Life after professional hockey
How former Habs goaltender Peter Budaj is spending retirement
When your entire life is hockey and it’s all you’ve known for years, retirement can be an emotional time in an athlete's life. Peter Budaj, former goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, announced his retirement from professional hockey back in 2019. At the age of 36, Budaj had to figure out what’s next.
“It was obviously a very difficult time. You love the game and you want to keep playing, but every journey has its end,” said Budaj.
Going into what would be his final professional hockey game, Budaj tried to keep the news a secret and anticipated making the announcement following the outing. However, news of his retirement got out, and the team surprised him with a tribute video, and brought his two sons onto the ice during the pregame ceremony.
Budaj enjoyed and cherished every moment of his professional career, but was ready to move onto the next chapter of his life.
The first year following his retirement, Budaj focused on spending time with his wife and sons. Quality family time was often hard to come by during the season, especially when the team was on a lengthy road trip, far from home.
“The first year, I wouldn't say it was easy, but I wouldn't say it was horrible,” he said. “I was just trying to spend as much time as I could with my family, with my wife and my kids. When I played, I was around but I wasn't. There were a lot of road trips. I just tried to utilize that time that first year.”
Budaj spent three seasons as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. He was a part of the team that made their way to the playoff Conference Finals back in 2014.
Budaj often reminisces about his time in Montreal, and cherishes the years he spent with the historic organization. Habs fans were also some of the most dedicated and passionate fans he’d ever seen.
“People always ask me, ‘What's your favourite spot, your favourite moment?’ and I always say Montreal was something special. People in Montreal absolutely love the game, they study the game, they live the game,” he said. “It was a privilege to play and I was very fortunate to play for the Montreal Canadiens. It was something very special.”
Budaj also spent some time with the Colorado Avalanche, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Los Angeles Kings, playing over 350 career games over the course of 12 years.
In the summer of 2019, Budaj started his goalie training business called Budaj Blockers. It was an opportunity for him to pursue a career in coaching, and to share what he learned as a former National Hockey League goaltender with the next generation of young goalies.
“I've always wanted to stay involved with hockey, and I've always wanted to coach goalies,” he said. “I like to be on the ice, with the kids and try to teach them, try to help them the best I can, and try to give them a bit of my knowledge.”
Budaj has found coaching young goaltenders incredibly rewarding. He strives to make every athlete the best they can be, and teaches them the many qualities needed to succeed, such as hard work, dedication and passion.
“I want to get the kids where they want to be,” he said. “[Find] what’s their goal, and what their passion is and bring a smile to their face. It’s satisfying, when I do goalie clinics, to see when a goalie is improving. That makes a goalie coach very happy, at least for me.”
Budaj hopes to one day coach at the NHL level, and have the opportunity to work alongside some of the best in the world. But for now, he’s content with starting small and building his goalie training business out of Arizona.
Retirement has also allowed Budaj to focus on another one of his passions: nature. As often as he can, he brings his boys fishing, camping and hunting, allowing them to learn the value of staying active and being outdoors.
“I love being outdoors. I definitely want to be the parent that shows the kids to go outside, to enjoy the beautiful world that we have, and not just stare at TVs, computers and electronics,” he said. “Play sports, be athletes, do stuff outside. Being outdoors is something I have passion for.”
Living in Montana, the warm weather allows Budaj to be outdoors as much as possible, yet his true calling is that of a cold sheet of ice. His greatest passion lies with the sport he fell in love with all those years ago.
“I love the game of hockey. Always have and always will.”