Late great Calgary business mogul John Forzani gave sage advice on day he died to nephew who idolized him

John Forzani had a knack for seeing things no one else saw.

A way of being one step ahead.

On the day the iconic Calgary philanthropist and former Stampeders player-turned-owner died of a massive heart attack last October while golfing in Palm Springs, Calif., he imparted a wealth of knowledge upon a pair of fledgling businessmen.

Call it accidental.

Call it a sign.

You choose.

Since being forced into premature retirement from the CFL due to complications from an ankle injury suffered in October 2012, former Stampeders receiver Johnny Forzani had already started his transition into the business world, forming iHeat, an innovative glove and clothing company.

On the day of his uncle’s death, Forzani, from Taiwan, and iHeat COO Jesse Galvon, from Calgary, both spoke by phone with the man with the blueprint.

“He really unloaded a lot of information to us, and it’s kind of the weird universe talking a miraculous way because it was literally that day,” Forzani recalled of the conversation with his uncle, founder of The Forzani Group, which operates the Sport Chek chain. “He spoke to Jesse on the phone for two hours the day that he died and kind of really gave us a road map of what we should be doing over the next six months.”

In the hours and days that ensued, the younger Forzani was sold that his future involved innovation in the business world, rather than production on the football field.

“My uncle was always on my case, saying ‘You’re so committed to this — why aren’t you over there non-stop?’” said Forzani, who is still currently fine-tuning products overseas. “I listened to him, and the last thing he said to me was, ‘Don’t even think about coming home. Don’t even think about thinking about coming home until you get the job done and get everything how you need it to go.’ Those words struck me.”

They struck Forzani, who had hopped a short flight to the Philippines to visit a friend, even more later that day when he got a text from his father, Tom, at 1 a.m. informing him of his uncle’s condition.

Sitting in Manila with nothing but a wandering mind, Forzani spent the next few days in transit.

To Calgary for the funeral. And right back to Taiwan to get back to business.

But business was different this time.

There was more of a purpose.

The thoughts of one day returning to the football field had subsided, replaced by a newfound desire to follow through on the things his uncle — his “idol” — saw in the upstart heated glove and clothing company.

“Would I love to play football again? Yes,” Forzani said. “But this is, obviously, going to take precedence because business is forever, and athletics is for a very, very minuscule part of your life. I am so happy that I was able to play four years with the Stampeders, the team that I grew up loving and the team my family had so much tradition with … But I’ve gotta say, right now, I’m in a good opportunity, and the company is in a good spot, and you just cannot take your foot off the gas for one second.”

Four seasons, 77 receptions, 1,319 yards, eight touchdowns and a whole lot of unfulfilled potential.

But whatever potential went unfulfilled between the white lines, there may be just as much, if not more, in a white-collar world.

“I started playing football so late,” said Forzani, who suited up for NCAA’s Washington State University for one season with the Cougars in 2009 before turning pro. “I started playing football at 20 years old, so it wasn’t like I was always playing football as a kid. I wanted to start my own business more than anything like my uncle did and follow the exact steps and turn it into, for lack of a better word, an ‘empire’ for myself.”

Curiously enough, one of the big coups for iHeat this year was finally getting the product into his uncle’s own Sport Chek stores — “John said he didn’t need any help, and I shouldn’t either,” Forzani said of invading his uncle’s shelves — but it doesn’t end there.

Prominent sports executive Mike Barnett, who made his name as Wayne Gretzky’s agent and later became GM of the Phoenix Coyotes, is an iHeat investor, in addition to sitting on the board.

That clout has led to meetings with NHL and NFL licensing departments, as well as the potential for heated pouches being sold with the logos of NCAA schools on them.

They’ve also struck a deal with the Calgary Police Service to outfit officers with heated gloves.

So those phone conversations will never be forgotten.

“You get two hours with someone of John’s stature, regardless of Johnny’s relationship, and that’s quality time,” said Galvon, who quit a lucrative job as vice-president of an IT company one year ago to focus on iHeat and currently runs the day-to-day operations. “I’ve got two business degrees from the University of San Francisco … and I graduated on the dean’s list. And that two hours was probably just as valuable, if not more valuable, than two degrees.”

After spending the past year building the foundation and infrastructure of the company, iHeat Wearable Tech — formerly HeatGear — is lined up for a big year.

Make no mistake, John Forzani is still an influence.

“I know he’s still there in spirit to answer my questions. I can feel it,” added his nephew. “I’m excited about the opportunity we’re in right now, and I just don’t want to let him down.”​

John Forzani had a knack for seeing things no one else saw.

