Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hockey players aim for their own goals with personal CFO

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Grant Skinner wasn't surprised when Jonathan Toews was tapped on the shoulder to take the second shot in Team Canada's shoot-out victory against Switzerland Thursday evening.

The only thing unexpected about it was that the Winnipeg native didn't score.

That's because Skinner, the president and CEO of Wellington West Pro Ice, considers Toews to be absolute money when it comes to staring down goaltenders in one-on-one battles. (Toews first cemented his reputation as a shoot-out master at the World Juniors three years ago when he propelled Team Canada over Team USA by scoring three times with three different moves.)

"Jonathan's expectation is that he'll score. That's the attitude of a great player. You never say never in sports but scoring three times in one shootout is pretty unachievable. Goalies have so much equipment on and the net is only so big," Skinner said.

Skinner has more than a rooting interest in Toews' success because the Chicago Blackhawks captain is also a client. He's one of more than 30 National Hockey League players to avail themselves of WWPI's "personal chief financial officer" services.

Other players on Skinner's roster include Sheldon Souray of the Edmonton Oilers, Wade Redden of the New York Rangers and former captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Doug Gilmour.

Whether a player is buying a house in Los Angeles, needing a prenuptial agreement before tying the knot, or helping his father sell the family farm in Saskatoon, Skinner is there. He also prepares quarterly statements of their assets, identifies appropriate insurance coverage, applies for green cards and monitors monthly cash flows.

Skinner said the work of a personal CFO is vastly different from that of an agent, whose primary task is to negotiate contracts with the players' teams.

"That ends when the player retires, but that's usually when our relationship with them ramps right up. When they're employees of a hockey team, their world is very focused and controlled, but once that's over, they've got to get on with the rest of their lives. They're world-class athletes wondering, 'What do I do now?' " he said.

Skinner said one of the best examples of transitioning into retirement is Valeri Bure, another client and former sniper with six NHL teams, who launched Bure Family Wines with a few partners after hanging up his skates in 2004.

"For Val, his life was hockey, but hockey wasn't his life. He wanted to do (the winery) more than hockey," he said, noting WWPI also handles the financial affairs of Bure's wife, actress Candace Cameron, best known for her television role as DJ Tanner on Full House in the late '80s and early '90s.

Skinner, who also provides tax services to more than 100 NHL players through another company, Pro Ice Management Group, said his roster at both firms continues to expand each year but he has "opened the doors to growth" with the addition of his son, Tyler, to the family business last spring.

Not that it will persuade Mark Chipman to pursue the NHL-returning-to-Winnipeg rumours, but Skinner said living in the same city as an NHL franchise makes life a lot easier for a personal CFO. "During the Jets days, I'd go to the rink and have lunch or dinner (with players or would-be clients). Now, if you want to work for a kid playing in San Jose, you've got to fly to San Jose or meet him on the road somewhere," he said.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 25, 2010 A7

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