MONTREAL – They haven’t skated a single NHL shift yet, but John Tavares and Victor Hedman are already household hockey names.
Tavares and Hedman, both 18, are widely considered to be the top picks in the 2009 NHL entry draft on Friday and stand to rake in millions in salary and endorsements during their careers.
Financial planners say the dollars might be overwhelming, but both young stars say they are ready for the windfall and the responsibility that comes with it.
“Obviously it’s going to be a lot of money, but I’m prepared for that, I’m looking forward to it,” said Hedman, a gargantuan Swedish defenceman ranked as the top European-born player available.
Hedman said he isn’t concerned about living alone in North America. He’s had to grow up fast and has already been living on his own since last October with his girlfriend.
“It’s a great job, the greatest job in the world and you’re getting paid for it,” Hedman said with a grin.
“But I Iove to play hockey and if I get paid a lot of money too, that’s just good.”
The first signs of both player’s marketability and earning power is already apparent.
Reebok-CCM Hockey announced Thursday that they’ve inked both Tavares and Hedman to multi-year deals with CCM and Reebok brands respectively.
Their names immediately become synonymous with players like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Vincent Lecavalier and Roberto Luongo, who also have deals with the company.
In addition to skates and sticks they will use on the ice, Hedman will have his own brand of running shoes marketed in his native Sweden.
Tavares, an Oakville, Ont. native, has a signature apparel line due out in the 2010. Earlier this week, Tavares signed on to promote EA Sports new game “NHL 10,” due out this September.
The soft-spoken Tavares said he understands what awaits him – both on and off the ice.
“Moving away at 14 from my hometown and my family was a big step and I realized this is what I want do for a living,” Tavares told The Canadian Press.
“Now I’m 18 and I’m still a pretty young kid and sometimes it sure doesn’t feel that way, but I’ve learned to deal with the pressure, the media and the expectations and how to handle all that.”
Darwin Schandor, a regional vice-president with the Sports Professionals Program at RBC Private Banking, says that athletes are often unprepared for the money.
“It may be a bit foreign to them given they’re so young, but because their careers can be quite short or indeterminate, it’s important that we spend time with them to understand the importance of planning,” Schandor said.
An average NHL career will last about 12 years with players retiring in their early 30s, barring injuries. Schandor says that makes for a long retirement if they don’t plan properly.
“They still have 40-50 years of retirement behind them, so they need to be thinking about that early on,” Schandor said.
Schandor says there are still other things to consider – playing in the U.S., cross-border tax issues, blowing through signing bonuses and aggressive solicitations for their money.
The recession has also served as a reminder that players are not immune from an unstable economy.
“I think these tough economic times have gotten people thinking differently,” Schandor said.
Tavares said he’s surrounded by good people to run the business side of things and his family keeps him well grounded and focused.
“I appreciate the opportunity that I have,” Tavares said, “and I know this is a great privilege and not many people get this chance.”