In one very specific way, the coronavirus pandemic has made Toronto-based money manager Chris Moynes’ job easier: it has helped him convince his NHL player clients to start preparing for the worst.
“A lot of the time, pro athletes think they’re indestructible so when you start talking to them about insurance or wills and powers of attorney, their mindset is, ‘Nothing is going to happen to me,’” he said in an interview.
Moynes is the managing director of ONE Sports & Entertainment Group, which is based in Southern California and counts nearly 15 per cent of the NHL’s players among its clients. COVID-19 has seemingly shaken their sense of invincibility and Moynes says his team has been “very busy” helping NHLers, even young ones in their twenties, get serious about estate planning.
He says this economic downturn —unlike the one that followed 9/11 and the financial crisis— has been a boon to business. ONE Sports has signed up 20 per cent more clients since March and none have left. And Moynes says his clients’ reaction to the sharp selloff in March and the ensuing market turbulence has been more measured.
“In the past I’ve had clients make knee-jerk emotional reactions to world and market events. I haven’t had any of that this time. We’ve had conversations but no one has gone to cash,” he said. “I’ve seen recoveries before but never a recovery this fast.”
Moynes has been in the business of managing professional athletes’ money for nearly three decades—it’s a niche business but he has carved out a name for himself, mostly through referrals from players past and present who vouch for his tough but transparent approach to money management.
A steady hand is exactly what two-time Stanley Cup champion Kris Versteeg says he needed when he sought out Moynes’ help at age 20, after signing his first NHL contract, netting him a US$75,000 signing bonus, with a first installment of US$40,000. Versteeg was shocked when that cheque was only US$28,000 because he had taken out a loan for the full amount and had already spent most of it on “a cell phone and partying” as well as a down payment for a Jeep Cherokee.
“That’s when I knew I needed someone to teach me in case I got to make more money one day,” he said in an interview.
Versteeg went on to sign five other NHL contracts, including his 2012 deal with the Florida Panthers which paid US$17.6 million over four years. He had previously played for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010 before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers the following year. The 34-year-old father of three left the NHL in 2018 and announced his retirement from professional hockey in April this year, at the onset of the pandemic, which he called “a very scary time.”
Moynes reassured him though, and convinced Versteeg to stick to the plan, which involves living with his wife and three young children in Brooklin, Ont. on the interest generated by his multi-million dollar contracts.
He says his two “indulgences” are travel with friends and expensive shoes, but not much else. “I’m able to live in a way that’s pretty similar to when I was playing but some guys like to fly private and first class and that’s never been me,” Versteeg said.
For 32-year-old NHLer Nick Foligno, the decision to sign with Moynes came after an introduction and an endorsement by his former Ottawa Senators teammate, Mike Fisher. He was 20-years-old and knew it was a go when the most important woman in his life voiced her approval.
“I got the go-ahead from my mom. She really liked him and what he had to offer and his mindset of how he could help us. It’s been a great relationship,” Foligno said in an interview.
He is candid about his recognition that the pandemic has brought on financial hardship for many. “We’re in a lot better position than people who are going through terrible things,” he said. “I’m lucky, I got into the market at the tail end of 2008.”
Foligno is the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets, having just completed the fifth year of a six-year, US$33-million contract he signed with the team in 2014. From March until July, he says he made the most of his family bubble, which meant spending a lot of time with his three young children and wife Janelle.
“I didn’t want them to live a life of fear so we had as much fun as a family as we could. I’m not usually around them as much as I’d like to be so I used it as an opportunity to reconnect and be a dad with no other job title attached to it. I got to help them ride bikes and do all these things that I never get a chance to do,” he said.
Tales From The Locker Room
Do NHL players discuss stock tips off the ice?
“There are guys on every team that think they should be on Wall Street and because of that there are always conversations, whether it’s in the locker room or outside. I remember when Bitcoin was getting big, I guess it still is, and that was the talk for a while.” – Nick Foligno
“I remember in my younger days, when I was in the league, the older guys would talk about stocks and I was like, ‘What the hell are they talking about?’ It was like they were speaking another language and I had no idea what they were discussing. I do now because I’ve learned about stocks, including blue chips, and the markets.” – Kris Versteeg
Moynes says during the pandemic he didn’t field any outlandish spending requests (he has a rule that if a player wants to spend more than $20,000 on a single purchase, a call to his team is required).
“It was a lot quieter on the spend front,” he said. Some players upgraded to larger homes over the summer, but there was nothing extravagant. “I heard of some golf carts being purchased because they were spending more time at the home compound. The only thing that went up was the number of Amazon packages that were delivered during that time, but nothing crazy.”
After this year’s shortened season, with abbreviated pay, none of the players are currently getting paid for the regular season, though players who go far in the playoffs are eligible for bonus money.
Moynes sees the financial toll of the pandemic being felt after the playoffs are over in mid-October, closer to the holiday season. “In December, January, when things start getting back on track, with the regular season, that’s going to be the impact,” he said. “And that’s not just in hockey, that’s in every single sport.”