Every National Hockey League player dreams of that day, the one where they’re lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup in front of thousands of fans. NHL players are willing to give it all up – their personal time, their friendships and even their bodies – to get the chance to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Only a select few actually get the opportunity to do so and before long, time and injuries catch up and their nightmare begins to set in – calling their career quits. The average NHL career lasts just over five seasons, leaving many players financially unstable and wondering what’s next.
While former superstars typically pursue jobs as announcers, team ambassadors or player representatives, those jobs are few and far between for lesser-known players – and almost non-existent for those who were in the league just long enough for a cup of coffee. For these players, hanging up the skates can be difficult, and like when graduating high school, they’re again forced to find a career path.
Not too many former NHL players know this better than Kevin Dahl.
Growing up in Ontario, Dahl had a passion for hockey and flourished in both junior and minor league hockey before heading to Bowling Green State University. Amidst a solid college career, he was selected 230th overall – a number that no longer even exists – in 1988 by the Montreal Canadiens, but he was never signed to a contract. Dahl worked his tail off and after making the 1992 Winter Olympics, he was rewarded with a spot on the Calgary Flames – a team he had signed with the year before.
After eight seasons in professional hockey, often bouncing between the AHL and NHL, Dahl played in Germany for three seasons before making the difficult decision to call it quits. It wasn’t easy.
“I knew that I wouldn’t retire from the game at 30-something and have enough to live on, so I was always looking at different ventures, like working even while I played,” Dahl admitted.
At 36 years of age, with little work experience, Dahl wasn’t sure what to do or where to turn.
“I reached out and got help putting together my resume, so I could go on the job search – something I had never done, obviously,” Dahl added.
After working to put everything in order, Dahl began networking and soon NexGoal was born. NexGoal, whose motto is “Athletes Helping Athletes”, is the only recruiting company that works with companies to fill positions with former athletes. Their strategy takes the stress away from the athlete and allows them to focus on building their career, their brand, etc. The company’s amount of clients changes daily and ranges from amateur sports, to minor leagues, to professional journeymen in a variety or sports.
“The nice thing about what we do at NexGoal is we help people out and give them a direction to turn after they’re done playing whether it’s NCAA or professional, and we try to help them with transitional services,” he said. “It’s a feel good business and we get paid to do it by the corporate client.”
The variety of skills that professional athletes use throughout their careers is just as valuable in the workplace. Think about it, one has to be a team player, be competitive and also have the confidence and discipline to become successful in an upbeat working environment. Playing defense in the NHL certainly qualifies athletes like Dahl and many of his clients. Between networking and a great deal of help, the CEO has a variety of relationships with companies in all different career fields and it’s led to the franchising of NexGoal. While Dahl’s company works with a high percentage of college athletes who will never turn pro, he certainly thinks that athletes should strive for their dreams.
“Give it 100-percent, trying to live out your dream,” he proclaimed. “But understand, 100-percent of athletes will retire. We say that a lot around here. No matter what happens, you’re going to retire from the game because of your body – I don’t care if it’s because of age or because it forces you to.”
Ed is a die hard sports fan from Philadelphia who follows all of the city’s local teams. He has written for a number of print and internet media sources and is a hockey junky. When he is not watching a game, he is spitting out useless trivia knowledge, or upholding his title as movie quote extraordinaire. You can follow Ed on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller.