Greg Hotham is keeping busy in retirement.
The 65-year-old retired pro hockey player is readying for the upcoming season as Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni president, the first that should have a semblance of normality as pandemic restrictions ease.
“We’ve had a few presidents during (my involvement),” said Hotham, who is almost a year into his three-year term. “I think it was kind of my turn.”
Having raised two hockey-playing sons locally, Hotham has been active in the local hockey scene helping Bill Maguire coach a local 'AAA' Colts team the past several seasons. He is now the 'AAA' organization’s chairman.
Hotham grew up in Aurora and moved to Barrie in the early 1980s during his 12-year pro career, which included 230 games with the Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins. He was part of the Penguins organization at the same time as fellow Barrie residents Doug Shedden and Jim Hamilton, overlapping by a year with Mario Lemieux’s arrival.
Also included in Hotham's pro career was a four-season stint with the Leafs farm club in Newmarket.
Though the Leafs alumni charity involvement remained active during the shutdowns of the past 19 months, the more conventional parts of the organization – playing in alumni events and fulfilling public requests/appearances – will soon ramp up. In many small communities, an alumni game against local players is a highlight of the winter calendar.
“I would say that we’ll do 17 to 25 games a year to help local charities,” Hotham said. “And we get a lot of requests (on top of that).”
Hotham estimates there are about 225 active or semi-active Leafs alumni in the organization. His goal during his term is to try and grow that number, particularly with players who retired recently.
“We are always looking for new members,” he said, adding it can be a challenge at times to convince the most recent generation – reared on cellphone and instantaneous communication – about the value of a more tradition-based organization.
Hotham’s organization leaves an overwhelmingly positive imprint on the wider hockey community.
Sadly, there have been a few cases in recent years of retired hockey players dying young or encountering difficulty later in life. One of those was local product Dan Maloney, the longtime NHLer and former Leafs/Winnipeg Jets head coach, who struggled in his waning years and died in 2018.
Hotham says his organization is there to help members who are facing problems. It can be a vexing dilemma to convince former professional athletes that they need help while being respectful of their privacy.
“We are always there for people,” said Hotham. “If they ask, we’ll get them help and the right people to see them.”
On a more practical level, Hotham offered some interesting insight for players adjusting to life after hockey.
“There are the superstars and then there is everyone else,” explained Hotham. “Everyone thinks you’re going to play forever, (but) you’re never more than one serious knee injury from your career being over.”
Hotham stresses the value of getting an education and keeping your eyes open during your career by making contacts, networking and not being afraid to dip your toe in work-experience scenarios.
“You have to prepare yourself now,” he said.
Beyond his own playing career, Hotham and his wife, Janine, and their two boys’ journey through competitive hockey and now the workforce offer evidence of how it can be done.
Both Scott and Andrew Hotham had solid OHL careers, each having a stint with the Colts. They were teammates at Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, where Andrew won the national championship. Both were perennial league all-stars, while Andrew was a two-time All-Canadian, University Cup finals MVP and selected as the best defenceman in the country in his final varsity season. Scott played for Canada, winning gold at the World University Games.
After university, Andrew played almost a decade of pro hockey, split evenly between North America and Europe. Scott, who is older by two years, played mostly in Europe and the boys were teammates for a season in Cardiff, Wales, and wrapped up their career together playing senior hockey with the Brantford Blast.
Scott now works for CIBC, while Andrew is a police officer.
“I think we are most proud that they did it and got their education doing it, both of them have their MBAs,” Hotham said of his sons’ hockey journey.
For now, Hotham has his eye on the Ontario amateur golf circuit. He’s a multiple club champion at the Barrie Country Club and regularly qualifies for the provincial senior championship.
After that, it won’t be long before Hotham moves from the golf course – he’s played more than 200 consecutive days since the beginning of last season – to the rink for his new role with the 'AAA' Barrie Colts.
Fingers crossed, the upcoming season will be uninterrupted, unlike the past two.
“We are operating right now as though things will be normal,” said Hotham.