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You look back and I don't think about the things that were really hard, the injuries, I really don't think back like that. I think the how how great it was to to to live that life and and play the game.
Hello and welcome. I'm Shane Parrish and this is the Knowledge Project, a podcast exploring the ideas, methods and mental models that help you learn from the past and what other people have already figured out. To learn more about the show and pass gas, go to F-stop blog podcast. My guest today is former professional hockey player Brent Gilchrist spent 15 years in the NHL playing seven hundred and ninety two games for the Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings and Natural Predators.
You want a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings? In 1998 and his playing career, he's become a mining executive with Jades, Energy and mining. In this conversation, we explore what it's like to play in the NHL and the habits that allowed him to have such a long playing career. We talk about the difference between good coaches and bad coaches.
We also talk about how he transitioned from hockey to investing and then venture capital and mining. Let's get started. Before we get started, here's a quick word from our sponsor. Farnam Street is sponsored by Medlab for a decade, Medlab has helped some of the world's top companies and entrepreneurs build products that millions of people use every day. You probably didn't realize that at the time, but odds are you've used an app that they've helped design or build apps like Slack, Coinbase, Facebook Messenger, Oculus, Lonely Planet and so many more.
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This is before we get into mining and post playing career.
What is that like? I was fortunate enough to play in two Stanley Cup finals and fortunate and probably misled a little bit. My first year in the NHL, I played with the Montreal Canadiens and we had a great team. We finished second that year in the standings and in 1989 we ended up playing the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup final and we lost in six games. Obviously really devastating. But as a as a 21 year old kid to play in a Stanley Cup final year, first year.
And one story I remember after we eliminated Philadelphia in the spectrum in the conference final, I remember sitting next to Bob Gagne on the bus and the bus ride from the spectrum to the airport. And he said to me, you know, when you get here. When you have a kick at the can, you have to win it because you never know when you're going to be back. And as a 21 year old with no experience, I thought, well, this is easier.
And I also thought Bob was 36 or 37 of their captain. But I think we all knew that Bob was probably going to retire that year or the next year. And I thought to myself, well, you're probably not going to be back here, you know, but I will be, you know, like this seems like we're the best team in the league or close to it. Well, that was a rude awakening that it took me 10 years as a player to get back to the finals with a completely different team.
And I had a few stops in between and getting back to the finals with Detroit. It was it was not bittersweet for me, but I I played most of the playoffs seriously injured. And and so the finals was not not in my in my cards. I was not going to be able to play in the finals. I played the last game against Dallas, the team that I had just left, and we beat them in six, which was a great series.
They were a great team. So for me, on a personal standpoint, outside the team, there was a lot of risk in moving from Dallas to Detroit, which Dallas we had a real strong team. And then, of course, as far as the car, the chips would fall here. I am playing against him in the in the conference finals. So we eliminated him. But I was I was unable to continue. So I didn't play the last four games.
I think I read something. Maybe it was a Steve Eisenman interview where he said that he's never seen somebody go through as much pain as you were in playing.
Well, I think, you know, Steve, being the person he is in the friend is obviously meant a lot for me to sit for him to say that. But he actually has done the same himself in a couple of different playoff seasons. I watched him do it. And but it was great of him to say that he's a great person, great obviously a great player and a great a great captain. But, yeah, that was that was great to hear him say that.
He said it publicly many times. And some of the other players on our team said that because it was very hush hush during the during the playoffs, obviously. And and it was it was an experience that I look back on. And, boy, I'm not tough enough anymore to take that sort of pain. But as a player and as the man in the moment, I did not think one minute about that. It's just what you did. And today I'm just, you know, I'm a big wimp.
I don't want to go anywhere near the pain that we used to go through. You said he was a great captain.
What's the role of an NHL captain of a team?
Yeah. So it's very different part of leadership than I faced today as a leader in business and working with other leaders and decision makers. The captain of a hockey team, you know, typically they're your best player. Not not always. I think we have a hard time society, always one our society, leadership and business and sports. We want to talk about leaders and we, you know, talk about the characteristics. They haven't for sure that there's a truth to that.
But in hockey, like the captain's not making decisions. So he's not the leader of the team. He's the he may be the emotional leader or the best player leader on the ice and in the locker room. But but he's beyond the leader, the leadership of decision making, which I think as I learn in business, everything about leadership is decision making. And I think two things that I, I would say about not not just one thing I would say about an NHL captain or a leader in business, we just can't seem to put our finger exactly on what a leader should do or look like or his characteristics or her.
