The first trip through the front door of his first home is a memory Martin Gelinas will never forget.
Gelinas, an ultra-popular assistant coach with the Calgary Flames and a fan favourite from the team’s improbable 2004 run to the Stanley Cup Final, had just gotten engaged. The house was in Edmonton’s North Glenora neighbourhood, as he was playing for the Oilers at the time.
“My fiancée, now my wife (Jane), and I bought this house for $123,000. Remember, I’m from Shawinigan (Que.), where you could get something at that time for, oh, probably around $30,000. So that seemed like a lot of money,” he said.
“I still remember the day we took possession. I walk into the house and – I’m not lying to you – I almost started crying. Big, shaggy carpets. It looked so … dated.
“My first thought was, ‘what have I done? I’m gonna go broke!’ My wife, thankfully, could see that with a coat of paint, new carpet, everything would be just fine. Turned out, she was right. As usual.”
“I still remember the day we took possession. I walk into the house and – I’m not lying to you – I almost started crying. Big, shaggy carpets. It looked so … dated.”
The purchase coincided with a half-season lockout for the National Hockey League, after the entire previous season had been played while the NHL and its players’ association tried to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. So, besides training to stay in shape, Gelinas put the work stoppage to good use, “demolishing” by day and then inviting over a handful of carpentry-handy friends by night.
“When we got back from that lockout, I was in such great shape,” he said. “Full days working, no sitting around. It turned out great.”
His interest in real estate, which has only grown over the years, was initially nurtured by his dad, René, a barber in Shawinigan.
“He didn’t have a real retirement plan and he knew he had to take care of himself, so he bought small buildings, fixed ’em up and kept his shop in there,’’ said Gelinas. “Eventually, he had about 12 suites to rent. That kind of sparked my interest.”
Over the course of a three-decade career in the NHL as an all-industry left winger, assistant coach and in player development, Gelinas reckons he’s purchased “six or seven” homes.
“Back then, when I was getting into the league, people looked at buying a house as their nest egg, right? Your retirement plan,” he said. “I was lucky enough when I was, oh, 27, a mentor from Vancouver gave me a chance to get involved with him. We bought some commercial properties.
“I’m still partners with him. We still have the properties. I love real estate. I love being involved in the business side of it.”