Cold practices inspired former Calgary Stampeder to pursue business opportunity after devastating ankle injury
After former Calgary Stampeder Johnny Forzani suffered a career-ending ankle injury, it would have been natural to expect him to flounder in the career world.
Instead, Forzani traded in his jersey for a suit, and along with a childhood friend, Jesse Galvon, kick started a business that is now a part of the growing wearable technology industry.
Forzani, 25, was a player with the team from 2010 to 2012. His best season came in 2011 when he had 45 receptions for 761 yards and five touchdowns.
But in 2012 he suffered a devastating ankle injury.
The former Stampeder tore all of the ligaments in his ankle and the healing process lead to the end of his professional football career.
“It was devastating,” says Forzani.
But Forzani’s past experiences as a professional football player inspired a business idea.
In November 2010, Forzani was sitting on the sidelines of a practice with his teammates next to the only source of heat – a propane tank.
Photo courtesy of Johnny Forzani
On that cold winter day, the professional football player wondered why no major sport apparel companies had made heated gloves for his red, cold and aching hands.
After discussions with his fellow teammates and some research, he found that the only heated gloves on the market were ski gloves.
Forzani revisited that research following his injury. With some free time on his hands, he found some clothing suppliers in China and jumped on the next plane out.
“The first go around was not pleasant and neither was the next ten,” says Forzani. “Eventually you start getting the hang of it, you start finding the right people.”
After some trial and error, iHeat was born. The company manufactures and sells heated apparel powered by lithium rechargeable batteries. Each product has three heat settings for users to choose dependent on the temperature outside.
Galvon, who played collegiate golf at the University of San Francisco and came in 31st at the 2013 Canadian Men’s Amateur Golf Championship, joined the company in spring 2013 as its vice-president and chief operating officer.
That background on the greens was a contributor to his success in selling roughly 1,000 iHeat gloves to local golf courses in Calgary two years ago.
Photo courtesy of Jesse GalvonIHeat’s products are also worn by the CFL, NFL, and the PGA tour and includes product such as heated glove liners, ski mitts, and hand warmers.
Its sales are mainly through their website, but have recently started selling their product in Sport Chek as well.
“We see a gap in the marketplace to have a high-end heated apparel line that can help keep you warm whether you work outside, do outdoor sporting activities, or you simply suffer from cold,” says Galvon.