a Bachelor’s degree in Management which he plans to complete during the upcoming season.

It is uncertain how long Joel will continue to play hockey. He is comfortable where he is at, loves playing in Allen and has no interest in going anywhere else. Chouinard admits he loves hockey more than anything and he will never be ready to retire and could play until he is forty and still love it. As he said, “Sure, the traveling sucks but being out there playing on a Saturday night before a crowd of 5000 can’t be beaten so I know I am never going to be ready to retire but I want to have a plan to make it a lot easier transition when that day arrives.”

Back in 2016, Joel read a story published on the website “The Players’ Tribune” that was written by former NHL player Brandon Crombeen about life after hockey. Crombeen used his own experience to lay out a five-point plan for life after hockey while still playing. His five points were:

1. Determine what interests you outside of playing hockey.
2. Once you have identified your interest, get some substance behind it.
3. Add depth to the experience you have.
4. Believe you can be successful outside hockey.
5. Don’t forget about your hockey career.

Here is the complete Crombeen story: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/brandon-crombeen-nhl-advice

Joel used this article as a road map to continue his education, make contacts in the community, network with professionals, ask questions and pick a field that interests him. Last year, Joel contacted New York Life Insurance Company and got life and health insurance licenses in November. Throughout the season he was taking classes, studying and getting ready so when the season ended he could start his “other” work. Joel has been working hard this summer trying to meet as many people as possible to develop his business. He has been working mainly with people from the big Allen Americans’ family, whether families or business owners.

You may wonder what are the similarities between professional hockey and working for New York Life. Here is how Chouinard describes it, “I have heard it so many times that professional athletes tend to do very well in this industry because it is a lot about work ethic and not quitting. It is very difficult at first because you have to build your book of business. But athletes tend to persevere and reap the rewards later down the road.”

When I asked Joel why people should choose him over other financial professionals, he responded, “I tell them three things. First, I love to help people. As a captain, you have to care for all of your teammates and deal with every situation, good or bad and help them achieve their goals. Second, I am fortunate to work for a very reputable company that offers unbelievable support to their agents. We have access to CPA’s, attorneys, consultants and financial professionals who have a lot of experience in this industry and are only a phone call away. My job is to make sure my clients’ concerns are heard and reach out to my team so that we can put together some recommendations. This transitions to my third point. I love working as a team because I have my whole life through hockey. This means that I do not want you to choose me over somebody else, I simply want to be another resource to you and your team of financial professionals. I have learned that working as a team is a lot more beneficial than working alone.”

The reason Joel wanted to share his journey is to encourage other athletes to start working on their post-hockey career while they are still playing. Education, internships, networking, shadowing, talking to people in your field of interest in the summer will set you up when your career is over. His message to others is to start preparing now for the future and the transition will be much easier when the time comes.

Martinson has always been supportive of players working on their post-career aspirations while they are still playing. Martinson became a certified financial advisor after his playing days were over but did not get certified until he had retired. “Joel Chouinard is our captain because he is always prepared and goes about things in the right way,” Martinson said. “I am totally supportive of the initiative he has taken to finish his degree and become a licensed agent with New York Life while he is still playing hockey. He is a great example for others.”