Even though he was the son of a Stanley Cup winner, Jerry Rollins never really wanted to play pro hockey.
“I played just because all my friends played,” admitted the Surrey-raised businessman, who spent his teen years on the streets, rinks and baseball diamonds of Whalley.
Nope, as a young man Rollins wanted to get a “real job” and make money.
“Unlike most of the people who play professional hockey, it was not what I looked forward to as a career. So it was more that I backed into a hockey career.”
Rollins’ tale is told in a new book that details his path from “Enforcer to Entrepreneur,” in a career that led him from hockey pro to CEO in San Diego, where he has lived since 1979.
In 1951, his dad Al Rollins was a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie who helped the Toronto Maple Leafs win the NHL championship four years before Jerry was born.
“Our family home in the summer during my dad’s time in the NHL was in White Rock,” Rollins noted. “And we still have a lot of family there – probably 100 relatives in that area, because my mom comes from a family of nine or 10, and ours was the smallest family, at three.”
The New Westminster-born Rollins “lived all over the place,” but names Whalley as the place where he came to prominence as a hockey player.
“I was on the North Surrey rep teams, and also baseball with the original gang there,” Rollins recalled. “That was the early ’70s, right, in Bantam and Midget, and then I moved up to junior hockey. New Westminster drafted me at age 16 but I didn’t want to play.
“That whole crew hung out together,” he continued. “Mr. (Orest) Springenatic had an eye out for me and was protective, put me on every team under him, because I was probably a bit wilder than most of the kids. I was just a tough, hyperactive kid, a bit wilder, that’s all. I was the kid you didn’t want your daughter to date at that age, we’ll leave it at that.”
On the ice, the right-shot defenseman was a fight-loving goon who racked up hundreds of penalty minutes in junior and minor-pro leagues. He was good enough to be drafted 23rd overall by Detroit Red Wings in 1975, but Rollins spent the back half of the decade skating for non-NHL teams in Toledo, Kalamazoo and, yes, San Diego. His final hockey stop, with Indianapolis Racers, included a short, seven-game stint as a protector of rookie phenom Wayne Gretzky, who reportedly wanted Rollins to later play with him on the Edmonton Oilers.
Instead, Rollins started working in the business world of San Diego, and began writing the first drafts of what would become the just-published “Enforcer to Entrepreneur: Achieving Hockey Stick Growth in Life, Business and Sports.”
Today, the high school dropout is co-founder and chair of the Sage Executive Group, a peer advisory group that helps coach CEOs and other business leaders. The book offers insight about his work as VP of sales, president and CEO of various companies and the challenges he faced.
“I just started documenting everything,” Rollins said of his writing adventures. “I started writing things down and putting them into very specific chapters. Two years I ago I made the decision to do it, write a book, and quit just talking about it. People were bugging me to do it, and I hired a writing coach to help me, because I love learning new things. Part of it was, it was just a fun experience.”
From Merack Publishing, the book is listed on amazon.com.
“The paper version came out today,” Rollins said in an early-October phone interview, “and apparently it went pretty well, quite good. I must have a lot of cousins who bought it,” he added with a laugh.