After a decade playing professional hockey in Europe, Thorold-born Sean Bentivoglio is stick-handling a new job: managing other people’s money. He returned to Canada recently and is now a financial planner for IG Wealth Management in Waterdown, Ont.
“Obviously, the transition of playing professional sports to an office job was a bit different at first, but I am really enjoying it,” Bentivoglio says, in an interview with ThoroldToday. “It’s been great.”
Growing up in Thorold, Bentivoglio always had big dreams.
“I started playing hockey when I was about five,” he says. “When you start playing at a young age you always want to play professionally. Every Saturday night watching the Leaf games, from a pretty young age it was my dream to play in the NHL.”
After cutting his teeth with the Thorold Jr. B Blackhawks in high school, Bentivoglio moved across the border to attend Niagara University on a hockey scholarship.
After finishing up his studies, obtaining an accounting degree in the process, Bentivoglio signed a try-out contract with the Providence Bruins, where he did so well he managed to obtain a two-way contract with the New York Islanders and the Bridgeport Islanders, their American Hockey League affiliate.
It was during this period that Bentivoglio reached the pinnacle of hockey: a call-up to the NHL. He played one game for the New York Islanders, lacing up against the Montreal Canadiens on April 2, 2009.
“Getting called up for that game was a great experience,” he says. “I just remember playing with guys that I grew up watching. It just so happened that we were playing the Canadiens, so I knew it was going to be on TSN back home. It was nice that all my friends and family got to watch.”
After fulfilling his childhood dream, Bentivoglio eventually realized that he wasn't going to have a career in the NHL.
“If you’re not established, that chance gets smaller and smaller to keep moving up,” he says. “So I chose to go play over in Europe. It’s better income and you can make a career for yourself over there as well. I started off in Germany and then I played five years in Italy and four in the UK in Cardiff, Wales. I’d be eight or nine months in Europe and then come back here for three months.”
Playing hockey in Europe was a little bit different from playing in North America.
“It’s almost comparable if you were to watch a soccer game where the fans all stand up, and sing and chant all game,” says Bentivoglio. “I would say that’s the main difference. It’s more of a European-style fan base where they’re singing their songs and jumping up and down all game.”
But playing in Europe never felt that foreign, since most teams usually included a handful of Canadians. During the 2018-2019 season, Bentivoglio actually played for the Cardiff Devils with two other Thorold products: Joey Martin and Mike Hedden.
“It’s kind of crazy,” says Bentivoglio. “Playing in the UK, there are literally players from all over the world, and three guys from Thorold end up on the same team. Teammates would always laugh, ‘Oh, the Thorold boys,’ because the chances of three guys around the same age playing professionally, let alone in Cardiff, Wales together, you just don’t hear of things like that too often.”
But even when not on a team with Thorold players, Bentivoglio says he always felt connected to home.
“You always remember your roots no matter where you’re playing,” he says. “You are always proud of the town you came from. It doesn’t matter where you end up, you always remember growing up in Thorold, playing there, making great friends along the way.”
At the start of the 2019-2020 hockey season, Bentivoglio started debating whether or not to hang up his skates. When his wife, Jenna, announced she was pregnant with their third child, Bentivoglio says the decision was easy.
“Travelling back and forth with three kids would have been too much so we decided as a family that that was going to be my last season,” Bentiovoglio says. “And sure enough, COVID happens so the season didn’t even finish.”
Today, Bentivoglio is a financial planner for IG Wealth Management, but he still finds time for hockey when he's not working.
“I play once a week, just pick-up hockey with friends,” he says. “I play at the highest level of pick-up level and there are some guys that are ex-professional players as well. If you do want to keep playing that’s really your only option.”
Even though he is happy with his new career, Bentivoglio says he still misses professional hockey from time to time.
“I would say I miss the lifestyle where your job every day is to go to a hockey arena and you sit in the locker room with the guys for a couple of hours every morning and practice,” he says. “You’re just always around a team, having fun, joking around, it’s never too serious. I miss the camaraderie and just being around teammates more than I miss the actual playing of the game.”
If he has to pinpoint one thing he learned throughout his two-decades hockey career that serves him well as a financial planner, it is his work ethic.
“The more work you put in,” he says, “the more you challenge yourself, usually the better things work out for you.”