Chris Pronger spent 20 years in the NHL and became a measuring stick for other defensemen. He won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2000, the first defenseman to since Bobby Orr almost three decades earlier. He was big, skilled, and also not a pushover, collecting over 1,600 penalty minutes.
After some years in front office work, the Hall of Famer took to Twitter in April and decided to throw his weight around. However, this time he went after bad financial habits of athletes and those who prey on their newfound wealth and naiveté.
Pronger unloaded a lot of knowledge and advice in the 18-tweet thread. Here are some of key takeaways:
‘The Income Doesn’t Last as Long as One Might Think’
Pronger was drafted second overall in the 1993 NHL Draft by the Hartford Whalers. In the thread, he mentioned his rookie deal was worth $300,000, with a $1 million signing bonus. For any 18-year-old, that’s a lot of money.
He mentioned the impulse to make life-changing purchases when that first contract gets signed. There’s the big house for the parents, tricked-out ride, maybe a fancy watch. While NBA players usually get more attention for these big buys – many of whom see this as a way out of poverty for their families – it can happen to athletes in all leagues from all wealth levels.
Pronger rattled off a list of expenses NHL players incur during the season, from housing to support staff. All that comes out after taxes, which can swallow over half the paycheck. Pronger played for five different franchises, so he knows playing in different cities means different tax bills.
He warned that the lifestyle of lavish spending isn’t sustainable. While he credits mentors and a good support system for a good start in financial health, he acknowledged not everyone has that. Most NHL players get drafted out of juniors, which means they’ve likely lived away from home for years in smaller towns, where opportunities to develop good spending habits or positive influences may not be readily available. Most players only stay in top leagues for a few years, so their earning capacity is a short window.
‘You’re a Mark’
While Pronger started with a stick tap to players to try to steer them from trouble, he later threw a two-handed cross-check across the chests of those looking to take advantage of players.
He accused financial advisers, attorneys and other professionals of having “two sets of documents” and said they often “charge us more than the average person.” He believes the youth and wealth of professional athletes make them targets of those looking to make extra off famous clients who must have some interest in investing their millions.
Pronger admitted to falling victim to those seeking a major investment for a deal supposedly only available for a few days. He acknowledged that this often means the proposing parties haven’t been able to secure funding from other investors who have more time and experience in scrutinizing these deals.
“After a few errors myself, my rule is: If someone needs an answer right now, the answer is always NO. They learn this lesson real fast.”
In the thread, Pronger brought up Aroldis Chapman, who lost millions after giving power of attorney to a financial adviser. He didn’t mention Jack Johnson, the NHL veteran who went through bankruptcy after his family lost millions of his money to bad investments.
Taking Care of Friends
Pronger concluded by warning about the emotional ties players have to friends or family who want a taste of the action. Unfortunately, not everyone is satisfied with free tickets to games.
Chris’ brother Sean also played in the NHL and didn’t build an entourage of his own. However, many pro athletes want to help their friends and repay the years of loyalty and support. That can mean investing in ventures, buying gifts and big nights out. Most big-name stars feel compelled to create a “circle of trust” to use as a barrier for those who are drawn to their fame and fortune.
Not everyone can afford to hire all the guys from their neighborhood or youth teams to work for them when they become big stars. Pronger does acknowledge “it can be hard for many to let go of friends from back home.”
While he built a career on the ice, Pronger’s guidance would be well-received from all athletes. Spring is draft season for all four major North American leagues. Collegiate athletes can also now earn fortunes through NIL deals. Might be worth saucing the old vet a follow on Twitter for some free advice.
Ron L. Brown, CFP, is the co-founder of Athlete Essentials and president of R.L. Brown Wealth Management. He is an expert in wealth management, retirement planning, tax and estate planning, and business management. Ron takes pride in his work to support clients in reaching their individual financial goals. He graduated from Asbury University in 2003 and earned his CFP, Certified Financial Planner, credential in 2017. Learn more at athessentials.com and rlbrownwealth.com.
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