Competitiveness, persistence, and curiosity.
That troika of traits and more helped Colin Wilson get to the NHL and have a successful 11-year career with the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche.
He’s finding that those qualities come in handy as he pivots from digging out pucks from the corners of the rink to digging into exciting investing opportunities in new corners of the clean tech world.
GreenSportsBlog spoke with Wilson to get his take on what it took to succeed in NHL, and what he has learned so far about the Brave New Climate Investing World.
The NHL has been part of Colin Wilson’s life since before he was born — his father, Carey, spent 12 years in the league and his grandfather, Gerry, played three games with the Montreal Canadiens before eventually serving as the team doctor for the Winnipeg Jets. Colin became a rare third generation NHLer, earning a reputation as being a hard worker and an intelligent player during an 11-year career as a forward with the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche. He retired in 2020.
Wilson, a newly minted EcoAthletes Champion, is also climate curious. He has a particular interest in investing in climate-forward businesses, including startups and early-stage growth companies.
But long before climate savvy investing was even a thought, Wilson was chasing down pucks on frozen ponds and indoor rinks in Winnipeg. He had an inkling that he was a good player in middle school; that was confirmed for him in high school.
“Having moved to Greenwich, Connecticut for high school while my dad was with the New York Rangers, I played for the US national team for my age group when I was 15, 16 and when the first draft rankings came out, I was in the top ten,” Wilson recalled. “Then I realized that I was being seen as a top player.”
Recruited by several top US colleges, Wilson chose hockey blue blood Boston University because of its topflight academics, the passion for hockey at the school (“it reminded me of Canada”), and its great track record of having its players move on to the NHL.
Wilson turned out to be one of them after being drafted by the Nashville Predators. Going from the hockey hotbed of Boston to the league’s new frontier of the south was a big transition.
“When I first got there, especially when there was a college or pro football game going on opposite our game, there would be lots of empty seats,” Wilson related. “But by the last three seasons of my eight years there, the fanbase grew dramatically and it had become a hockey town. It was really great to be a part of that.”
When his time in Tennessee was done, Wilson was excited to move on to the Colorado Avalanche: “I’m a ‘crunchy, granola’ type and that really fit in Denver. The team had hit bottom when I got there but they had a great young nucleus that, several years later were the core of a Stanley Cup winning team. My problem was that my body, specifically my hips, started to break down. I had several surgeries, but I could see the writing on the wall. I retired the year before they won so I missed out on that but still, I loved my time there.”
Colin Wilson moved on to the Colorado Avalanche just as they began their rise towards what would become a Stanley Cup-winning club in 2022 (Photo credit: Colorado Avalanche/NHL)
As he began to his post-NHL life, Wilson turned towards investing in climate solutions. Where did that come from?
“I always had a connection to the outdoors, from playing pond hockey in the winters to going to our cottage on the lake,” the soon-to-be-dad remembered. “Our household was big on science and so I was always very interested in climate change. And then one thing that really spurred me on was listening to podcasts from Sam Harris about the ‘Effective Altruism’ movement, which promotes making donations to the most efficient nonprofits and then identifies which those are. So, I started donating 10 percent of what I made to charity, including to environmental charities like Clean Air Task Force, Global Food Institute (GFI), Environmental Defense Fund, and 350.org.”
Along with Wilson’s charitable donations, his course work at BU and reading Bill Gates’ ‘How to Avoid a Climate Disaster’ steered him to the conclusion that charitable contributions, even to the most effective nonprofits, would not solve our climate problems at the necessary scale and in a meaningful time.
“I became convinced that climate change is more than anything an economic problem,” Wilson asserted. “And so, I came to think that getting significant amounts money into the right people’s hands, the hands of smart eco-preneurs, funded in large part by venture capitalists, is the best way forward. That’s the way we’ll be able to make progress on things like nuclear fusion or decarbonizing cement.”
To be clear, Wilson does not personally have the funds — at present at least — to be a venture capitalist-level investor. But that’s not stopping him. He fired his portfolio managers and started investing himself, researching companies in renewable energy, storage batteries to harden the grid, and more. He believes that the hyper-focus that allowed him to have a long, successful NHL career will also help him succeed as an eco-investor.
While he admits to not being an investing savant, he is bullish on clean tech and decarbonization: “The incentives are there. Just in the US alone, $330 billion is being put into this sector by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, a rare public policy win for the climate. Every industry, every sector is moving to cleaner technologies; they have to. Goldman Sachs is investing in long storage batteries. I’m sure the returns on investment (ROI) will be there. The time is now, and the path is clear: battery storage, decarbonizing steel and cement, and then further down the road, nuclear fusion…and more. And now we all need to get on the same page, if we’re fortunate enough to have a portfolio, and make a statement on climate with our wallets.”
Wilson looks forward to using his platform as a retired NHL player and now an EcoAthletes Champion, to bring his message of climate forward investing to a wider audience.
“I am excited to be on podcasts and on panels to talk about the the intersection of decarbonization and investing,” enthused Wilson. “Being an EcoAthletes Champion will give me more opportunities to do while also connecting with Champions who are already eco-preneurs and potential eco-investors.”
Photo at top: Colin Wilson approaches the face off circle while with the Colorado Avalanche (Photo credit: Colorado Avalanche/NHL)