“Decide early on: are you a giver or a taker?” It’s the advice that has always carried him, both as an athlete and in business. Now, hockey enthusiast, Jamie Massie shares how he’s helped grow the city of Barrie—and helped raise a new generation of leaders.
On the ice, he may have played defence, but when it comes to his city, Jamie Massie ’76 is definitely at the centre. The businessman and long-time hockey player moved to Barrie a year after graduation from Northwood University, intrigued by an opportunity to acquire Barrie’s General Motors dealership and advance the community he’d grown an affection for from childhood. In 1929, Jamie’s grandfather, a First World War veteran who lost his leg at Vimy Ridge, came to the city with four fellow amputees, and set to work building the lake-front cottages where Jamie would spend his summers.
When Jamie moved to the city in 1981, it had a population of just over 25,000 people. Today, Barrie is booming, boasting 160,000 residents and on track to reach over a quarter of a million in the next 15 years. Thanks to Jamie’s leadership, Georgian Chevrolet has prospered right along with the city and has since gone on to become one of the top five Chevrolet dealerships in Canada.
Jamie still lives in Barrie with his wife, Wendy and their sons, Andrew ’03, 36; James, 32; Jeffrey, 30; and their youngest, Alex, 26. If the name, ‘Alex Massie’ sounds familiar, you might know him from sport. Alex is a well-known Paralympian; he lost his leg in a wakeboarding accident in 2011. After an intense year of recovery, Alex returned to high school to play football as a starter on the offensive line. He also went back to snowboarding, adapting so well to his prosthetic leg that he decided to pursue a competitive career. Alex raced for Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang and is the number one ranked Para-snowboarder in the world, winning the World Championships in 2019.
The three eldest work with their father at Georgian International, a company which grew out of the businesses Jamie took on over the years and is widely recognized as one of Simcoe County’s most influential. Today, it’s a leader in the automotive industry and a dominant real estate investor in residential and commercial land opportunities. Amongst other points of pride—including being an instrumental part of the local hospital, airport, library, and more—Jamie helped found the Automotive Business School of Canada at Georgian College, of which Jamie sat on the Board for many years.
Many of the friendships Jamie made on campus at Ridley he maintains to this day. He still works alongside good friends Ward Seymour ’74 and Dave Bunston ’76. He met Dave during childhood summers on Lake Simcoe more than 50 years ago. “We played hockey together at Ridley. Dave never passed the puck,” Jamie laughs good-naturedly. “He always said if he passed to me, I never passed it back.”
The Braestone Club’s atmosphere is timeless and serene and, for Jamie, it’s more than a business; it’s a place he wants to be.
Georgian’s most recent project, a sprawling golf club in close proximity to one of their developments, was purchased in 2017 and has since undergone substantial improvements. The Braestone Club is now home to a new club house and a restaurant called ‘The KTCHN,’ a high-quality build which blends with the land from which it emerges. Its atmosphere is timeless and serene and, for Jamie, it’s more than a business; it’s a place he wants to be.
Chatting with the friendly alumni this past fall, Jamie is clearly whip-smart when it comes to his business endeavours, but he’s comfortably casual about them, too, and his care for those in his community is genuine. To put it simply: business that does good, makes good sense.
“I’m not just a philanthropist. I’m a business guy. But I’ve always found that if you give to your community, they give back to you.”
“I left Ridley with the belief that you could be a giver or a taker in this world,” Jamie explains, quick to credit his time at the school with his service mindset. “So, we look at the bigger picture, and invest in things which improve quality of life for our family, for the people we work with, and the community at large—over the years, I’ve found that if you give to your community, the community gives right back to you.”
If you knew Jamie at Ridley, you’d remember that he’s a hockey lover through and through—he started playing when he was just four—and his passion has followed him throughout his life. “Ridley was ideal for someone who loved sports and hockey like I did,” Jamie remembers of his time in Upper School, citing mentors like hockey coach, Keith Mawhinney, Bill Montgomery and David Mackey.
For Jamie, the traits formed through a lifetime of hockey—qualities like leadership, sportsmanship, competition, and being a good teammate— have served him well beyond the rink. And, when the opportunity presented itself, he worked to ensure others could have that same advantage. In 1991, when he and his friends learned that the local Jr. B Colts were going to forfeit their season due to a lack of funding, the three former players were determined to help. They stepped up and paid off the team’s debts—and found themselves the new owners of Barrie’s junior hockey team.
As it turned out, there were some fantastic players on the Colts—John Madden would go on to win three Stanley Cups—and when the team won the Sutherland Cup that first season, the new owners were motivated to do more. “We thought, Barrie’s a hockey town. We can do this,” Jamie remembers. “It had an OHL team in the 1950s, so the question was, what can we do to bring an OHL team here now?”
They approached City Council with the idea and found the answer was a bit tricky: Barrie would need an arena to host a team, but they’d first need a team to argue for a new arena. So, they worked with the Ontario Hockey League and the City of Barrie to accomplish both. Soon, they were researching and finding creative ways to fund a new arena.