But what I will say is a great leader. People follow why they do that charisma the way they lead by example. I think one thing for me, a leader is believable. Do you believe when people believe a leader, they follow? And that's the best way I can describe it. In hockey, the captain has to be believable. He has to lead by example. He has to do the things that that the sacrifice that every every player is expected or even to a higher degree.
But also they have to be great teammates. And I think we missed that. That that being on an NHL hockey team, you're the leader. But the reason you're the leader is your you might be the best teammate. You might be such a great team player and care about not just the the wins and losses, the goals in assists, but the other players on the team. And I think that's really it. We just missed that.
A great leader in hockey is a great teammate who picks the leaders that the GM, the coach, the players. I don't even know how that selected is screening contracts.
Yeah. So it's absolutely I don't think it's there's any rules. I've, you know, played 15 years in the NHL, I voted for my captain once one time that happened when Bob Gagne retired from the Montreal Canadiens the next season here we were. We were a great team. We just lost in the finals. And and here we were not rudderless. But this was a big hole because Bob Gagne was, you know, this iconic captain of a team that was a dynasty won one cup in the 80s.
We lost a couple in 89. And you're going to replace somebody that was for us as young players just working on a different level and and somebody we watched as real young kids. So we voted for the captain. Serge Savard was our general manager, who was one of the best documented people that I ever worked with, just so well respected, just a great person. And he came in the locker room, said, we're going to vote for the captain.
And so we voted and the first round came out. And I think there was only three candidates. There might have been four. But I remember Chris Chelios and Guy Carbonyl and I think Brian Screenland got a few votes, but and there might have been one more, but I'm not too sure. But the fact was this guy Carbonyl and Chris Chelios tied and so, OK, that was a tie. That's fine. Now we throw everybody out, we say, OK, guys, or surge.
We're this between these two guys who had the most votes. We voted again and they tied. And so I was like, wow, what's you know, what's what's surge going to do? And he said he made a very quick decision. He said, OK, we're going to have two captains. That was it. And so one more, I think, to see one game and I think they just switched on off. I can't remember how how we did it.
And he made a fast decision, which was interesting. I think, you know, Serge was a great leader of that organization. And I think his decision was was good because it wouldn't create any controversy. And there was you know, there's no question amongst the players there was no rivalry between French and English players, but certainly in in the Montreal media and there was always a rivalry. And if a French player, I think the way we felt as English players anyway, if a French player was as good as you, he was probably going to get the spot from a media standpoint, not from a not a source of art or Pat Burns standpoint.
But, you know, they were always looking for, you know, bias to French Canadian players, which is fine.
You know, it never affected us as players follow up on that is at the time you had Patrick Walker on the team as well, who's probably the best goalie in the NHL? Absolutely.
Our goal, he's no team captain. Well, we had one instance of it in Vancouver. Roberto Luongo is the captain for a couple of years. I think it has been I think in the past there has been some and I'm going to mess up my history, but I want to say, like George Besner or something, was the captain of that very rare and it hasn't happened other than Roberto for for probably fifty, sixty seven years. I'm not too sure I'd have to look that up.
But I think from the standpoint that I look at it, I'm not sure that the rest of the hockey world would think that. But the goalie has this position that unique it's they're there. Not everybody says they're weird and sometimes they are and sometimes they're not. But they have a there's a solitude to their position that's somewhat different than the rest of the players. Not that they're not part of the team, but their position has some solitude to it.
And we sort of all as players and coaches and I think management I think you try to leave your goalie alone a little more than you do other players from their preparation in there and their work. They have many coaches now. So much like that. When I played, there was a goalie coach, but he wasn't maybe so was involved. So I think they have a they have a position that they have enough to deal with. And you sort of just let them it's it's a big mental game.
And they they they have a solitude, like I said before. So I think we'll leave them alone. And I think to to to put the captaincy on somebody in that position adds another layer that may you don't want anything to affect your goalie, you know, preparation and mental ability. You want to thinking about one thing, stopping the puck. Right. And if you overlay the leadership of the team on, I think it could be a problem.
I would say that Patrick was one that could handle that great leader, great guy, great player and so competitive. You just, you know, just even shooting on Patrick in practice. It was a competition. You didn't come down and just shoot. You really tried to score because you knew he would not want you to score a goal in practice.
It was just different from other teams you played on.
You know, I think everybody's competitive and. The goalies are super competitive, but I just saw their goalies preparing if they were practicing, they were practicing some things and they weren't going to kill themselves to stop a fucking practice. I don't say that it's right or wrong. You know, practice is practice. I just remember that when Patrick was in the net during warm up practice, he really was focused on stopping the puck. And he was real competitor, was a lot of fun.
