Cardinal Sport helps hockey players prepare for life after hanging up their skates
When Brian Coughlin meets with many of his clients, it’s hard not to get distracted by the Olympic gold medals and miniature Stanley Cups—sometimes both at the same time—on display in their homes.
The head of Cardinal Sport, a division of Winnipeg-based Cardinal Capital Management, has dozens of high-net worth clients on his roster, the majority of which are either current or former NHL players, including a number with the Winnipeg Jets over the years. The rest of the client base is individual business owners and professionals.
Coughlin has a hockey background himself, having played two seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Spokane Flyers and Medicine Hat Tigers in the early 1980s. He also signed a free agent contract with the Hartford Whalers, attending the team’s training camp in 1982. He came back to Winnipeg to play for his hometown University of Manitoba Bisons under coaches Wayne Fleming and Barry Trotz, before finishing his playing career in Europe.
From his time spent riding buses and in dressing rooms, he knew that the vast majority of players had very little knowledge about stock markets, how to save for their retirement or even what an RRSP or 401k were.
“I saw many players who weren’t financially secure when they retired,” Coughlin says. “They hung up their skates with no money, no job and no clear path for the next chapter of their lives.”
He had also read reports of countless players across all major sports who had signed big-money contracts early in their careers only to have blown their fortunes—often through a combination of bad investments, divorces, or living to exces—by middle age, or even earlier.
A significant risk in an athlete’s life is not having a plan for managing their new-found wealth, he says. This is especially crucial because the average NHL career is about five years long and there’s no guarantee what tomorrow will bring. They have a very short timeframe to save for what could be a four-to-five-decade retirement.
“We make sure all of our clients have a spending and savings plan and we want them to enjoy their life as an NHL player, but within reason. As long as savings targets are met, they can spend freely on the things they want. We tell them they can live like a king for a short time, but we’d rather they live like a prince forever.”
In 2000, Coughlin met Tim Burt, founder of Cardinal Capital Management and was impressed by his investment acumen and value-oriented approach. The Cardinal investment philosophy was a perfect fit for his clients and would provide the foundation upon which Cardinal Sport was built.
He knew he was swimming upstream by starting a hockey-focused enterprise just a few years after the NHL had abandoned Winnipeg in 1996 but he persevered, building his business by developing strong relationships one client at a time. The positive word of mouth marketing that was generated led to a steady stream of referrals.
Today, Cardinal Sport has a team of six—vice-president Greg Phillips, a Los Angeles Kings draft pick, associate Austin Coughlin, client service manager Leah Cochrane, business manager Diane Coughlin and client services administrator Preeya Sharma.
Their goal is to continue building the company while providing a wide range of services to their clients, including cash flow management, concierge bill payments, investment management and comprehensive financial planning. Cardinal Sport has partnered with experts in cross-border accounting, legal, insurance and currency exchange transactions since many clients reside in the United States where they play.
Two decades after joining the company, Coughlin continues to espouse Cardinal’s mantra of investing in industry-leading public companies that have a proven track record of growing their revenues, earnings and dividends.
“Our assets are conservative by nature. We do the intensive work to make sure our players are retiring with a solid income and solid assets. We want them to retire in comfort with the ability to maintain their lifestyles by having a sustainable and rising income,” he says,
“I’m extremely grateful to have found a home for my clients at Cardinal. I’m proud of the services Cardinal Sport has provided over the past two decades and look forward to guiding future generations of hockey stars.”