Sean Grevy, a native of North Philadelphia who grew up in a low-income home, has been on skates since he was 2-years old and started playing ice hockey at age 4.
“I’ve played all my life [but] It was odd to play hockey there. I was left out, so I became an enforcer,” said Grevy. An enforcer, or fighter, is an all-but-extinct, unofficial role in ice hockey.
“I took a lot of injuries, and my doctor told me I’d have scrambled eggs for brains if I kept fighting.” Still, his heart told him to continue playing, despite his mind (and doctor) saying otherwise.
Then, at a minor league tryout, he had a pivotal encounter with former NHL player Todd Fedoruk, who told him, “Hockey will last you a few years, but this job will open doors for a lifetime.”
Grevy said Fedoruk’s words changed his life. So he left the game behind– for now. When Grevy was 21 years old, he traded his skates for a suit and tie and took a job in New York City.
“I started working at Z100,” said Grevy. “Then I worked my way up.” He started with an entry-level position until he eventually started managing endorsements for Elvis Duran.
Puck Control Through Patience
It was then Grevy took a leap of faith and started his advertising agency in 2016 with mentorship from his former Sales Director. But hockey remained top of mind.
So, one year later, despite limited resources and clientele, Grevy started a foundation to open doors for low-income hockey prospects. “I realized then my purpose wasn’t to fight on the ice but to fight for these kids, to give them a voice,” said Grevy.
It started with roughly $30,000 out of pocket, where Grevy self-funded three hockey players in the Bronx in 2017, “trying to do what I could,” said Grevy.
Over the next three years, the program attracted attention from donors, who helped Grevy keep the lights on and the kids on the ice.
But timing was on side.
Unbeknownst to him, in the summer of 2020, UBS acquired the naming rights to the Islanders mixed-use, then-Belmont Park Arena.
A few months later, Grevy got a call that changed everything.
The Best Kind Of A Barn Burner
“It was a call out of nowhere. I thought it was a joke at first,” said Grevy. “When I realized it wasn’t a prank, I knew we would change lives.”
After UBS undertook the naming rights for UBS Arena and partnered with the anchor sports team, the New York Islanders, they began to pay attention to ice hockey.
“We quickly became aware that hockey is the most expensive youth participation sport in the US, and we looked for where we could help bridge the gap,” said the Head of Brand Activation & Sponsorships, Americas at UBS, Anneliese Mesilati.
According to a 2019 national survey conducted by Aspen Institute with the Utah State University Families in Sports Lab, “parents with a child in ice hockey spent on average $2,583 per year, the most expensive sport among the 21 sports evaluated.”
A 2019 Money Survey had similar findings: ice hockey parents paid more for equipment and registration fees than any other sport, about $2,583 and $634 annually.
Then on August 26, 2021, the New York Islanders and Switzerland-based investment bank UBS announced a 5-year, $1M partnership with the foundation.
Now, seventy-six kids are enrolled, three foundation alumni of his program are in the NCAA, and one may play in the NHL soon.
“I remember our first clinic and seeing all the young players out on the ice beaming with excitement and enthusiasm. Seeing how many young athletes we have supported in a sport they love is wonderful,” said Mesilati.
The program also encompasses financial literacy, college preparedness, career readiness training, and a mentorship program for the players. UBS executives, UBS Arena, and the New York Islanders have volunteered as mentors over the past year.
“It’s also incredible to regularly see 43 Oak Foundation players at UBS Arena as guests watching New York Islander Games, witnessing the relationship grow roots,” said Mesilati. Now, Grevy is making the most of the partnership and manifesting the change he felt the day of that life-changing call.
“The sky is the limit,” Grevy said.