But not not to a not to a he was he wasn't overdone or nasty about it. He just he was really competitive to the outside world.
I mean, it often seems like you're living the dream, right? You're a professional hockey player.
You get paid to play hockey went behind the scenes.
Don't we see in terms of preparation, is it a full year round job? Is it a nine to five on a daily basis, or are you just going for a morning warm up?
Like, walk me through a little bit of what goes into how you excel and how you become a professional hockey player.
Yeah, so I don't I don't have the secret and I don't think any of us do. You know, as a kid, all I wanted to do was play hockey. And I think, you know, my teammates and my colleagues were probably very similar to me, more more Canadians when I came up in the league. And now as my career progressed, obviously lots of Europeans, lots of Russians, all the best players in the world, the league just kept getting better.
So what we what fans don't see, I think it's you can be fairly typical on what they don't see, the travel stuff, the work, you know, the the the toll on your body, how hard it is every day. And probably what one doesn't think about as much as just the stress and the emotional toll. And so it's very, very competitive, the least competitive. But also your team is very competitive. So you're fighting for your job every day.
Maybe not the superstars or maybe not in the prime of your career. You're not thinking about that as much, but when you're younger and older, you're trying to keep your job. And that is a daily exercise that you have to work very hard at. And and you're always trying to play your best. And we all, you know well, as players, I think that we all think of ourselves as the best game we ever played or the best season we ever played.
That was how good we are. That's the standard. And that's how good we were. I was but you know, you don't sort of couple it all up with the bad season, the bad games. And so it's always a struggle to play at your at your best. And I think the best players in the game, the best players in the world and the historic the the the Hall of Famers, I don't think their skills are that much better than everybody else.
They are better. And circumstances. Sure, they may be faster. Better shots are better, Pangkalan. But I think it's their ability to to make their, you know, to achieve the highest level of their abilities consistently. And that's the hardest thing to do, the competitiveness of playing your best efforts as well as you can. Yeah. And you just can't maintain it. And I think that's I think that's a lot of times the difference between the the great, great players is they maintain their highest level at a very consistent basis and the rest of us struggle to do that.
So, you know, we all grew up being the best players on our team or in our community. And, you know, it gets the air gets thinner up there. And and but it's great. It's such a great life. And I you look back and I don't think about the things that were really hard, the injuries and sometimes the stress of being a player and trying to try to maintain your position in the travel. And I really don't think of back like that.
I think the how how great it was to to to live that life and and play the game.
How hard is it to go from being the best player on every team? You've probably played on to the NHL, where you might have to accept a role. That's what you've never done before in order to make the team or in order to contribute?
Yeah, I don't know that it was tough. I think it was a progression. And and I don't know if acceptance is the right word, but, you know, when I came up in Montreal, I was not a regular player. My rookie season, I think I played forty nine games. And you're always trying to get in the lineup. I don't think it was difficult. I think you're fighting so hard to to to find that position and find that role.
I think that's more what it is. So Pat Burns was my coach and he coached me the year before in in the American League. And all of a sudden when I realized that I was I might not be a settlement in the NHL and I was always a center, but I never played anything else as a kid, you know, when I was really, really young. You played other positions, but I always played center. So all of a sudden I found myself on the left wing.
I thought, well, this is interesting. And then I. I found myself on the right wing and I would bounce back and forth between center, right wing and left wing and what I didn't realize it was going to be such a blessing for me that we had four incredible centers in Montreal in the late 80s and that it was going to be tough for me to play on a regular. But when somebody was hurt, I got a typically at the chest play center.
So what the blessing was, is I became a player that could play and could play all three positions. I'm not saying that guys can't, but maybe in those days it was a little more structured and and almost had a utility to my game that helped me play a long career. The play in 15 years is not easy at my size. And, you know, my offensive output was not always, not always stellar. So you're right. You find the role in my role actually was not not singular.
And I was able to play power play through my career more Panelli killing lots of times in a defensive role. But other times, you know, I got the opportunity to playing on a more offensive line and being able to play those three positions without really any any difference to my game helped me a lot.
So so that possibility makes it harder to get rid of you in a way, right?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that you can be plugged in and there's there's always the intangibles.
How does that affect your mind? They're like, do you come into that going? I'm a center icemen. And now they asked me to do something I'm not and I'm not going to be at my best.
And yeah, I again, I don't think I rationalized it or or really gave many thoughts about it. Just maybe just like, okay, I'm in the lineup tonight. That's number one on the count playing left wing.
