BIRD’S-EYE VIEW: Hockey’s House Hunters
Blog #33 – March 26, 2021
By: John Peterson
Hockey players are hustlers.
One thing I’ve learned in my six ECHL seasons is that fact is true on and off the ice.
Especially in the minor leagues, players can’t afford to take time off in the summer and not work. ECHL salaries aren’t exactly lucrative, and players are only paid from the time the regular season starts to when the playoffs end.
Most ECHL players line up summer jobs every year or find other ways to supplement the income they make playing the game they love. Justin Taylor works for a landscaping and lawn care company. Zach Diamantoni has his own company. Jake Hildebrand and several other notable K-Wings work hockey camps and give private lessons.
Players will find anything to stay busy and use their non-hockey skills to make some extra money during the off-season. For many, the hustle leads to career opportunities outside the game. One common field hockey players seem to excel in is sales.
Some players sell cars. Many get into medical sales. Others find their niche in real estate.
Three players who originally planned to return to Kalamazoo for the 2020-21 season fit into that third group. Here’s the story of hockey’s house hunters.
A REASON TO GET STARTED
Logan Lambdin arrived in Kalamazoo in March 2020 after finishing his senior season at Michigan State University. The rookie forward jumped out of the gates and provided an immediate spark with his skating and quickness in his professional debut.
The next day, the season was over. The pandemic forced every sports league in North America to grind to a halt.
Inspired by his realtor father, Lambdin decided midway through his senior year in East Lansing that he wanted to sell houses. However, he put his future career on hold to start his pro hockey career in Kalamazoo.
“[The pandemic] really pushed me to get started right away,” said Lambdin. “As soon as I heard the season was cancelled for us, I made the decision to start selling in northern Michigan and try to get myself financially stable.”
Fellow Spartans alum Tanner Sorenson spent the 2019-20 season on his first AHL contract, splitting time between the K-Wings and Utica Comets. He posted 26 points in 30 games for Kalamazoo, including four points in his last four games before the shutdown.
Sorenson returned to southwest Michigan last summer after re-signing with the K-Wings for 2020-21, but the team eventually made the decision to sit out the season.
“When we got the news, I either had to find a temporary job in the area since I moved here this summer officially or look at something I may be able to do after I retire from hockey,” said Sorenson. “I saw real estate as a good opportunity.”
A connection with RE/MAX broker Rick Hoffman, who has been involved with the K-Wings organization for many years, helped Sorenson get started at RE/MAX Kalamazoo.“Rick made the transition easy,” said Sorenson. “We talked before I started my class and he saw it as a good fit.”
Matt VanVoorhis had a frustrating end to a rookie season defined by improvement. The defenseman switched to forward at the turn of the New Year and compiled 12 points over a 12-game stretch in January and February. An injury ended his season prematurely when he was playing his best hockey.
A graduate of Denver University, VanVoorhis got his degree in real estate. Like the others, the uncertainty of a hockey season due to the pandemic forced him to get a head start.
“It was the main reason I got started. I knew I couldn’t sit and hope and wait for a season,” said VanVoorhis. “I wanted to start taking the steps forward for my career after hockey.”
LEARNING ON THE FLY
Since starting their respective careers, all three are motivated to grow their networks and find success as they get their feet wet. Most realtors would admit the hardest part of the job is getting started.
“It takes a lot of time and effort and it’s not as easy as HGTV makes it look,” said VanVoorhis, who represents RE/MAX Results in his home state of Minnesota.
VanVoorhis’ family moved from Grand Forks, North Dakota to the Twin Cities when he was 12 and he still calls Minneapolis home. He says the competitiveness of selling houses and the amount of practice it takes to perfect one’s craft is similar to hockey.
“In hockey you spend a lot of time preparing in the gym and on the ice during practice, watching video, and game planning. Real estate is similar in a sense. You constantly need to be studying the market, figuring out how to make the strongest offer, coaching your clients, prospecting new clients, and practicing how you are going to interact with new clients,” said VanVoorhis.
Sorenson admits one thing he’s learned so far is not to be afraid of rejection.
“In this business, you get rejected a lot and you just have to keep plugging along. You are your own boss so you can't rely on other people to do the work or plan your schedule. It is all on you,” said Sorenson.
Lambdin shares those sentiments and says the biggest thing he has learned through his first five months of selling real estate is the importance of communication.
“Before this, I had trouble with confidence speaking to people and it has really helped me break that barrier and overcome that lack of self-confidence,” said Lambdin.
The 25-year-old and his wife Reagan received their real estate licenses in early November and work for EXP Realty out of Troy, Michigan. He says the biggest similarity between playing hockey and selling houses is the hard work you have to put into it to see results.
