There’s plenty happening near Matt Pettinger’s downtown Victoria office, where the din of power tools, teetering construction cranes and traffic detours offer signs that things aren’t about to calm down any time soon.
Step outside the View Street headquarters of NKF Devencore’s commercial real estate brokerage firm, and you’ll walk past a smorgasbord of new restaurants, fashionable boutiques and specialty shops of all shapes and flavours. Stick around for a moment, Pettinger says, and you’re bound to meet a familiar face or two.
Pettinger isn’t one to sit idle. At 15 years of age, he hit the ice for the first time with the Victoria Salsa hockey club. The young left winger rapidly rose through the junior ranks. By the 2000-01 season, he’d turned pro and was playing among the world’s best with the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals. Pettinger went on to play with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks before finishing his career in Europe.
Hockey played a prominent role in molding his strong will, a sense of dedication and unrelenting work ethic. Life in professional hockey, he adds, requires a strong sense of self, a keen resolve and, perhaps surprisingly, strong relationship skills. Nobody likes a bad seed, and bad blood among players can easily sink the most talent-laden teams.
“At the minor and junior league level, I was usually one of the better players on the team, but at the National Hockey League level there are a lot of guys who can do the same things you can do and so the question becomes: ‘how do you differentiate yourself?’ It’s about working hard and not getting discouraged and coming back from adversity. A deal goes south for whatever reason in my line of work now and it’s crucial to pick yourself up and be ready for the next opportunity,” he says.
“I’ve only been [in real estate] for two and a half years, but there’s no deal that’s the same, and that’s no different than in hockey. You come in as a rookie and learn from different situations and different environments. You learn constantly, and it translates into the world of commercial real estate. I’m always gaining market knowledge.”
Pettinger’s penchant for taking walks around the neighbourhood, however, is something he credits to his father, Rick Pettinger, a partner and president of NKF Devencore who has established himself as a well-known and top-producing commercial realtor over the past 25 years.
It was Rick who offered his son the pragmatic piece of advice early on in his career.
“My dad always tells me, ‘If you’re ever in the office and have nothing to do, go for a walk, because you never know who you’re going to run into on the street.’” he says. “I’ve definitely taken that message and used it. You go for a coffee and, next thing you know, you run into someone who wants to sell a building or is looking for office or retail space to lease.”
Regardless of your field, it’s a smart piece of advice in a town where networking is often as simple as walking down the block. For Pettinger, the opportunity to carry out a rewarding post-hockey career and settle down with his spouse, Chelsea, and the couple’s two young children, is what makes coming back home so sweet.
“The amount of hotel rooms I’ve stayed in over the years playing hockey is ridiculous,” he says. “Where else would you rather live than Victoria, British Columbia? I’ve been to lots of places around the world and been to a lot of beautiful places in Europe but when I tell them where I’m from, whether it’s Vancouver or Victoria, they gush about it. We’re very fortunate on that end. It’s nice to be from Victoria and it’s a good spot to call home.”
He may have spent much of his childhood at the rink, but he’d always find time to visit the resort overlooking Tofino’s Cox Bay created by his grandparents Bill and Joan in 1973. The beach has become synonymous with Canada’s gnarly cold-water surfing culture and some of the country’s best hotels, including the Wickaninnish Inn and the Long Beach Lodge Resort. The Pettinger family sold their 41-acre Pacific Sands Resort in early 2015.
“It was, and still is, a special piece of property for our family, but my father and his two brothers felt it was the right time to move on.”
The sale hasn’t weakened Matt’s bonds to the region. Firmly settled on the West Coast, far from the worries and headaches associated with uncertainties of looming trade deadlines, moves across the continent and living out of hotel rooms, Pettinger is concentrating on replicating the fond memories of youth for his own children.
He keeps in shape by playing casual drop-in hockey with friends at Esquimalt’s Archie Browning Sports Centre and, as an avid golfer, concedes that he enjoys spending time at the links at the Victoria Golf Club when gets a break from dad duty.
“I try to get out and play golf as much as I can but when you have young kids your life revolves around them” he says. “Free time is sort of limited right now, but I enjoy every minute of being a dad .”
He may no longer be rubbing elbows with Alexander Ovechkin and Roberto Luongo or playing with Canada’s best at the World Junior Championship, but he’s glad and proud to be up early to drive his kids to school, get his daughter to dance class on time, accompany the family on the birthday party circuit or just head out for a nice long walk.
– Story by Sean McIntyre/Photographs by Lia Crowe/Boulevard Magazine