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Sticks to Bricks initiative shoots to have players score a post hockey career in building trades

Angela Gismondi
Sticks to Bricks initiative shoots to have players score a post hockey career in building trades

A new initiative is matching retiring hockey players with careers in the skilled trades which, in turn, will help develop a strong skilled trades workforce and contribute to closing the skills gap in Ontario, say project stakeholders.

Sticks to Bricks, a partnership between the Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA), the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) and the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA), connects retiring players aspiring for a career in the building trades with local home building associations from across Canada. The program is open to all current players as well as the PHPA Alumni Network who are looking for their next career. The PHPA is the labour union for hockey players in the American Hockey League and the ECHL.

The program was born when the PHPA and the Niagara Home Builders Association came together to find solutions to the challenges facing their members. There are six players that are transitioning from the hockey world to the home building industry.

“You’ve got two parties that are excited to work together and each other’s challenges are almost solved when they team up,” explained Rick Martins, president, OHBA, who was at the announcement of the partnership at Queen’s Park on May 28. “We have a shortage of skilled trades people and they have individuals coming out looking for a career path, an opportunity. When you put both of those together, it’s a recipe for success.”

According to the OHBA, there are over 100,000 careers in the skilled trades that need to be filled over the next 10 years. Partnerships such as these, which connect potential workers with OHBA and CHBA employer members, are a win-win as they lead to careers in residential construction and can also help address the skills shortage, Martins said.

“There is a big shortage of skilled trades and there is a huge cohort that is actually going to be retiring in the next few years and this type of announcement is what we need more of,” Martins stated. “We spent five to 10 years trying to figure out how to certify people and how to regulate trades and the reality is we didn’t put anyone through the system because it was too complicated and cumbersome. We had all of the best intentions in the world but unfortunately no results. Initiatives like this when you’ve got the private sector and the public sector working together, it creates opportunity, collaboration and it will allow for markets to thrive.”

Although they may not have any experience in the home building industry, many of the skills that professional athletes have are transferable, Martins pointed out, including they are hard-working, coachable and team oriented.


We are open to work with anyone who wants to work with the home builders,

— Rick Martins

Ontario Home Builders’ Association


“Hockey has probably been the majority of their life since they were 14 or 15 years old,” said Martins. “In order to get to that level you’ve got to dedicate yourself to it. These are hard-working, intelligent, disciplined individuals that are looking for an opportunity transition because unfortunately not everyone can make it to the big show but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have skills and assets.”

He added, “Our culture has been one of education, to go to university, which is important. The trades are just as prestigious because everybody understands there are certain skill sets that are needed for certain jobs.”

Martins went to school to become a physical education teacher but ended up running one of the largest home building companies in the Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. area and now runs his own business. He too was required to transfer his skills.

“Those were skills that were very transferable into the construction industry,” said Martins. “We build homes, we build communities. I drive into communities that I helped build, where I did the masonry work or the framing or the roofing and I’ll say to my kids ‘dad did that.’ ”

The PHPA will assist candidates that are ready to make the transition and help them return to their hometowns or places where they have established roots. They will assess the types of skills they have and help them get their resume together.

“Once they have vetted them and have an understanding of what they want to do, they will pass it on to the Ontario Home Builders’ Association or the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and say ‘these are candidates we think could work and with an opportunity would be able to be successful, do you have anything in this community? Can you match them up with someone who is looking?’ ” explained Martins. “Our role is to reach out to our members and say, ‘here are people who have been successful that have potential, they are raw, they are green, but you can train them and invest in them and they are going to be team players long-term.’ ”

This is the first initiative of its kind with hockey players, and the OHBA hopes there will be other partnership opportunities in other areas.

“We are open to work with anyone who wants to work with the home builders, work with our trades, as long as they are willing to put the effort forward, we are willing to train and hire them to great paying jobs,” said Martins. “It’s a livelihood that you can actually earn a very good living and provide for your family.”

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