“Find things to work at that enhance your life. Don’t work for the sake of a dollar; work to make your life your life.”
The project resulted in the Barrie Molson Centre (BMC) — renamed the Sadlon Arena this past March — which was the first junior franchise in Canada to introduce private suites, a club seat programme, a restaurant at ice level, multiple entertainment venues, and a permit to sell liquor at games. “Our overarching idea was that it wouldn’t be just for hockey fans,” Jamie reasons. “This would be for the community at large, so that families could come together to support their junior team.”
“The community loved it,” he says, looking back. “We sold out suites in the first 48 hours they were on sale and had 800 club seat holders in the first month. The support from the community paid for [the arena] within its first ten years, and the children of Barrie grew up seeing these local idols who became more important to them than the NHL players.” Since its build, the cities of London, Kingston, Mississauga, and St. Catharines have all built arenas based off a similar model—the BMC venue has changed the OHL and CHL landscape.
“We taught our players how to grow, to be in leadership roles as young players. They’d come in as 16-year-olds and leave to pursue a hockey career or go to university to become doctors, lawyers, contributors to society. Inherent in our philosophy was that development in people that would ultimately give back to their communities.”
As time went on, many of Barrie’s players graduated to the NHL and a number now boast Stanley Cup rings. But Jamie used the sport platform to not only give kids the chance to play, but as an opportunity to teach them about service. “Inherent in our philosophy was that it would result in people giving back to their communities,” he says simply. “So, we taught our players to grow, to take on leadership roles. We believed that our responsibility wasn’t just to develop great hockey players, but to inspire amazing human beings.”
Amongst other initiatives, the team ran a programme called Colts & Cops; each player was paired with a police officer from either the OPP or the Barrie Police. The officers would mentor the player and the player would visit the local schools—there are 143 in Simcoe County—where they’d speak with students about everything from the importance of strong values to peer pressure to drugs and alcohol. It put the hockey team, looked up to by so many local youths, right at the heart of the community.
In 2007, Jamie sold the team. He’d watched his four boys grow up at the arena and knew it was time for someone else to take over. But to this day, some of his fondest memories were from those years with the Colts. “My favourite was in 1999,” he recalls. “We’d had five NHL first round draft picks on that team, and those five players—I remember each of them—were out playing hockey with my four sons on my backyard rink. It’s 9:00 o’clock at night and it’s snowing out and they stop the game to shovel the rink and keep playing.”
Two years later his career meandered again when Canada’s Minister of Defence, Peter McKay appointed Jamie Honorary Colonel of Canadian Forces Base Borden—a role dating back 300 years in military history and intended to build a strong esprit de corps among the community and the base. For Jamie, whose grandfather had sacrificed so much in the Great War, it was an incredible honour, and he took his new responsibilities seriously. For the hundred-year anniversary of the base, he spearheaded the creation of a monument in honour of the million-and-a-half soldiers who had served Canada and trained at Borden over the century.
The initiative resulted in The Borden Legacy Monument, a stunning memorial comprised of two walls and a standalone statue. The first wall, 32-foot long and eight-foot tall and built of black and white granite, reads in both French and English, “Through these gates, the sons and daughters of a grateful nation pass, serving Canada with honour, duty and courage, so that all may live with freedom, democracy and justice.”
The second holds a brass urn. In 2015, Jamie raised money to take 75 people with him to Vimy, France. With permission to patriate the soil, they collected samples from the various battlefields and ceremoniously placed them in the urn. Jamie and his family took soil from the spot where his own grandfather had lain bleeding so many years before.
A statue of a bugler stands six-foot tall on a five-foot high black granite base. He faces east, calling to those who were lost on the battlefields of Europe. In 2018, on the 100th anniversary of the war’s end, Jamie and his family returned to Vimy and placed an identical bugler, six-foot tall on a five-foot high black granite base, facing west. This statue stands in the shadow of Alward’s monument and calls to Canadians to remember their sacrifice.
Legacy Park was built at the entrance of the base, and the finished monument was unveiled June 9th, 2016 by Prime Minister Trudeau and Hon. Col. Jamie Massie. 11,000 people were in attendance that morning, and 8,000 troops marched on parade. It was an effort of great significance that shows what matters to Jamie most: family, history, community, and resilience.
It’s a service-oriented mindset that has always been key to his success and it’s still fuelling him decades later. For those just starting out? “Decide early to be a giver,” he advises. “Look at the bigger picture, ask how can I help move the world forward? Then run hard. Push yourself. Get out in front of your peers and be that contributor who builds your life early. You’ll find society will help push you along the rest of the way.”
Now looking towards a time when his children will put their own stamp on the city they love, Jamie looks forward to seeing where the journey will take him next. But if there’s one thing his story makes clear from the start, it’s that he’s always forged his own path.
As our conversation concludes, Jamie offers one final tidbit for Ridleians—and they’re words to live by. “Find things to work at that enhance your life,” he suggests simply. “Don’t just work for the sake of a dollar—work to make your life your life.”