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One hit and an awkward fall into the boards was all it took to end an NHL career. My guest today on the #MakeYourMark podcast, Jesse Winchester, had just signed a two year deal with the Colorado Avalanche, and was looking forward to a great season with his new teammates before a severe concussion in the pre-season took that all away. And I don’t think I’ve had a more grateful and appreciative guest! You’ll hear about his less traditional entry into the NHL, backyard rinks, and the year + recovery needed to rebound from his injury.


Because the symptoms persisted, it was a little bit depressing, but with time I got better. It sucks that I cannot play hockey anymore, but I’ve been able to transition into coaching because I still have that love for the game. I probably missed out on a year of earning potential, but I had a pretty good run. Once I got through that darkness, I have great memories, and I am healthy now, excited for what's ahead.


Jesse and I spoke about how a concussion leaves you injured in ways that are not visible to teammates and others, how visiting a grocery store was almost impossible, and life after the NHL. We focus on the need for further resources for retired athletes, along with the importance (and difficulties) of preparing for life after sport while you are still playing.


I was fortunate to receive a full scholarship from Colgate. My first year was really rough, but going into my second year, my body and my skills all came together, and I started to become an impactful player at that level and received some recognition and scouting advice from people. I realized I might be able to have the chance one day to play somewhere professionally.


This was a special episode as we dove deep into how an injury can be mentally and physically traumatic, and how family and friends play such a pivotal role after retirement. Please give this a listen, especially if you are a current or retired athlete, you’ll be glad you did.


My mentor was one of my best friends and coach at the time, and we had a real chat about whether or not I thought I could still improve at the college level, or if I was ready to embark on a professional level. I made the decision to come back to Colgate, graduated with my buddies - my teammates - and tried to focus on really preparing myself for a pro career in my senior year. After that I had pretty much pick of the litter, probably over a dozen teams to choose from, and I chose Ottawa because they were going to put me in a game right after my collegiate season was over.


When my buddies were finishing senior spring and I had to balance the workload there, honestly it was a fantastic experience.  I had tons of support, my teammates from college trekked on the bus and watched my first game, and it was very, very special. You know, those are memories I will have for the rest of my life, and they are also a big part of helping me to reach my goals and dreams!


I was that kind of guy just driven to compete and play, and there was the frustration of not getting better on my time. Being around the guys and trying to not feel like you're hiding something, and you look like you´re fine, but you´re not. I think it’s important to have a solid network of family and friends. I wasn't able to connect with my teammates, they were on the road and I had to stay back. But the sun comes up in Denver, and that’s where we enjoyed exploring the mountains. I tried my best to get back to playing, and made the best decision ultimately.  I don´t wanna go through that again, but it is part of my journey, and minus that year, I have pretty nice memories of hockey to look back on, and that what I choose to focus on now.


I was never super secure, I was replaceable in the NHL. Looking back probably I wish I could have spent more time looking ahead, but I don't know how that would have worked out for me. There are guys who are super established, they are going anywhere they want, and are able to develop other interests.  I would have loved to recognize that sooner, but I don't know if I would have been able to change it because I was so focused on skating. The opportunity is there.

Some Topics we talk about in this episode:


  • Introduction - 0:40
  • Getting into hockey - 2:50
  • It might lead to something - 6:20
  • Colgate University and Scholarship - 7:50
  • Getting the balance in a young age - 10:40
  • Wanted to play professionally - 14:00
  • Finland-bound - 18:20
  • Coming back to the NHL - 20:10
  • Contract with Colorado - 22:10
  • Suffering a severe concussion - 23:00
  • What the symptoms were - 25:45
  • Facing the symptoms - 27:20
  • Advice for other concussion sufferers - 28:50
  • What's next - 32:25
  • What the NHL offers for career planning? - 35:40
  • Resources from the Player’s Association - 41:40
  • What athletes bring to a business - 48:25
  • LinkedIn as a networking tool - 50:25
  • Hit Your Mark - 55:20
  • Wrap-up and Takeaways - 56:40

How to get involved

  • Be sure to connect with me on Social Media @MarkMoyerCoach and go to my website, to get access to the tips and strategies that my coaching clients get directly.
  • If you’re looking for ways to Make Your Mark, send me an email and I’ll get you going right away.


If you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe and leave me a quick review on iTunes. Your reviews and ratings will help me reach more people with ways to make their mark in life, business and career!

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