And on that team, there wasn't a bad position to be in if you got in the lineup. Every player around you for me at that point certainly was. Well, this player's fantastic, got players fantastic. And we had a very deep team. So all our lines were were very good. We may have lines that were scoring or more defensive, but all the players could they they were great players.
What's the wear and tear on the body? I think they play eighty game seasons at the eighty two. Now it's been through my career. Had it, had it been eighty and then eighty two and then eighty four and then back to eighty two.
So it's you know for for player my size. It was always a challenge to, to maintain your health and if. What do you mean your size.
Well I'm small for a pro you know, I played at about one hundred and eighty pounds, maybe a little less, a little heavier now unfortunately. But and so that's that's, you know, the strength and the and the size that you're up against is it can be grueling or it is grueling. And I think it's harder for smaller players when they do get hurt to withstand continue to play injured and the bigger guys are just stronger. They're more able, in my opinion, to to accept more more punishment.
And and that's just a simple fact.
So so does that mean in a way, as a fan, I wish I had more respect for people like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid are on the smaller size.
I don't think we have to respect them more because they're smaller. They're just they're just so good. But I mean, definitely. Yeah, yeah.
I think but we probably don't appreciate the way the time and it gets harder for them. I think Sydney, I mean, those players are so strong physically. They're just very gifted not only in their talent but they're very, very strong athletes. So no, it's just it's a bit harder. But, you know, it doesn't mean, you know, people I remember I was too small to play in the NHL. I was it was told, you know, I heard that many, many times and other motivate you.
Sure. And I don't think it mattered to me. Like, I don't think I you know, if somebody said because because I think not just small players, but, you know, a big player, you know, they're probably saying, well, he's too slow to play in the National League.
And so, you know, it wasn't something I was worried about. But when I hear somebody say he's too small to play, he's not. Nobody is. There's everybody has skills and then they have you know, they have things that are going to hold the back. No, they're just not perfect players out there typically. Maybe, you know, maybe there's a few. But, you know, you're too slow. You're too you're not tough enough.
You're you're all everybody's fighting to something that's, you know, their weaknesses and you're small or your big or slow or your you know, or you're not that tough. So they say you either can play and help a team win or you can't. There's no there's no attribute that's going to say you can't do this. If you're small and you can't play, it means you're not good enough to play. And so everybody's judged on whether you help a team win or not, whether you can score, whether you can stop a team from.
Or whatever it is, you help the team win or not, and if you're, what, five feet tall, but you help your team win, you're going to be in the lineup. You were traded a few times, right?
In Montreal to Edmonton. Edmonton to Dallas. Yes. And then Dallas to Detroit. Yeah. So Dallas to Detroit.
I left as a free agent. The other. The other. Yeah, the trades are interesting. So it's not like is a player coming up to the trade deadline.
No. Do you have a sense that you might be traded. Did people talk to you. Yeah.
No, no, no. A sense of that one. So it was in the summer and I just had the best season of my career. That was the Montreal to Edmonton. Yeah. And I was here in Montreal. I spent the summer in Montreal with my with my soon to be wife at the time, Carol. And and that was devastating, to say the least. I'd never been traded as a junior, as a pro. And I, I don't have any tattoos.
But if I did have one at that time, it would it be the S.H. was drafted by them and loved living in the city, loved playing for the team, were a good team. And, you know, my teammates were were so close and to get traded. Was it really difficult? Did never thought I'd leave Montreal. Of course, that's a young player that that doesn't quite have a reality on the business. And once it happened, you know, you sort through it and you pick yourself up.
And how did you find out? Would you read the newspaper? Did they call us?
So they were trying to call me. Apparently, it was the afternoon.
It was August 27th, and they left.
So absolutely, I was actually at the forum in the gym working out. And I want to say that the Rolling Stones were in town and Carol and I were on our way with friends to see the Rolling Stones at the stadium.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was the same night. And so I was working out, having an afternoon workout. The form was always open to us and I spent the summer here. So I was working out and and they Saraswathi apparently was trying to call me. And Jack Daymares had just taken over from Pat Burns as our coach. And I hadn't played for Jack yet. And he walked into the gym because somebody told them upstairs that I was in the gym.
He walked in and he said, Brian, I got to talk. He pulled me in his office. He says, this is very difficult for me because, you know, we don't know each other well and you haven't played for me yet. But you've been traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Vincent Downforce, says you and Shane Corson. And, yeah, it was a it was a tough one. And one of the toughest things was my wife was working.
She'd just finished her law degree and she was working downtown here, articling at a law firm. And that was going to be a tough one. Born and raised French Canadian girl, born and raised here in Montreal. So I went to her office and she knew something was wrong because I'd never been to her office before. So, yeah, that was a tough one to tell her that that I'd been traded and in effect, we've been traded.
