NHLPA UNLMT assisting Faulk’s pursuit of knowledge

Whether he has his nose in a book or is actively navigating business interests, Justin Faulk has used NHLPA UNLMT to grow his skill set away from the rink.

NHLPA UNLMT assisting Faulk’s pursuit of knowledge

Feature photo: Getty Images

Before embarking on an NHL career that is now approaching 900 regular season games, Justin Faulk spent one year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The Carolina Hurricanes selected the smooth-skating defenceman with the 37th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft before Faulk started his freshman year.

“I was a terrible student,” Faulk recalled with a chuckle. “I was pretty hyper-focused on hockey. It was my main focus and goal.”

In his first season with the Hurricanes, 2011-12, Faulk roomed with fellow defenceman Jay Harrison who was already charting a path beyond hockey with a keen interest in academics.

Harrison regularly peppered his young roommate with questions from the psychology textbook that the veteran player carried with him on the road.

“I was like, ‘what is this old guy doing?’” Faulk recalled.

Fast-forward more than a decade and Harrison continues to apply his book smarts to his ongoing work as a consulting psychologist to the NHLPA.

Faulk, 31, currently in his fifth season with the St. Louis Blues, remains one of the NHLPA’s more curious members. His many business interests occupy much of his time away from the game as well as his ongoing academic pursuits through NHLPA UNLMT, which helps connect current players with interests away from playing hockey.

His story is a powerful reminder that education and learning are not necessarily linear. He recalled hanging out with a couple of players a few years back when they were talking about taking courses through Stanford University.

Faulk, who has been active in the NHLPA for many years, was interested and a little perplexed that he did not know what they were talking about.

“I’m like, okay, what’s going on here?’” Faulk recalled.

He did the research and found that there were several options for current players to take courses at a variety of high end post-secondary institutions. He then found himself taking a couple of courses that appealed to him through Stanford.

Some of it was in Faulk’s wheelhouse, some of it was not.

“I’m interested in learning, I’m not so interested in the exams,” Faulk said.

At the time of this conversation, Faulk was taking two courses including one that deals with urban land use and economics that could lead to specialization in land appraisal, land development and property management or brokerage.

One of the courses is on a real-time school schedule with assignments and other requirements to be completed on a set academic schedule. That presents its own challenges with Faulk’s demanding hockey schedule, as well as a busy home life with two young daughters under the age of three.  

The courses satisfy part of Faulk’s desire for self-growth, and he remains interested in using the NHLPA UNLMT resources to possibly finish his degree at University of Minnesota-Duluth. However, there is a whole other business component to his life away from the rink that has proven both challenging and rewarding in recent years.

These business projects have put Faulk in the unusual position of acting as landlord to the growing retail business interests of his wife, Chloe.

“He’s a good landlord. He’s pretty low maintenance,” Chloe Faulk said with a laugh during a recent conversation. “He’s not too hard on us when I forget to give him the rent check.”

Well, he does know how to find Chloe and her main business partner, her mother. So there is that.

Faulk epitomizes why NHLPA UNLMT has such a broad appeal for players.

Whether it is the pursuit of academic interests or something more tangible like actual business investments, the intersection of both the academic and the real-life projects have been appreciated by Faulk.

“The PA’s done a great job in starting to provide guys with these opportunities, and those might not be there when our careers are over,” Faulk said. “I think it’s really good what they’re doing. It’s not just a single focus.”

From real estate to learning how to do a podcast, it is all available, he added.

“They kind of can help you and guide you and at least walk you through that conversation and assess where you’re at,” Faulk said. “It’s nice that this is getting out to be honest with you.”

“I’m not trying to be a real estate mogul when I’m done,” he added. “But I’m just continuing to learn and UNLMT has continued to provide me that opportunity and different facets. It’s awesome.”

Even before he started taking courses and trying to navigate local building codes and architectural plans for a business renovation project in Excelsior, Minnesota, Faulk began dipping his toe in the business world early in his career.

A few years into his NHL playing career, he and a group of fellow players and business advisors formed a group that bought shares in a series of commercial real estate holdings.

Faulk read up on the opportunities and kept himself abreast of the fluctuations in those properties’ values. With a desire to continue learning more, he went to the financial experts behind this group effort and began picking their brains.

