OneHockey CEO Living American Dream
He grew up north of the border groomed on the sport of hockey, still celebrates Thanksgiving annually on the second Monday of October, and proudly speaks with a distinct French-Canadian accent. Despite all that, Sebastien Fortier epitomizes the American dream.
Following his playing days and inspired by his father, who for a decade operated the highly successful Sherbrooke International Bantam Tournament in Quebec, Fortier began to build from the ground up what is now widely recognized as the industry’s best run, most entertaining international youth hockey tournament host — OneHockey.
Since its inception in 2003, OneHockey has expanded from strictly a spring and summer three-tourney operation during its early years, to a year-round organization with 25+ events throughout North America and select European locations with a plan to soon expand into Asia.
“I coached for a while after I retired and ran a hockey school but I always knew I could make a major difference running hockey tournaments,” says Fortier, who grew up playing youth hockey in Quebec before going on to eight seasons of professional hockey in the AHL, ECHL, WCHL and CoHL, said. “So I started OneHockey.”
Fortier first focused on providing AAA-level players the opportunity to be showcased in front of prep schools, junior and college scouts while ensuring unmatched in-game entertainment for the entire family. Starting with the first tournament – the 2006 Pennsylvania Summer Challenge – he began incorporating superior on-ice competition with lively music streaming inside and out at each venue, a bustling mini-hockey expo in each lobby, red carpet social media interviews and an unforgettable championship game celebration with the OneHockey Cup.
“My father really dominated youth hockey tournaments as President of the Sherbrooke Bantam International Tournament,” Fortier, 44, who was born in Greenfield Park, Quebec but now makes his home in Laguna Hills, California, said.
“This tournament brought in teams from over 25 countries and grew to hosting over 100 teams annually. As I saw other ice hockey tournaments being run, I knew they paled in comparison to what my father had been doing so I decided to follow in his footsteps.”
In Sherbrooke, the elder Fortier followed one simple philosophy – spoil the kids – and his son insisted OneHockey adopt the same approach. But after establishing his new venture as the best tournament option for top talent players, Fortier realized that kids of all levels deserved to bask in the hockey festival atmosphere that is the OneHockey Experience. That decision is what led to the expansion of OneHockey to a year-round, international operation with annual stops in destinations such as Florida and California as well as hockey hotbeds like Minnesota and Alberta.
“I’ve never let anything stop me,” says Fortier, explaining OneHockey’s path to the top of the hockey industry. “We’ve had some very hard times, but I’ve always seen the big picture and have gone for it. I’ve learned that working hard is good but working smart is better.”
Fortier’s goal is to expand OneHockey to host as many as 150 events annually while undertaking the organization of tournaments for other sports.
“They need us also because most are not well run or are not fun for the kids,” said Fortier, who signed a free-agent contract with the Montreal Canadiens in 1992.
OneHockey is already scheduled to make its mark on more than just the hockey industry in December 2018 when it embarks on setting a Guinness World Record for hosting the largest tournament ever. Fortier is partnering with the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association to put on the largest tournament the world has ever seen at the Holiday Invite in 2018.
This unprecedented, four-day Christmas school vacation event will feature as many as 1,000 teams in both boys and girls divisions estimated to number more than 23,000 players from 10 countries squaring off on more than 75 sheets of ice throughout the state.
The Records Management Team from Guinness World Records has officially recognized the Holiday Invite 2018 in its attempt to top the current tournament record, which was set at the 37th Annual Minor Hockey Week Tournament from January 5-13, 2007, in Calgary, Alberta.
That tourney featured 664 teams comprised of 10,992 players competing in 957 games on 42 sheets of ice. The OneHockey Holiday Invite 2018 is expected to shatter all those marks.
“At the Holiday Invite, we’re going to show the world what the OneHockey Experience is all about,” said Fortier, who after living 20 years in the United States became an official naturalized citizen in September.
“Hard work, passionate, honesty, straight forward… these are traits I learned in Quebec and what I bring to this country,” Fortier added. “The best country in the world.”
Main Image: OneHockey Chief Executive Officer Sebastien Fortier stands with MVP’s from one of his highly successful hockey tournaments. (Photo courtesy of OneHockey)
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