So how did that change your relationship to the team after you were traded? I mean, you just said you would have a tattoo like the Montreal Canadiens logo on your heart, sort of.
How does that change going to Edmonton at that point where you're still a player, you still want to play, you love the game, but does your relationship to the team change?
I think so. So played for Montreal in those days. And I'm not I don't know the modern day you know, it was the New York Yankees. It was all those things. And you believed in everything that was happening here and you just didn't think there was another place to play like this was the place, you know, and I'm sure there was other players feeling about that, about their own team. And then as my career, you know, as you as you get more experience, what I think great teams become is and in today's modern game, where you have a team in Las Vegas that has no history but lots of success, all these different teams.
So I do believe this, that the front of the jersey, the logo does mean less. And I think what means the same as your teammates, right. I think the great teams play for each other. They play for their team. Sure. They play for their fans. They want they want to make their fans proud. But if it's not about the twenty guys in the locker room that you're, you know, you'll you'll go to bat for you'll go to war for your fight for all those things, that's what maintains the team.
And the the logo has to mean less today with 31 teams and probably 32 shortly versus six and then twelve. And then I think when I came in the league, it was probably twenty one. But there was still those franchises that were the original six that I was fortunate to play for two original six teams and have lots of success, obviously Montreal and in Detroit. And I think that the logo, the Jersey Mets. More because it was so much history to it, but at the end of the day, it's the it's your teammates.
You played for some great coaches. I mean, Pat Burns, Scotty Bowman. I'm probably leaving out a few here. What was what was different about great coaches to average coaches?
That's probably hard to describe. So I'll just go through those two. But Pat was a great coach, but he was I think Pat and I had a good relationship because he coached me when I was playing in the American League. And he he definitely was you know, I had more rapport with him. I could speak to him more than a lot of the other coaches I didn't know as well. And he was a real fiery guy, real passionate, lose his temper a lot.
But you knew his his his bark was way worse than his bite. So you the players trusted him. And I think that was that was. And he he wore everything on his sleeve. Right. So you knew where you stood with him and you knew what he was probably going overboard because he was just such an emotional guy. But really, really great person. Scottie Machol skip right to Scottie because, you know, he fascinates everybody. One thing I, I think I recognize with Scottie is he would make any decision that he thought was right.
And you might think that was crazy. You know, like he he would do things that that other coaches I don't think would do. And I think part of that was his success, where he was in his career, because I played for him when he was in his 60s or even his mid 60s, and he could make a decision and never worry once about his job. It was the wrong decision. And that's a hard thing for any leader.
Coaches, you know, business managers is when you make a decision, it's I've got this decision nailed, but it's going to be viewed in the public like a bit, you know, a bit off the wall. And if it goes wrong, you're risking and we see that every day, whether it's the prime minister of the country or the the leader of the, you know, Royal Bank, they make decisions. And sometimes we know their decisions that are affected by what what the public is going to going to see.
And I don't think Scotty was at a point in his career that mattered that he could make any decision. I remember him sitting out, Sergei Federov, like one of the best players in the world, and Sergei had probably had a couple of bad games, which is not uncommon for anybody in the league. And I think Scotty decided to sit him out. And that was like, well, that's a that's a scary decision for most coaches. And of course, it worked because, you know, everybody stood up, went, wow, like you said, he would get that.
And so, of course, you know, the team reacted very well and Sergei came back in the lineup the next game or whatever. But those are things that most coaches and certainly a young coach, I doubt would sit on a superstar.
You kind of grew up in the NHL as it was becoming this huge business, right? I mean, I don't know what the average salary was when you started it, but when you ended your career, it was much different. Absolutely.
That's one thing I look at all the time because people ask me when the players make so much money now. And I said we were very well paid. We were there's no grudge here of that because we were paid a lot more than the generation before us. And that's just that's just what it is. And the players today, they deserve the money they're making and and they're probably not going to make it as long as we did, because I see that the courier's order.
Yeah. Guy loses a stout boy. He's not he's not long for the NHL. It happens faster now. They train harder. They're in better shape. They're bigger and faster. And when you stumble a little bit, you know, I think your career ends faster. But anyway, you know, I was in a a I think every era was is a great era. And, you know, I certainly wouldn't wouldn't change there. I played and things did change a lot from from 1988 to 2003.
Maybe one of the biggest changes from start to finish in terms of money and business, the the game scene walk me through.
The first one is training camp starting in August, September, September. So walking through the first September after you've retired.