A way of being one step ahead.

On the day the iconic Calgary philanthropist and former Stampeders player-turned-owner died of a massive heart attack last October while golfing in Palm Springs, Calif., he imparted a wealth of knowledge upon a pair of fledgling businessmen.

Call it accidental.

Call it a sign.

You choose.

Since being forced into premature retirement from the CFL due to complications from an ankle injury suffered in October 2012, former Stampeders receiver Johnny Forzani had already started his transition into the business world, forming iHeat, an innovative glove and clothing company.

On the day of his uncle’s death, Forzani, from Taiwan, and iHeat COO Jesse Galvon, from Calgary, both spoke by phone with the man with the blueprint.

“He really unloaded a lot of information to us, and it’s kind of the weird universe talking a miraculous way because it was literally that day,” Forzani recalled of the conversation with his uncle, founder of The Forzani Group, which operates the Sport Chek chain. “He spoke to Jesse on the phone for two hours the day that he died and kind of really gave us a road map of what we should be doing over the next six months.”

In the hours and days that ensued, the younger Forzani was sold that his future involved innovation in the business world, rather than production on the football field.

“My uncle was always on my case, saying ‘You’re so committed to this — why aren’t you over there non-stop?’” said Forzani, who is still currently fine-tuning products overseas. “I listened to him, and the last thing he said to me was, ‘Don’t even think about coming home. Don’t even think about thinking about coming home until you get the job done and get everything how you need it to go.’ Those words struck me.”

They struck Forzani, who had hopped a short flight to the Philippines to visit a friend, even more later that day when he got a text from his father, Tom, at 1 a.m. informing him of his uncle’s condition.

Sitting in Manila with nothing but a wandering mind, Forzani spent the next few days in transit.

To Calgary for the funeral. And right back to Taiwan to get back to business.

But business was different this time.

There was more of a purpose.

The thoughts of one day returning to the football field had subsided, replaced by a newfound desire to follow through on the things his uncle — his “idol” — saw in the upstart heated glove and clothing company.

“Would I love to play football again? Yes,” Forzani said. “But this is, obviously, going to take precedence because business is forever, and athletics is for a very, very minuscule part of your life. I am so happy that I was able to play four years with the Stampeders, the team that I grew up loving and the team my family had so much tradition with … But I’ve gotta say, right now, I’m in a good opportunity, and the company is in a good spot, and you just cannot take your foot off the gas for one second.”

Four seasons, 77 receptions, 1,319 yards, eight touchdowns and a whole lot of unfulfilled potential.

But whatever potential went unfulfilled between the white lines, there may be just as much, if not more, in a white-collar world.

“I started playing football so late,” said Forzani, who suited up for NCAA’s Washington State University for one season with the Cougars in 2009 before turning pro. “I started playing football at 20 years old, so it wasn’t like I was always playing football as a kid. I wanted to start my own business more than anything like my uncle did and follow the exact steps and turn it into, for lack of a better word, an ‘empire’ for myself.”

Curiously enough, one of the big coups for iHeat this year was finally getting the product into his uncle’s own Sport Chek stores — “John said he didn’t need any help, and I shouldn’t either,” Forzani said of invading his uncle’s shelves — but it doesn’t end there.

Prominent sports executive Mike Barnett, who made his name as Wayne Gretzky’s agent and later became GM of the Phoenix Coyotes, is an iHeat investor, in addition to sitting on the board.

That clout has led to meetings with NHL and NFL licensing departments, as well as the potential for heated pouches being sold with the logos of NCAA schools on them.

They’ve also struck a deal with the Calgary Police Service to outfit officers with heated gloves.

So those phone conversations will never be forgotten.

“You get two hours with someone of John’s stature, regardless of Johnny’s relationship, and that’s quality time,” said Galvon, who quit a lucrative job as vice-president of an IT company one year ago to focus on iHeat and currently runs the day-to-day operations. “I’ve got two business degrees from the University of San Francisco … and I graduated on the dean’s list. And that two hours was probably just as valuable, if not more valuable, than two degrees.”

After spending the past year building the foundation and infrastructure of the company, iHeat Wearable Tech — formerly HeatGear — is lined up for a big year.

Make no mistake, John Forzani is still an influence.

“I know he’s still there in spirit to answer my questions. I can feel it,” added his nephew. “I’m excited about the opportunity we’re in right now, and I just don’t want to let him down.”​

VIA: http://www.calgarysun.com/2015/03/15/late-great-calgary-business-mogul-john-forzani-gave-sage-advice-on-day-he-died-to-nephew-who-idolized-him

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