Stanley Cup champion and former New York Islanders captain Mark Streit retired from the NHL in 2017 after 12 seasons in the league.
Now, nearly six years removed from his professional playing career, the Swiss ice hockey icon has taken on a new role as a business professional and a shining example of what life can look like after hanging up the skates.
“I think whenever you stop playing hockey, it’s kind of – it’s not foreseen,” Streit told Fox News Digital in a recent interview. “You never really know when your career is going to be over. I was fortunate enough to play for a very long time, until I was 39, and honestly at the beginning I wanted to take some time off because I was so busy with hockey.”
Streit had made a name for himself in his native Switzerland in the mid-90s and had eventually caught the attention of the NHL after playing in the top tier of the Swiss league. But after a brief stint in the AHL, he returned to Switzerland.
Eventually he was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft at 26 years old where he would have an immediate impact as a two-way defenseman. Streit played for more than a decade in the NHL and played for several teams including the Philadelphia Flyers and the Islanders, where he would become the first Swiss-born team captain in league history in 2011.
Then late in the 2016-2017 regular season, Streit was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he would go on to win his first Stanley Cup.
“I just got married at the end of my career, had our first child, so I thought taking a step back and just enjoying life was the thing I wanted to do. But then I went back to Switzerland and I had a few projects that were thrown at me and opportunities and so I started pretty much right away,” Streit said of his retirement.
“I think it was a good thing, it kept me busy and because you miss the game and being around the guys and the travel and all that stuff, you miss it a lot. So if you’re involved in new projects and new challenges, it helps to transition to accepting the fact that your career is over — the professional hockey career, and then you develop new passions for different things, business opportunities.”
Streit is the co-founder of NORQAIN, an independent Swiss watch brand, which he helped launch just months after retiring from the NHL.
“Starting NORQAIN was a huge challenge and I was always a huge fan of watches. Obviously coming from Switzerland, it’s a big thing for us. It’s in our DNA. I was an ambassador for Breitling for over ten years. That’s where I met my friend Ben Küffer, and we were kind of in the same position. I was done with hockey. He was looking for a new challenge. So he said, ‘okay, you know, let’s start a new watch brand.’”
Küffer founded the brand in 2018, bringing on board Streit and Ted Schneider, a member of the family that owned Breitling for nearly 40 years. According to Bloomberg, the company saw its best year yet in 2022, surpassing the previous year’s revenue by 117%.
“I think it’s huge and it’s a lot of hard work,” Streit said of the young company’s growth. “That’s the same thing in sport, you got to take certain risk.”
“Obviously you got to kind of know how big the risk is, but I think if you don’t try anything in life, nothing happens. And starting a new watch brand, I remember at the beginning when you were kind of talking to people in the industry, pretty much all the people they looked at us and said, ‘Oh, guys, good luck. I mean, that will be tough,’ because the watch industry, it’s built on tradition and history. And when you start a new brand, you don’t have that. You got to write your own story and get out there and work hard and use your network and kind of create a product and a story behind it that people admire. And I think that’s where our biggest asset is.”
NORQAIN’s early success and Streit’s involvement led to a partnership with the NHL Player’s Association in 2020 as the union’s Official Timekeeper. The group renewed its partnership in February.
The NHLPA also announced a new initiative in June, one aimed at getting members to prepare for life after hockey – a concept Streit is well experienced in.
“I think what the NHLPA did with the new program, I think it was a long time overdue because it’s a huge subject. And I think whenever you’re a player, you’re focused about the next day and the next game and you don’t really look too much ahead. But the fact is at one point you’re going to face the music and you’re going to be done playing and there’s a second life coming, a second professional life. And I think if you can prepare yourself, it’s just a really big asset because you don’t want to fall into a hole where you kind of lost because once you’re done, you’re done playing and nobody really cares that much what you’ve been doing before and you got to start all over again. And I think that’s a huge challenge not only for the player but the whole family.”
But Streit believes that while the program is necessary, the onus is on players to think ahead.
“The initiative needs to come from the player.”
“The reality is, in the NHL there’s tons of people that make good money and they can live off that, but more of the players, they need to find a way to generate some income because you’re used to a pretty good lifestyle. You know, you make good money, you travel a lot, you enjoy it. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but at the same time, once you’re done the paycheck is not coming, but the costs are still here and you’re used to a certain standard of life and somehow you want to find a way to keep that.”