There are hockey players that like to stay busy when they’re off the ice and then there’s Scooter Vaughan.
Or shall we say Scooter Vaughan the guitarist, singer, piano player, disc jockey, business entrepreneur, and consultant. Not to mention professional hockey player, of course. The 26-year-old Placentia, Calif., native does it all for the Chicago Wolves, playing both defense and forward on the ice, so it should be no surprise that the energetic and charismatic Vaughan also does it all when he’s away from the rink too.
And it should be no surprise that Vaughan always has been this way, dating back to the days when his parents turned down his many requests for a sibling, saying he alone was “too much of a headache.” Vaughan didn’t need brothers or sisters to keep him occupied, though, as he played soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball, roller hockey, and eventually ice hockey while growing up in California.
As he entered high school and each sport became more and more of a time-commitment, baseball fell by the wayside – “too boring and too much standing around” – as did soccer – “you don’t touch the ball enough” – as did the other sports, and his attention turned solely to hockey. Although “solely” might not be the right word.
“My mom is a lawyer and my dad is a chemical engineer,” Vaughan said. “
So schooling and being a dork was big growing up and then playing multiple sports all the time would keep me busy, keep me from being a one-dimensional type of person.
“Growing up as a kid, my parents told me you’re going to go to college, so it’s your choice if you want to play hockey there or not. Hockey was a huge priority, but it wasn’t the only priority.”
After moving from California to Michigan as a high school sophomore to join the Honeybaked Hockey Club, Vaughan spent one year playing junior hockey with the St. Louis Bandits before he committed to the University of Michigan. True to his word, hockey was his priority, but it wasn’t his only priority during his four years in Ann Arbor.
Two of Vaughan’s other passions – music and business – began to shine through during his college years. He transformed into DJ Scooter on the weekends, spinning tracks at house parties and campus bars – for the free drinks, of course – but he took his love of music one step further after graduating.
With years of piano lessons in his youth under his belt, Vaughan expanded his talents and taught himself to play the guitar. In fact, he even bought his first acoustic guitar with Chicago Wolves center Zack Torquato while the two of them suited up for the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL during his first-year pro in 2011-12.
The two bonded quickly as they learned together, teaching themselves simple country songs at first before they mastered their first tune together: “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. Torquato, who joined the Wolves in December, quickly realized Vaughan has greatly improved since their days of plucking three-chord songs, as he has expanded his repertoire to include blues, alternative, and rock.
“I hadn’t heard him play in like four years and now he’s singing and playing and he’s awesome,” Torquato said. “I think he’s like a rock star now.”
While the majority of the credit goes to Vaughan and his dedication to practicing at least a couple of hours every day, he also has Eric Herbst to thank. During Vaughan’s days with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, he connected with the singer-songwriter, who happened to be a neighbor of one of his teammates.
Unbeknownst to Vaughan at the time, Herbst had written songs for B.B. King, Johnny Cash, and Frank Zappa among others, and is currently in a band called “DizzyFish,” which recently opened for the Steve Miller Band. Although Herbst initially told Vaughan he didn’t give lessons, the two ended up playing together every Tuesday during his two seasons in Bridgeport.
“Hair down, no ponytail, just flowing, sunglasses on, playing electric guitar in his pajamas,” Vaughan said. “Raging so hard and he was like 50 years old.”
After coming to the Wolves, Vaughan found someone else to “rage so hard” with in Andre Benoit. The veteran defenseman took up the hobby last December when his daughter said she wanted to learn. While their hectic schedule makes it difficult to find time to jam out together, Benoit takes any opportunity he gets to play “a little blues” with Vaughan and to learn a few things from him. But Vaughan’s musical talents don’t end there.
“He has the voice of an angel too,” Benoit said.
Music is more than a pastime for Vaughan, however. It’s also a business. After signing an amateur tryout contract with the San Jose Sharks following graduation, Vaughan suffered a broken elbow in training camp that resulted in four surgeries in three weeks and left him in an unusual spot – with nothing to do.
Enter Austin Glenn. Vaughan’s childhood friend from California, who studied business administration and finance at San Diego State University, came to him with an idea: Colorful headphones that stand out, are crafted out of bamboo wood, and won’t tangle. The two created the prototype for Jamboo Headphones and got to work on creating a Kickstarter campaign that exceeded their goal in just five days.
“So rookie year pro, I was just helping out trying to stay busy because I was kind of pulling my hair out,” Vaughan said. “I had graduated school and you’re not playing hockey and you’re not working and you have a broken arm and it was the exact opposite of what I had been doing and so I was kind of restless.”
Vaughan and Glenn became business partners and his days of being restless quickly became a thing of the past. Vaughan did everything from forming the LLC to finding sales reps to marketing to website development to dealing with inventory. Vaughan served as co-owner of Jamboo until this past summer when he sold off most of his percentage, as did Glenn, but the two still have some equity in the business and remain on the board of advisors.
“It worked out well,” Vaughan said. “We obviously still own a small percentage in case it does a little Dr. Dre and Beats by Dre thing and I get my millions.”
Since Jamboo, Vaughan has gotten involved in other successful business ventures. He has done consulting for State and Liberty Clothing Company – “Lululemon-type dress shirts for athletes” — that was started by a University of Michigan teammate. He also has done marketing and social branding for Electric Family – an apparel and lifestyle brand that “started out making bracelets for charities that would have a DJ or someone musical endorse the bracelets and every purchase of a bracelet goes to the charity of the artist’s choice.”
Vaughan isn’t done either. He intends to continue consulting on other small businesses and startups, helping other people get their great ideas off the ground. You know, when he isn’t making music or playing hockey.
“I try to stay busy,” he said, “because if not, I’ll just sit and watch Netflix all day. “
Yeah, we find that hard to believe too.
By Anna Fogel | Photos by Ross Dettman