Yeah. Well, what are you doing? I was feeling pretty good. You know, obviously some there was some anxiousness, but it was you know, I'm not I'm not that anxious, certainly on the outside. But, you know, you're second guessing yourself. I think one of the things that helped me transition is I had a real focus. I knew exactly what I want to do, probably five or ten years before before I retired. And I wanted to be in the investment business.
I've always been was always fascinated with capital allocation. I was, you know, learning, self-taught. And I self is maybe the wrong word. But in terms of, you know, formal education self. But we would hang around a lot of people that did that for a living, that allocated capital that manage money and, you know, learned a lot through osmosis and being around it and doing it with my own money. And so I had a real focus that I wanted to start an investment practice right away when I retired.
So immediately I went into all the licensing, you know, from the securities exams to options, trades, all everything. I was, you know, getting all the licenses behind me.
Did you come back to Canada? Right. Still in Detroit at that time? I did.
And that was a decision. So my last season we played in Nashville and we left Detroit and it probably broke us away from the city of Detroit, which was a great place to live. And we enjoyed it there. And we could we could have stayed and lived with lots of friends. There are lots of contacts and we really like the community, believe it or not. And for a lot of Canadians, that's like really Detroit. And yes, a great a really good place to live, a real good community, good schools.
And where we lived in obviously, the city of Detroit has its own challenges, which is getting better. But so the decision was we were in Nashville, which was not a place that we really had any attachment to, and it was a very nice city. We really enjoyed the season we played there and I obviously wasn't going to play. I retired, but I was going to be told I was going to retire to I maybe could have went to Europe and but I was not going to get another contract in the NHL.
And I was 36. And you knew that like.
Yeah, I felt I knew people were very direct about it.
Like, I really because I really didn't seek out that that direction, because I knew that, well, two things. I knew that I knew that there wasn't a team out there that was looking for a 36 year old. Hundred and seventy eight pound siloing for World Cup or. Yeah, that scored one goal the previous season.
And secondly, I knew I was done. I knew that the speed and the size of the players was starting to look like I wasn't feeling it.
I was feeling out of place because I so so there was a total reality to that. I was not kidding myself.
Was it one year too many? No, I don't think so. I think I think I had a I think I wouldn't say I had a good season like I played really well. But I think I was a a useful player for the predators in terms of some experience and filled in when when they needed. We didn't make the playoffs that year. And I think I think we could have they made the playoffs the next year. So I don't think it was one year too many, but I think it was that was it.
I was I was done. I knew it. And it was time to move on.
So do you think about that during that last season? Yes. Everything changed. How you you enjoyed that last season?
Well, so I think I was very conscious of where I was. And I was very conscious that I didn't want to hate my last season. I wasn't physically, you know, not healthy. And so it was a grind. It was grueling, even only playing 41 games. And I also didn't want to hate what I was doing. I was trying to be conscious of where I was, how great a life I led in the National League, and I was still playing in the NHL.
And so I did not want to regret one minute of it. And so I was conscious to be careful of that. So I didn't I just I enjoyed I accepted the role not every day. Maybe the role frustrated me a few times that, you know, very Trotwood comments compensate. Brent, you're not playing. I really respected Barry. You know, he'd come to me every day and say, you're not going to play today. But he had you know, I felt like he had a real respect for for me.
And as a player, he was he was a real good guy to play for.
So I think your question back to, you know, what was that September like? I think the transition was pretty good because I immediately jumped into something. It wasn't overwhelming. Had planned it. Yeah. Yeah.
And the so the decision was to move back to Canada. We had a summer home in my my hometown or close to my hometown. Yeah. We're to sell our home in Kelowna, but really the same thing, same community that I grew up in and played junior around there. And it was a bit of a natural to just say, OK, the kids are pretty comfortable here. The decision to go back to Detroit, which was sort of re-establish we had sold our home.
And so we said, let's give this a try. And, you know, I had friends in the business, in the investment business. You said, hey, your office is ready when you're ready. So it was a natural. I had a good friend running ads office in the Okanagan and he said, yeah, let's RBC. And so I started an investment practice at Dominion Securities.
How did you go about learning a bit this way or playing hockey?
What subprocess process like it's all about reading. You know, I was I today I'm less of an avid reader because it's it's easier to get information. Quickly, so I read less books than I want to right now, but I do get the sort of the gist of books by your podcasts, you know, by by Freakonomics, by, you know, revisionist history, whatever it is. So I. I was so passionate still about capital allocation. You know, how the history of the stock market you know what Buffett writes what or says what Munger has written in in the almanac.
