Former professional hockey player John Negrin takes his first shot at entrepreneurship with The Batch

The ex-Calgary Flame is aiming to help small businesses and build community in Vancouver

John Negrin

Credit: John Negrin

The ex-Calgary Flame is aiming to help small businesses and build community in Vancouver

Long before John Negrin became an entrepreneur in the hospitality business, he got a very important food safety lesson from none other than Jarome Iginla.

Negrin was a 19-year-old rookie defenceman for the Flames and was sitting on the plane chatting with some other teammates when a plate of Rice Krispie squares was dropped on the table in front of him. Unbeknownst to him, team captain Iginla, who was sitting nearby with headphones on, was keeping a watchful eye.

“I grabbed a square while in conversation and sort of put it back down on the tray,” Negrin recalls, before going into a full-blown impression of the Flames legend, big smile and all. “And [Iginla] goes, Johnny, what are you doing, man? Don’t put that back on there!”

Negrin was raised on the North Shore and drafted by Calgary in the third round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft (an experience he acknowledged was a bit weird after growing up a fan of his hometown Canucks). He went on to play three games with the Flames and spent a majority of his career in the AHL before finishing up with the Manchester Storm of Brtain’s Elite Ice Hockey League.

During COVID, Negrin returned home and found himself out of not just a job, but a career. “Making that step out of hockey is intimidating,” says Negrin, who did a masters degree in digital business at the University of Salford while he was in the U.K. “It’s the only thing you’ve known your whole life. Turning the page and starting at the bottom is really difficult.”

Negrin signed on with North Vancouver-based website designer Hope Media House as an intern in the company’s business development department. He played a major role in bringing on food commerce biz Legends Haul as a client and eventually became close with the founders. Through that experience, he started working on an idea for a way to build community on Vancouver’s many empty lots that were just sitting there.

“I just started exploring it, reaching out to city council and seeing if anything could be done on these lots in the city,” he recalls. The powers that be were interested in Negrin doing something. He went through a few iterations, with the final result being a 20-foot service trailer with a 70-person patio, currently located at the Plaza of Nations until development on that site moves forward in two years or so. 

John NegrinJohn Negrin

The Batch serves food from other local businesses and craft beer in the shadow of BC Place stadium and officially opened this week. Negrin is hoping to have food trucks like Salty’s Lobster Shack come by on a nightly rotating basis.

“It’s not something new—living in Europe you see this kind of thing all over the place,” says Negrin. “I played in a lot of little towns in my career where these local businesses—whether it’s a brewery or bakery or coffee shop—were just the heart of the area. It’s so hard to do that in Vancouver where lease rates aren’t attainable, so I’m just looking to support them.”

Sitting here in the glow of Vancouver’s two biggest stadiums, it seems like Negrin is happy to be where he is. “The pressure is a lot,” he says of his time as a professional athlete.

“I don’t know if I managed it fully, I don’t think many can. What people see externally isn’t actually what’s going on in the room. A lot of these guys are struggling, and they’re going to fight. It’s a competitive space. The guys who do really well are the small amount of guys who can just enjoy themselves and have fun.”