For many young hockey players, the endless dream to one day follow in the footsteps of their hockey heroes and play in the National Hockey League is immeasurable. However, unlike other professions, a career in hockey is finite. When life in the NHL ends, a second life begins. This is a life where new opportunities are discovered and seemingly daunting challenges await. For NHL Alumni member Peter Ing, the same passion, dedication and drive that he applied during his hockey career helped him make the successful transition to life after hockey.
A Toronto, Ontario native, Ing experienced what many young hockey players in that area dream about while playing on their backyard rinks, the streets and local arenas. In the third round of the 1988 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected the 6’2”, 18-year old goaltender. “My draft year was at the Forum in Montreal. This is one of the places that you see and hear about; it had a mystique along with Maple Leaf Gardens,” reminisced Ing. “Just to put that jersey on, it was quite a feeling. It’s difficult to describe. It’s one thing to be drafted and go to camp – we all have aspirations; but to actually have the chance to play and play a significant role with the team was definitely a dream come true.”
The former Windsor Spitfire and London Knight moved on to the AHL with the Newmarket Saints after he was drafted and during the 1989-90 season, found himself in the NHL suiting up with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He went on to play 56 games in the 1990-91 season, winning the Maple Leafs’ Molson Cup. During his NHL career, Ing also spent time with the Edmonton Oilers and the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, his career was cut short by injury and it was at this point that he was forced to contemplate life after hockey. Something he was not really prepared to do. “It’s a gut-check,” Ing confided. “You don’t know what exactly you are going to do and what skills are transferable. It’s a daunting and scary time to go through.”
“That was one of the most difficult times in my life, because I was not ready to give the game up. That certainly was not in my scope – to think about not playing that early in my life,” said Ing. One of the things that helped with the transition from the world of hockey to the business world was the opportunity to work for Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas, Nevada. “I really learned a lot about the hotel/marketing world. I started as a management trainee in a city that was not a traditional hockey city, nowhere near where I grew up and I think that was really good for me.”
Ing focused on his new career, tackling every aspect of the casino business with the same determination and passion that took him to the NHL. With his hockey background, he discovered that teamwork was equally important in creating a successful business. Over the period of twelve years, he worked his way up through the ranks of the casino business and soon became an executive. “I had the opportunity to take on roles in which I was designing and opening facilities from the ground up. On top of running a day-to-day casino on one side, I was developing casinos, observing the traffic flows, what machines were in them, where the services were and how we were taking care of our best customers,” explained Ing.
“What I found in my life at that time in the boardroom was a lot of people talk about ‘team’, but it is very easy to see who has grown up in a team environment and who has not. It is at those times that you realize the skills that you obtained by playing a sport at a competitive level. There is no single player that can do everything on his or her own. Everyone has their role to play and it is when those roles intertwine in harmony that you have success. It is much more fun when you have a team that is all working towards the same goal, because it is amazing what can be accomplished.”
Throughout his hockey career and during his time in the hospitality/casino industry, Ing has accumulated a vast amount of knowledge and experience; both have proven to be invaluable as CEO of INGcorporated. Whether it is building a hockey career, living a happy life or creating a successful business, there are certain values Ing keeps in mind and shares with others during speaking engagements and/or commercial consultations.
“I think one of the core values is integrity – meaning what you say and doing what you say. Being an honest person is the way I like to live my life and when I do that, I don’t have to look over my shoulder. It’s a small world no matter which part you are in. As I was climbing the ladder playing hockey, an old teammate of mine that had gone through the same experience said that ‘you see the same people on the way up as you do on the way down’. For me, I have always lived my life that way; I was never one to hurt people’s feelings or burn bridges.”
“The hockey world is extremely small, the casino world is extremely small and really when it comes down to it, the way we all work these days, the world seems to be very small. If you are looking to grow your business or find opportunities, having negative experiences with people can come around to make business difficult for you. I like to deal honestly and fairly, I don’t like surprises myself so I try not to give anyone else surprises.”
