Former Leafs player traded hockey for crypto

After living out his boyhood dream by playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Peter Holland started searching for his next passion.

Despite playing in another 60-plus NHL games and going overseas to Russia and Sweden, hockey would never be the same for a kid raised in Caledon with posters of Mats Sundin, Curtis Joseph and Doug Gilmour on his bedroom walls.

“Playing in Toronto was the pinnacle of what seemed to be this path that my hockey career was always destined towards,” Holland said during a recent interview. “I kept playing because it was financially rewarding and something I could fall back on as a safety net. But it wasn’t something that I was overly enjoying anymore. ”

That helps explain why the 31-year-old has transitioned so seamlessly from the dressing room to a Bay St. office in a matter of months.

In fact, after playing his final professional game with the famous Stockholm-based club Djurgårdens in December, Holland felt at peace. He’d executed his own departure from the team and never seriously considered uprooting his young family to another country in order to continue playing.

Unlike many of his peers, he was ready to face a life beyond hockey.

Holland had fulfilled a promise to his parents by completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration adjacent to his playing career. That saw him attend classes at the University of Guelph while playing for the OHL’s Storm and Ryerson University while a member of the Leafs, before eventually finishing it remotely through Southern New Hampshire University.

“I chipped away at it for what seems like an eternity,” he said.

Graduating in 2021 as a President’s List honors student with a 3.9 GPA, Holland felt ready to begin a new chapter and enter the business world. It coincided with a waning interest in hockey and his 15-game stint with Djurgårdens that didn’t go the way either he or the team had hoped.

Holland had also been developing a strong interest in cryptocurrency and was devoting increased amounts of time to research after initially being skeptical of the marketplace. His journey down the so-called “rabbit hole” started when a friend passed along an article that piqued his curiosity and began to shift his thinking.

“I opened the link he sent me and I started doing a little bit of reading. That reading led to more reading, ”he explained. “And before I knew it, I was consuming everything I could, listening to a variety of podcasts, watching YouTube videos, reading every article I could get my hands on, and following leaders in the space on social media.

“Ultimately I started to understand the utility behind Bitcoin, and our transition as a whole into digital money.”

This led him to pursue a job with Satstreet, a Toronto-based crypto exchange that prides itself on a top-shelf customer experience. After returning home from Sweden, it wasn’t long before Holland was hired as a Business Development executive.

Now he’s living a life that bears no resemblance to the one he left behind, commuting downtown on the GO Train every weekday and remaining glued to his phone at all hours.

That speaks to the passion Holland has for his new pursuit.

He says that Bitcoin wasn’t a popular topic of conversation around any of the dressing rooms he played in and he hopes to help educate pro hockey players who are curious about investing in it. He suspects some are already involved in the space even if they haven’t been as open about it as NFLers Saquon Barkley, Russell Okung and Odell Beckham Jr., who have each taken some of their salary in the cryptocurrency.

“Bitcoin makes a splash, right? So maybe that’s part of the reason for not talking about it, ”said Holland. “Hockey players are typically pretty reserved when it comes to their finances.”

He would appear to be the perfect conduit between the two worlds after a 266-game NHL career and time spent in the AHL, KHL and SHL.

Among his personal Leafs-related highlights were community visits to SickKids Hospital, the first goal he scored for the team in a November 2013 game against Nashville, and getting the shootout winner for Arizona at Scotiabank Arena a week after being traded out of Toronto.

To this day he can recall with vivid detail what it was like to find out he was first going to be a Leaf during a phone call with Bob Murray. The former Anaheim Ducks general manager worked in a dramatic pause before telling Holland he’d been traded to Toronto.

“It was all I could do to let out a little shriek on the phone,” Holland said.

He was playing in the AHL for Norfolk at the time and decided to double-check with the team trainer to make sure he wasn’t being pranked before sharing the news with his parents. Then he jumped into a car service from Providence, RI, to Boston and flew to Billy Bishop Airport to start living his childhood dream.

“I remember flying over Lake Ontario and seeing the Toronto skyline knowing that I was playing that night on the first line with [James van Riemsdyk] and Phil Kessel, ”said Holland. “It was a Saturday, Hockey Night in Canada. I didn’t know at that point that happy tears were a thing, but I had a few cross my cheek during that flight. ”

There are no tears now for the career he’s left behind.

No regrets, either.

Holland is jumping into his next profession with both feet, believing he’s arrived in crypto at the right moment. He’s drawn to the fact it’s still only beginning to be understood and adopted by the general population and says that nine out of 10 people on the street have very little understanding of what Bitcoin and digital assets represent, or their future potential.

That presents an opportunity.

“I think it’s a vulnerable space to be in because it’s still widely unknown and there’s a lot of skepticism out there,” Holland said. “There’s probably going to be a lot of people that either don’t have the time to read into it themselves or just don’t want to. And many will probably question why I chose this untraditional line of work.

“But Bitcoin’s funny: Once you see what Bitcoin is, you can’t unsee it.

“It just takes a little bit of time to get to know it.”

Just like it can take some time to find your next passion.

Chris Johnston writes about sports for NorthStar Bets. NorthStar Bets is owned by NordStar Capital, which also owns Torstar, the Star’s parent company. Follow him on Twitter: @reporterchris

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