After a few years in the minor leagues, my professional hockey career had come to an end. With 24 years of hockey being the backbone of my life, it was time to venture into something new. I started life after hockey in the house renovation business, but the solitary environment didn't fit me after being in a team environment for most of my life. Years of playing a sport shaped not only my mentality but also my physique; I no longer fit into clothes off the shelf. Instead of taking every new piece of clothes to the seamstress to augment, I bought a sewing machine and taught myself the tailoring basics. My clothing frustrations sparked the idea that if I am always unhappy with the way clothes fit, others must be as well, and the concept for VORA was born.
I want you to know who I am, what I've struggled to overcome, and some of my biggest wins in life. My friends and family have watched as I struggled from one "great" idea to the next, all on this journey from playing a game to selling underwear.
Please take a few moments and read this short timeline of how I grew up and grew into an athlete/entrepreneur. I hope it helps you get to know the REAL me!
Sports dominated my childhood. Being the typical New England boy, I quickly fell in love with hockey and baseball. Baseball came easy to me, and I was a standout from the onset. Always selected to the all-star team and drafted 1st overall whenever I aged out to the next league. Hockey was another story. In my second year of playing the sport, I squeaked onto one of the elite travel teams in the state. The following season my luck ran out, and I was the only one cut from the team heading into the next season. I was six, and being cut was the first significant lesson in adversity I would receive in my life.
I'm not going to lie, driving home from the rink that night, quite a few tears were shed after not seeing my name on the roster list. Thankfully, my mom didn't allow me to wallow in my disappointment for too long. Within a few days, I was back on the ice, trying out for another team. Thankfully, I made that team, and it took my love of hockey from a spark to a burning flame. I got more ice time, further developed my skills, and honed my natural-born ability to skate. As hockey quickly took over my life, other sports slowly faded away. I was now wholly devoted to the fastest game on ice.
2003 - The Awkward Years
As a 13-year-old walking into the Varsity hockey team’s locker room, my nerves were off the chart. Socially, I had nothing in common with the other players and physically…they were men, and I was still a boy. I distinctly remember filling out the player information card, exposing to the world I was 5’2” and 110 lbs. (both of which were inflated numbers). I quickly learned I needed to start doing everything I could to overcome my natural physical limitations; the gym was my answer. Growing up in a pre-YouTube tutorial world and unable to afford a trainer, my strategy was to copy whatever exercises the most fit person was doing. Looking back, I’m sure a few people were curious as to why this little kid was following them around the gym!
Growing up poor and unable to afford college without a scholarship, the US Marine Corps felt like my only option. Signed up and just a few signatures away from entering boot camp, I ran into an old youth coach who asked me about my plans after high school. My Marine Corps answer didn’t sit well with him. Within a few minutes, he had coordinated a skate the next day with a local Junior Hockey Team, the Valley Jr Warriors (Junior Hockey in the United States is a College Showcase league). Coach Heinze must have liked what he saw during the skate and offered me a spot on the team for the upcoming season. I ripped up my contract with Uncle Sam and signed my first hockey contract that day.
During my year of junior hockey, I was spotted by Norwich University, a small school in Vermont with a proud hockey tradition. In 2010, we won the NCAA National Championship right out of the gate during my freshman year. Winning came easy for us, and over my four years at Norwich, my teammates and I were able to put together the highest winning percentage in school history. At the start of my college career, I was just another member of the team. I didn't jump off the screen nor the box score. The only way to climb the team's depth chart was to work harder than the rest and build upon my natural talent base. With hard work and long hours under the watch of legendary skills coach Pertti Hasanen, I was able to close the gap between my skating abilities and the rest of my game. Something I've been striving towards since being cut at the age of six. I finished my college career as a First-Team All American, League MVP and, during senior season, was voted Best American in College Hockey. Perhaps the most significant transformation in my college years was going from a perennial shy wallflower to the fun-loving, outgoing person I am proud to be today.
I was fortunate enough to play the game for four more seasons after college. Though the NHL never called, the game took me to places I could have never imagined. Bear with my while I list the cities I lived over those four years. I began my professional career in Dallas, Texas, then on to Wheeling, West Virginia, did a few stints in Cincinnati, Ohio, across the ocean to Munich, Germany, back to the US to Charleston, South Carolina, before returning to Lindau, Germany and rounding out my career in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Those two opportunities in Germany really opened my eyes to the world and sparked my love of travel as well as my desire to see what else this world has to offer.
When I hung up my skates, I hung up a big part of my soul. The only constant I'd ever known was suddenly gone, and I was thrust into a lonely and foreign world. Being rational, my first impulse was to use my college Engineering Degree and find a stable job, but I quickly learned I was not cut out for the 9-5 lifestyle. Being handy, I began to flip houses. While financially lucrative, the long lonely hours started to weigh on me, and the feeling of drifting without a cause deepened. The once vibrant life I lived had now gone quiet. My only escape was travel. Just getting on an airplane excites me, not to mention the unknown, the forced encounters, and the new experiences that all lay ahead. I love to travel from start to finish. I may be the only person to ever look forward to a layover. Walking the terminals gives a unique opportunity to discover so many new cultures in one small place. Flipping houses afforded me the ability to visit 18 different countries, meeting some of the most amazing people while seeing life from a whole new perspective.
After countless hours at the sewing machine one day, I felt there had to be a better solution. Scouring the marketplace, I realized there was a need for products that flowed with the body, t-shirts specifically, as all were loose and sloppy fits or skin-tight options that were uncomfortable and left little to the imagination. Why had there been such remarkable developments with athleisure-wear and gym specific gear but an absence in the elevated casual sector? Solving these questions became my obsession, and with that, the journey of VORA was officially underway.
My quest began with factory visits in Colombia, South America, in hopes these experts could bring my specific vision to life. I'd be remiss not to thank the incredible team and friends I made along the way (Miguel, Dan, Sandra, Clio, Lizeth, you're all fantastic). Leaving Colombia with a design and path forward, I realized VORA's journey would not start with t-shirts but rather with a men's underwear line.
Thinking of the brand, I decided that I wanted it to be more about people than the product. I still want to provide the world's best adjustment-free underwear for the world's greatest men, but I want to highlight the men in the boxers, not the undergarments themselves. Today's market is full of bland, generic, and stale products and advertising. Companies have become so risk-averse, a sea of boring content has become the norm. I want to build VORA as a brand built on authenticity, emotion invoking stories, and a bluntness often missing from today's society.
If you have read thus far, I just want to say thank you! The journey ahead is a long one, but just like getting onto a plane, the unknown, the forced new encounters, and new experiences that all lay ahead excites me for the future.