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Retired Pro Athletes Find Camaraderie in PBX Pickleball League

by The Dink Media Team on

PBX Pickleball League launched in the summer of 2023 to connect pickleball fans with the retired pros they recognize from around the sports world.

But while it's cool to have the opportunity to play with or against a football player or hockey star you admire, it's the sports stars that take part in the league who may benefit most.

Through partnerships with major sports organizations like the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and the NHL Alumni Association, PBX has helped over 100 Hall of Famers, All-Stars, and Olympians reconnect with sports in a meaningful way through pickleball.

Paul Holmgren, NHL All-Star

With a remarkable 40-year career in hockey, Paul Holmgren's success is well-established.

Holmgren's introduction to pickleball in the fall of 2019 marked a turning point in his post-career pursuits. Joining a beginner class with his wife, he swiftly fell in love with the sport.

Beyond the excitement of competition, pickleball provided Holmgren with an opportunity to revive the locker room camaraderie he cherished in hockey.

Whether played in singles or doubles, the game's blend of power and finesse has become a fulfilling chapter in his life.

"There is a real joy in pickleball that is difficult to explain," Holmgren says.

"I am fulfilling a lot of things in my life with the game and having a lot of fun with this relatively new yet booming sport. I have always felt I had a decent amount of focus that has helped me in all phases of my hockey life. Pickleball for me is focus with a large amount of fun mixed in."

Golden Tate, Super Bowl Champ

Golden Tate, celebrated for his achievements in football and baseball, ventured into pickleball in 2010 with wooden paddles and wiffle balls, leaving him intrigued but uncertain about its place in his life.

Fast forward to 2017, and Tate found himself engrossed in a Monday night pickleball league in California.

The competitive spirit of the game, coupled with encounters with top-tier players and professionals, transformed Tate into a dedicated pickleball enthusiast.

"I remember wondering, 'why anyone would want a miniature tennis court?'" he admits.

For Tate, pickleball became a means to satisfy his unyielding competitive spirit post-retirement, with the added enjoyment of a newfound community.

"Pro athlete's careers all end at some point, but our competitive hunger never leaves in my opinion, I believe pickleball is a way to feed that itch."


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What's next for PBX

In a short few months, PBX has already secured an impressive roster of stars who participants can play pickleball with, including Hall of Famers John Smoltz and Rick Barry, renowned college football coach Urban Meyer, All-Stars and Champions such as Tino Martinez, Luis Gonzalez, Kris Draper, Brad Penny, and Olympic medalists Brooke Bennett, Breeja Larson and Hali Flickinger.

In the intervening months, the league has also:

  • Partnered with Parity to reach women athletes across 70+ sports
  • Hosted three PBX Training Camps and two PBX Pro-Am events in Glendale and Naples
  • Hosted VIP events and dinners where fans heard stories from their sports heroes and laughed about their day on the pickleball courts together

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In 2024, PBX will produce a tour of pros that represent their sports' alumni associations competing against each other. 

The PBX Tour will stop key pickleball markets in desirable destinations around the country, culminating with a Championship Tournament. Pro-Am matches, VIP experiences, and clinics led by pro pickleball players will be available at each stop.

Dates will be announced soon.