Charlie Munger is not a household name amongst NHL players. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, some of the ones I hung out with for sure, but not probably not as many. So it was I mean, I don't think you ever really understand or or or think you can get good at something that you don't love. And I have a great passion for the history of, you know, the capital markets. And and it's and that's the view I take the actual management from a day to day basis because I still do quite a bit of that.
It's not day to day. It's it's more, you know, big picture thinking. And I you know, I don't know how I got here, but it's where I want to be in. It's what I'm passionate about.
And then you move from investment management to mining.
Yeah. So I obviously had a very good friend, Jeff Stabat, who has built an incredible business called Jades Energy and Mining. And we were you know, we ended up sort of in Cologne. At the same time, he retired from running a big oil sands project mine, an engineer and a really good leader. And we ended up there and we became friends through I think our kids played hockey together. And and so we did some business together from an investment standpoint.
And his basically the businesses that I started and he started where we're sort of kicked off at the same time, his business grew really fast and he was interested in just more. He's always interested in his serial entrepreneur and just just a guy who just wants to do a lot. So he approached me about, you know, leaving my investment business and and starting what we call today JTAC Resources, which is really just a company that doesn't hold a lot.
But we look for our own opportunities. And that's sort of how we, you know, early in mining. Yeah, pretty much. I mean, in natural resources of it, we'll look at other investments that we don't that we don't have something to do with it. But look, looks attractive. Will we look at everything? But from a standpoint of us starting something that really has to fall within our expertise and and and it really is mining at this point.
So we didn't know how we were going to do this or what we were going to do. So at the end of 2011, I sold my investment business and and started at this company that Jeff and I said, this is what we're going to do, jades, resources. And again, our strategy was it didn't exist. We just knew that we had a team at Energy at Jades that could evaluate, could design, could build. We could do we could do anything from cradle to grave in the right project and something that was probably unloved and uncared about by the public market because we were going to stay private.
And there is lots of opportunities out there. They're tough to transact on. They're tough to get aligned with whoever owns them. And and, you know, I didn't know and neither did Jeff how this was going to morph. And within, you know, six months, we were sort of flat out on trying to buy an asset. And and it's been sort of hair back ever since.
What are the advantages to being private in a generally public, well funded, so well funded is the key? Nothing. Junior mining is well funded, whether it's exploration or and we're not exploration guys. We're not we we look for assets that are ready to or close to being developed as mines. And when you look at that whole sphere, that whole world, there's very few projects that are ever going to be mined there. You know, they explore for a while, find something, but it's likely never going to be large or economic enough, you know, enough metal in a concentrated area to become a mine.
So we look through a lot of stuff and we work for a lot of people. So we see a lot of the projects that are out there that could be what we call stranded and stranded means.
Yeah, small for most people to pay attention. To what extent? I mean, could mean all those things.
You know, a lot of people call it distressed, but we're not so enamored with the word distressed. We like stranded because I'm sure the company that holds it could be distressed, but that has nothing to do with the asset and the value that.
We see or potentially see, but you're right, the market, the public market tends to ignore things that don't you know, that they can't really promote to be something massive. Right. When somebody puts their money into a junior exploration project, they want to see the potential to take your 10 cent stock to two dollars. And that means a massive increase in the resource we sort to come after where the resource has been somewhat defined and we think it's economic.
Yes, it had proven probable, sort of. Exactly. And once we dig into it, we have you know, like I said, we have a great team and we're really mining engineering focused. They will see they'll look at the resource and say, can we make something economical or can we actually build a mineable plan here to extract enough of the metal? Or as we say, we extract cash, not metal. We don't really care about the metal.
And based on how much it's going to cost us to design and permit and build and then start up, can't get it. Can it pay back its capital pretty fast? And can there be enough life there to have a reserve tail that a financier in New York or London or wherever is going to be interested in? And we pride ourselves. We don't do anything without a model, an economic model being built. And we take assumptions upfront that say this is going to be economic to a glorious return and it has to really look good when we first when we first got out the economics, because it's going to change.
We're taking some assumptions in that point that we don't have all those answers to. And our people have to go back in and start to do a deeper dive on the capital and on the and on the resource.
Historically, when you look at those economic projections, what percentage of the time are they within maybe 10 or 20 percent of the actual sort of return that you get?
So we don't we don't have a good sample size for what we've done because, you know, I think you need a big sample size of from a what I call a feasibility study. So typically start with a preliminary economic analysis fees and there are fees. And the fees is sort of the granddaddy to say, hey, this is really reliable. But from a development standpoint, things change quickly, things change in the north or change in Africa or change wherever, and it always takes more time.
