John Forzani: "Every kid should be forced, if necessary, to play on a team, because it teaches so much of life's skills."

"Every kid should be forced, if necessary, to play on a team, because it teaches so much of life's skills."

My father was an entrepreneur. He had an automotive service business. They fixed engines, they painted cars, they did the whole thing. He owned almost a square block of Calgary. At a young age, someone came along and bought everything, and he retired early.

I had a great time in high school. It was the first time I played on a team.

Every kid should be forced, if necessary, to play on a team, because it teaches so much of life's skills.

Who: John Forzani
Born: Born April 5, 1947, in Calgary, AB
Occupation: Entrepreneur; former CFL player; CFL team owner; retailer
Career Highlights:
1971: Graduates from Utah State University with an undergraduate degree in business administration and returns to Calgary.
1971: Joins the Calgary Stampeders as an offensive lineman and wins the Grey Cup. Plays professional football until 1976.
1974: Opens the first Forzani's Locker Room store in Calgary with his two brothers and his best friend, Basil Bark.
1994: Forzani's acquires Sports Experts Inc., for $20 million, becoming Canada's largest sporting goods retailer.
2005: Becomes an owner of the Calgary Stampeders along with Ted Hellard, Doug Mitchell and some Calgary oilmen.

What's interesting about sports, I find, is that the exact same lessons apply at work, except at work they don't come in such a focused result. I mean, it can take years for a team to score a touchdown.

I think you're mostly influenced by your family. And my older brother Joe was probably one of the finest high-school athletes to play in Calgary. When I started to see the path that Joe was taking, I wanted a piece of that too.

The one problem I had is I wasn't nearly the athlete that Joe was. And so I think I had to work really hard at becoming a skilled athlete. And then my younger brother Tom came along, and he blew Joe and me away. So I was sandwiched between those two guys.

My son is going into Grade 12, and he's actually quite a good football player. I would want my son to do whatever he wanted to do, but I think that pro sports are very, very hard on your body. I'm starting to feel it now, you know, in my mid-50s, because of the tremendous punishment you take.

I think it would be really bad form on my part and a negative thought on his part to say, “I'm not going to do it because I could get hurt.” I think you've got to live for the moment. You can't run around life not doing things because of risk.

I was spoiled because I won the Grey Cup when I was a rookie. So I thought, “There's nothing to this.”

For me, it was very hard to maintain the workout schedule and to leave work every day at two o'clock when you own a business. And I can remember getting into the huddle and thinking, “This is great, we're playing Saskatchewan, but I wonder if my latest shipment of Adidas shoes arrived yet?” That was a very hard decision for me to quit a sport that I'd played for a dozen years.

Myself, my brothers, and my best friend, Bas, were partners. We opened not knowing anything about retail. What really was fortunate for us is we opened exactly the right business at exactly the right minute in time. We made a lot of mistakes early on, but we still made money–good money–every year, because the industry was going nuts.

If I had one skill it was with people. I never asked anybody to do something I wouldn't do myself. I was able to get a good group of people and a good team, and that's been the single biggest success of our business.

The single biggest issue affecting retail is the Wal-Mart syndrome, which is this enormous amount of technology allows each store now to be custom. The independent does not have the same power they had 20 years ago. The big chains know what you want now.

I think that shopping is entertainment. I think it's right up there with going out to dinner. Shopping, you get to touch, feel, see. At Sport Chek, we still have our Internet site for information, but we don't sell on it anymore. On the fashion side, I think retail will be around for a long, long time.

I'm like anybody else: I wonder what's around the corner for me. I'd be very surprised if I wasn't involved in something. I'm not going to be the guy sitting at the kitchen window at nine o'clock in the morning going, “What am I going to do today?” I have many things that turn my crank, and I don't spend a lot of time worrying about it.

We put together a little group that bought the team, but not because we had this burning desire to own a football team–it was that it was so mismanaged in Calgary. I think the best thing owners can do is hire competent people and get the hell out of the way.