“Especially with the company I work for where we don’t get leads handed to us, we have to generate our own leads,” said Lambdin. “With hockey, if you don’t train and work on skills, you won’t be any good. With real estate, if you don’t work hard to get clients, you won’t make any money.”
A REWARDING EXPERIENCE
As motivating as making money can be, Lambdin, Sorenson and VanVoorhis all say their favorite part of real estate is seeing their clients’ reactions when an offer gets accepted.
“Buying or selling a home is such an emotional and price-sensitive thing for people, as it should be,” said Sorenson. “But the feeling of satisfying them when we find the right home, there truly is not a better feeling in this career.”
“The most rewarding part of real estate is getting accepted offers for clients and hearing their excitement through the phone when you speak to them,” said Lambdin. “Nothing is more exciting for yourself or for your client then helping them make one of the most expensive investments they will make in their lives.”
VanVoorhis added that the process of handing a client the keys to their new house and seeing their excitement is his favorite part of the process. Part of that excitement stems from how competitive the market is right now for buyers.
“The Minneapolis market, like most of the U.S., is really hot right now,” said VanVoorhis. “I wrote an offer for a client on a house in Saint Paul that got 48 offers. It was a great house, but 48 offers? Unfortunately we did not get that one.”
Further proof of the challenges for realtors and prospective home buyers when the market is hot is a story from Lambdin’s first five months. He wrote seven different offers for a client and traveled all over northern Michigan before finally getting one of the offers accepted.
Sorenson also started his real estate career in November and enjoys the feeling of helping people through such a big decision.
“I love the thought of helping people in general and that's the biggest part of this business,” said Sorenson. “The process of helping people find their safe space, their next home or first home, and where they spend most of their time is truly a rewarding experience.”
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR HOCKEY
Since real estate appears to be a popular career path for hockey players, we asked these three which of their 2019-20 K-Wings teammates would make the best realtors. Lambdin was only a part of the team for a cup of coffee last year, but learned enough about a couple of his fellow Michigan State alumni to make a case.
“I haven’t been around the guys enough to know them personally, but I would say [Sorenson] or [Hildebrand] since they always seem to be on their phones blowing up the group chat in-season, and a lot of real estate is done over the phone,” said Lambdin. “Or Justin Taylor with how he and the rest of the guys on the PHPA Board negotiate things.”
VanVoorhis agrees that Taylor would make a great realtor.
“Helping people buy homes takes a lot of patience and teaching,” said VanVoorhis. “Tayls is a seasoned vet and has trained a lot of young, talented K-Wings over the years.”
Editor’s Note: No word if real estate is something Taylor is even interested in, but maybe we’ll have to ask next time we see him.
Sorenson is quick to give kudos to VanVoorhis’ early success in launching his business.
“He is someone who has been doing all the right things since day one and knows this is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Sorenson. “A lot of realtors get washed out in the first couple of years and I think [VanVoorhis] is a name you will be seeing around the Minneapolis area for years to come.”
As for their hockey careers? The obvious question you’re probably asking is whether they plan to continue playing in 2021-22 or hang up the skates.
VanVoorhis, a finalist for the K-Wings 2019-20 Most Improved Player, is still passionate about hockey and real estate, admitting he’s unsure about whether or not he’ll continue to play.
Sorenson turned down offers to play for other ECHL teams this season when Kalamazoo opted out, but eyes a return to the ice in 2021-22.
“The nice part about this occupation is you get out of it what you put in,” said Sorenson. “Right now, this is my full-time career choice. Come next fall, I will still be able to continue my hockey career, which I fully intend on doing.”
Lambdin, the youngest of the three, still wants to see his professional hockey dreams play out, adding that he’ll have the ability to work virtually during the season if he wants.
“This is another reason I chose real estate. I don’t have to work from an office,” said Lambdin. This opportunity makes it much easier to continue my hockey career while also possibly making extra money selling real estate on the side.”
You can’t knock the hustle, and that’s a quality many hockey players have on and off the ice.
It’s safe to say all three can still play hockey at a high level, but as their real estate careers take off, they’ll have some decisions to make about how to balance the two and when to make the transition full-time. Whenever that is, we know each of them will be successful.
And hey, if you’re in the market to buy or sell a home, we know a few guys who can skate, score and bring the hustle.
Bird’s-Eye View is a Kalamazoo Wings blog, written by the team’s Director of Public Relations/Broadcaster John Peterson. The thoughts, opinions and behind-the-scenes stories are that of the writer alone and not a reflection of the organization as a whole. Fans are welcome to submit questions and ideas for future blog posts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!