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Alumni Spotlight

Passion projects keep Jeff Chong ’92 involved in sports.
During his MBA studies at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Chong had the opportunity to do some consulting work for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the corporation that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors, and it ultimately changed his career path.

“I realized that sport and business might be able to intersect,” says Chong, a varsity soccer, hockey and baseball player during his UCC days and a sports enthusiast.

But first, Chong did a stint as an investment banker on Bay Street. He knew it wasn’t his destiny.

“I’m a pretty passionate, emotional person and I wasn’t passionate about investment banking,” Chong says. “I always had an entrepreneurial side that I wanted to tap into and I was open to using it to get involved with sports.”

He stepped out on his own and his first move was to negotiate exclusive domestic distribution rights for branded Ironman Activewear, sold to triathletes throughout Canada. From there, he branched out to do consulting for sports teams and organizations, with clients that include MLSE, the Canadian Football League, Canada Basketball and Hockey Canada Foundation. Chong also founded the Toronto Triathlon Festival (TTF), an annual race held each summer in the downtown core.

“I looked around the sports landscape in Toronto and there were way too many runs,” he says. “I needed to create something distinctive.”

The TTF is a race weekend that includes Olympic and sprint distance events based at Ontario Place and is one of the largest triathlons in Canada. It includes a swim in Lake Ontario, a bike ride along the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway and a picturesque run along the Martin Goodman Trail.

“The bike leg of the triathlon is the signature element, but I had to lobby city council to gain access to those busy roads,” he says. “I had to present a compelling value proposition. It was a real lesson.”

Chong succeeded in arranging to have the roads closed on the day of the event and began staging the festival in 2012. 

In addition to founding and running the TTF and Sports Focused Consulting, Chong has branched out into event logistics by creating Pathfinder Traffic Control, a company that provides pylons, barricades and personnel to direct traffic at parades, races and other events, including Toronto’s popular Santa Claus Parade.

“We want to be sure that both Santa and the reindeer get to town.”

Add in the challenge of being the managing director for OpenStreetsTO, a project that repurposes portions of Yonge and Bloor streets on two Sundays a year for unimpeded physical activity and free recreation for tens of thousands, and Chong is one busy guy.

Last August, for his 50th birthday, he completed an Ironman triathlon at Mont Tremblant (a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and full marathon of 26.2 miles).

“Training for the Ironman reminded me how important routine is for me,” Chong says. “There are only so many hours in a day and being forced to be organized drove my productivity.”

About the trajectory Chong decided to pursue, he says, “It’s afforded me the time to do the things I’ve decided are important: spending time with family and friends and taking care of my health.” 
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