“I was like, ‘tell me what you’re doing and why we’re doing it and what it means,’” Faulk said.

The veteran defenceman’s exploration of non-hockey pursuits stands as an important message to other players who seek similar interests.

“He’s very self-directed,” said John Hierlihy, NHLPA UNLMT Personal Strategist. “He just has that instinct to leverage his status as an NHLer and create opportunities.”

“He’s still recognizing the value of learning and evolving and growing, not just as a hockey player but as a professional,” Hierlihy added.

Faulk may have been, by his own admission, not a great student prior to beginning his NHL career, but he has evolved into a very inquisitive adult with an appetite for learning.

“This isn’t just for business,” Faulk said.

Health, current affairs, the world around him all kinds of topics interest him and he reads voraciously on a wide variety of subjects.

“Today, I’m constantly reading, gathering information trying to get more knowledge about certain topics. Kind of the flavor of the day,” he added with a laugh.

Faulk has also pushed himself in terms of his away-from-hockey business ventures. He bought a couple of commercial properties on his own. One is a college rental in Duluth, Minnesota, which is run by a property management company.

The other is near the couple’s summer home of Excelsior, which turned into a full-blown renovation.

The property had originally been used as a law office and Faulk’s plan was to turn it into a space for a different commercial use.

This involved all kinds of new challenges for Faulk, including remodeling the interior, changing the front façade of the building and securing permits, all while making sure to stay on the right side of all the codes and restrictions in the charming, historic Minnesota town.

“I just kind of jumped in head-first,” Faulk said. “It was definitely a lot more than I thought I was getting into in the beginning.”

Would he do things differently if he had to do them again?


“But I’m not unhappy that I did it,” Faulk said.

What has been an interesting, if wholly unexpected, outcome of all this has been the intersection of Faulk and his wife’s growing business interests.

Both of Chloe’s parents were in the apparel business. In fact, it is how they met.

“So, I guess you could say it’s in my blood,” Chloe said.

A business major, she knew that a corporate job likely would not fit, considering her relationship with Justin and the uncertainty of where their hockey lives would take them.

After discussing the idea with her mother, they decided being partners in Excelsior, where Chloe grew up, would be the right fit. The pair started with a women’s clothing and home goods store, Gray Home + Lifestyle. They then decided their town, a popular destination with tourists and summer residents, could use a children’s toy and apparel store, which led to the opening of pip & pal.

The fact there has been regular growth and change to the commercial projects reflects the mindset that to stand still, is to stop growing.

“You have to change something to keep growing,” Chloe said.

As for becoming her husband’s tenant, both she and her landlord agree it was serendipitous.

Faulk bought his renovation project in 2017, a couple of years after Chloe and her mother opened Gray Home + Lifestyle.

The renovations took a lot longer than anticipated, and a couple of tenants moved on. At the time, Chloe and her mother were looking to move into a bigger space and the lease was coming up on their current location.

“Everything just lined up. And we moved in,” Chloe said.

The evolution of Faulk’s business and academic interests, along with Chloe’s ongoing business investments are important for the potential financial security they might provide, but those interests also provide opportunities for discussion on matters unrelated to the game.

“I love how much interest he has outside of hockey with business dealings,” Chloe said. “He takes everything very seriously.”

“I think it’s very important,” she added. “There’s a whole life outside of hockey. It’s still such a small part of your life when you look at it.”

“We bond over things. We really don’t talk a lot about hockey at home,” Chloe added.

They share business articles with one another, trends in retail, how to approach obstacles and other problem-solving issues. Each has their own strengths when it comes to these off-ice endeavours.

Faulk jokes that he knows hockey and Chloe knows business.

“She does all that without me,” Faulk said of the day-to-day operations of the retail stores.

“I have zero involvement besides, ‘hey, how’s it going?’ and I think it’s great that way.

“Yeah, it’s been fun,” Faulk added. “She’s much better at this than I am. I’ve learned a ton from her.”

That is not to say that given their respective experiences in the business world the couple does not talk about a partnership on something else after hockey. They do. And there are plans that have been at least tentatively discussed.

Maybe a deli, or butcher shop, for instance.

“Neither of us are too concerned about it because of what we’ve done already,” Faulk said.