So it's very difficult when you do a feasibility, you put a construction plan together. Well, that's a construction plan, a constrained construction plan. But for a company to get to the construction, even if it could cost a lot of money, whether it's permitting. So this is not always captured in the end result of starting construction building and then starting up a mine and having enough working capital to get it get it to cash flow. There's a whole bunch in between that.
So can you get through that? I think the average listener probably has no idea.
And myself included, what goes into extracting something from a mine.
So I'll start with this comment. As I said before, like capital allocation or investment is just it's a real passion. I just love it. I love reviewing it, looking at it and trying to understand it. And I would say this, that the mine site is one of the most incredible economic models that you can ever analyze. And I'm not a mining engineer geologist, but I have, you know, an incredible team around me that has taught me so much about this.
But I I am, you know, well versed on how the capital is going to go in, how it's going to be financed. So the economic study remains incredibly, because the minute somebody moves, it costs money. The minute you don't hit your you're extracted ton rate, it costs money. So you're always trying to say, OK, the tons are X and the amount of metal that's in those tons is Y, and when you're extracting it, you have costs on everything you do, drilling, blasting everybody who's moving, hauling and then processing.
And then you also have this corporate office, the GSA. And every time something doesn't quite go right, those costs just rise. So when we look at something, we know that's a reality. Until you really get a mine operating efficiently, which takes a long time and typically takes more capital to get really efficient. So when we look at things, we know that we're looking at extraordinarily high returns from from the first view, because we know that those are going to be hampered as you get as you dig into the and the the devil's in the details.
And with our project that we bought in northern British Columbia, we saw a massive margin and the extraction of that that or because it was very, very high grade silver like zinc. And so we knew that there would be mistakes along the way, there would be inefficiencies along the way, that we would struggle with raising all the capital that we needed. But the margin was so great that at the end of the day there was going to be a good profit.
What goes into making a decision outside of the economic factors? I mean, you're always dealing with sellers in this case who know more about the asset than you do.
How do you a lot of times we feel like we know more about the asset than the seller or we know more about how the asset should be developed. That's what we think we're really good at. What other decisions? Many. So we have what we would call a investment criteria. And it's become, you know, for for my team. They know it. We it's second nature. We know what we have to look at the first five or six things and then, you know, sort of thumbs up while this looks good.
Now, what else is their jurisdiction? Is it is it in Africa or is it at 10000 feet up the side of a glacier in northern British Columbia? So all those things, you can look at the resource and you can look at many of the technical factors that go into making money on that resource. But how do you get there? Oh, you know, the First Nations community, are they favourable to mining? Can you can you involve them in this project?
And then permitting, you know, you can't build a mine on the mountain next to Kelowna and, you know, next to Okanogan Lake, like the government and the community is not going to let you do that. Could be the best resource in the world. It's not going to happen. So those decisions there's political there's there's access decisions or it could be at the 66 parallel in the Arctic and that provides other challenges are going to be more costly.
Doesn't mean it doesn't work, but those all have to go into the model. And and then you have to you have to take some risk on that decision making. And there's no question that the the business carries risks. But our analysis, we feel like we can't control the risk, but we hope to understand it. And then there's no place where you don't in any business that you can understand all the risks because some risk is invisible. Otherwise it wouldn't be a risk, you know, about it.
And so you deal with it and things get broken and things go wrong. But, you know, we think we're we're pretty resilient and we'll just fix it. Could cost more money. Sure it is. We're going to fix it.
And you build that and you're thinking going along. We do. And that that's basically I don't think you can actually you know, we always have a contingency in malls, but it's about the margin. If the margin is so good that, you know, that there's going to be ups and downs. And then we haven't even talked about the price of the commodity, which is to get out of everybody's control.
And there's not one person out there that I will ever believe when they tell me what the price of a commodity is going to do. It just it's it's not knowable. And it's funny how the the world is so fascinated by predicting and telling us, you know, we pay a lot of people a lot of money to tell us where gold is going or where interest.
And we don't know of anybody actually had the answer to that. They would be like a trillionaire and, you know, on a consistent basis, they would definitely not be selling that information. I know they don't need it.
I always said if I knew where the stock market was going or where gold was going, I'd be on a beach with my computer. I wouldn't need any of you people.
Listen, this has been an amazing conversation now. And I thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
Awesome. Thank you. Hey, guys, this is Shane again, just a few more things before we wrap up. You can find show notes at Farnam Street blog, dotcom slash podcast. That's fair. And S-T REIT blog, dotcom slash podcast. You can also find information there on how to get a transcript.
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