As the vice-president of a casino, there came a point in Ing’s life where he realized he had aspirations of owning and operating his own business. “From an entrepreneurial standpoint, it was always in the back of my mind,” recalled Ing. In 2008, he took on a new challenge by teaming up with Bryce Salvador of the New Jersey Devils to help grow Fan-tastic Sports, a company that designs, builds and distributes interactive hockey training products. “I was fortunate enough to meet Bryce and he told me about this company that he had been working on with a couple of engineers. Bryce is still playing at this time and he was looking for someone to come in, manage the company and take it to the next level. That was something I decided I would take a run at – it just seemed like a good fit. I liked Bryce from the minute I met him. He’s sincere and honest. He and I have those same qualities and we started with that.”
Fan-tastic Sports started as an interactive-only division, but then expanded into full facility equipment. “Let’s say you wanted to open a ‘gym’ for hockey,” said Ing. “You’ll want all of the state-of-the-art training equipment that can be used, along with the technology to scan and track a player’s development. With Fan-tastic Sports equipment, this is exactly what you get as all of the player’s scores are tracked, so they can compare and see how they are progressing in their training.”
The newest product line of Fan-tastic Sports is XHockeyProducts, which derived from their understanding of the game, offering players training products that are highly portable. The objective of the Fan-tastic Sports organization is to produce a quality product as well as a quality experience. As Ing explained, “…there is nothing worse than spending money on a piece of equipment to help yourself or your young player at home and it doesn’t work or it doesn’t work to your expectations. We take that very seriously, because our names are attached to it and you only have one name.” Success means repeat business and that is exactly what Fan-tastic Sports is seeing. Customers who have purchased one or two XHockeyProducts are returning to order more. “That’s the ultimate compliment,” said Ing. “They have taken it into their environment, they have used it and it has met their expectations.”
As far as events are concerned, the list of appearances for Fan-tastic Sports and the products they offer is growing. If you were a visitor at the All-Star game in Raleigh, North Carolina and took part in the fan-fair activities, then you have used equipment from Fan-tastic Sports. “The NHL sought us out to be the provider of services for the NHL All-Star Fan-Fair,” Ing explained proudly. “Here’s an organization that wants to be on the cutting edge of technology, wants to make sure they are pushing the envelope of the fan experience and they turned to us to activate 14 interactive areas; so we feel very blessed about the opportunity. Obviously, it is the pinnacle of hockey organization and it is part of our roots.”
The Fan-tastic Sports mission statement is simple: “We do not underestimate our roles as ambassadors.” By taking an honest approach to the business and producing quality products to the best of their ability, Ing and Salvador are definitely helping to grow the game. There is continuous focus on helping to improve hockey skills at the grass-roots level. “That’s our goal,” Ing said. “We really want to be a positive player inside the hockey world.”
The NHL Alumni Association’s motto is “Hockey’s Greatest Family” and Ing’s work with Fan-tastic Sports has brought him back in contact with former teammates and friends. He is enjoying the best of two worlds now – life in hockey and life after hockey. “The most fun I have had over these last two years has been getting back into the game and reconnecting with players I played with and players I played against in a completely new forum. Seeing what guys are doing now – that’s been fun for me and I embrace that. I was fortunate enough to be selected as a board member on the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni and I’m trying to do as much as I can with the NHL Alumni and support their group.”
Ing is actively involved with many charities as well as his role as an NHL alumni member and ambassador for the game. He is working with the Princess Margaret Hospital and their Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer program, the Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre, St. Catherines CYO Just Try It, Kidz Can Help, and the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) Outreach Program. This proves that there is life after hockey and more importantly, that Peter Ing and the other NHL Alumni members are a supportive and active family.
Andrew Rodger is an independent sports columnist and member of the Canadian Association of Journalists. Along with operating The Voice of Sport, he covers the Ottawa Senators and writes the “Ask the Alumni” series here at The Hockey Writers. He is the resident writer for the NHL Alumni Association and a contributor on CBC News Now.