Glenn Healy talks NHL career, transitioning into retirement and sports betting deals

In a special live edition of the Safe Bet Show, Entain’s SVP of US Regulatory Affairs and Responsible Gambling Martin Lycka spoke with NHL legend Glenn Healy about the rise of sports betting ads and the role players have in promoting sportsbooks. 

Speaking live at the Canadian Gaming Summit 2023, Healy acknowledged some of the difficulties that NHL players have when transitioning into retirement, explaining that the lack of structure and purpose can cause mental difficulties. 

Healy, a former NHL goaltender for the Maple Leafs, has also served as the league’s Director of Player Affairs, looking after the welfare of the stars of hockey.

“My day was all about structure,” he said. “(For) 10:30 practice had to be there at 9:30. They have a 12:00 meeting, they’re over at the 12:30 bus and then we have our meal and then we have our nap.

“For players, that transition can be very, very difficult and I think the biggest thing for any NHL player or anyone in the business world is you need purpose. You need something where your feet hit the ground every day and you are driven and you are going to champion it and you’re going to make a difference in the world. 

“That’s my role as the Director, which is to make tomorrow better than today for a bunch of players. Whether that’s with transition, whether that’s financial literacy, whether that’s making sure that you need your hip replaced.”

Later in the discussion, Lycka and Healy touched upon the rise of sports betting in Canada since the legalisation of single-event sports wagering in 2021. 

Since then, Ontario’s igaming market has swelled, taking C$35bn (around £20bn) in bets in the first year of the market’s existence. 

While plenty of concerns have been raised about the rise of adverts and the impact this can have on problem gambling rates, Healy noted that once sports betting went live, it would be difficult to control. 

He added: “I would be completely remiss to say that the toothpaste is out of the tube. You watch tonight’s game. Every second commercial is about sports betting. In every single commercial, there’s a pre-game segment in the show. There is an intermission segment in the show and for us as NHL alumni, what I’ve always tried to look at is our mission to ‘make tomorrow better than today’.”

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) in Canada is currently deliberating and carrying out consultations on the rise of sports betting ads. The regulator is discussing whether it should place a ban on the use of celebrities and sports stars in sportsbook marketing materials. 

For Healy, parallels are there to be drawn between the marketing of sportsbooks and CBD oil when it was legalised and marketed. 

“We were the only sport (to be involved in CBD). No other sport, football, basketball, or baseball, no other sport went into the CBD space. Nobody. We were the first ones. We went into that space. We were one of the first ones to go into the gambling space. So if I’m telling you I’m against it, then I am talking about both sides of my mouth because we have deals with gambling sites.

“When it comes to sports betting, when it comes to what this world expects today, whether it’s betting on the Super Bowl toss or who’s going to score the first goal, that is a fact in reality.

“I am saying let’s just do it responsibly and that’s one of the reasons that when we partnered up with a gambling corporation, we also partnered up with a regulatory corporation to say what does tomorrow look like?”

You can watch the entire Safe Bet Show with Martin Lycka and Glenn Healy by clicking here.