Last Monday my phone rings and it’s the call I’ve been waiting to get…well, sort of. It’s Matt and I’d been anxious and excited to negotiate my first pro contract, which we were confident Louisiana would offer him. Instead of a contract offer, however, all Matt got was a “thanks but no thanks” phone call. Apparently, Matt was told that while he definitely has the ability to play at the SPHL level, there’s just no room for him on the team. I’m starting to think that this is the standard “you’re cut” line in minor pro hockey. As a player, sure that’s a nice thing to hear when being released, but as an agent I realize that if the coach was genuine about his claimed talent assessment, he’d find room for Matt regardless of his roster situation.
My theory, on the other hand, is that the coaching staff didn’t think Matt would fit into their desired, “style of play.” In other words, I think it may have been because Matt’s not a fighter. While he was practicing with the team, Matt began to hear comments which led us to believe that this league would be more geared towards dropping the gloves than adopting the more open, finesse game. I understand that in the South, maybe that’s the only way to get people in the stands. But nevertheless, as a hockey purist, it’s hard for me to condone such practices if my suspicions are correct.
Either way, we’ve got to press on. After hearing the news, I immediately began calling other teams in the SPHL to find out if any of them were still looking to upgrade their final rosters after final cuts had been made. I wasn’t finding much luck there, but I had to keep trying. In the meantime, Matt was staying in Biloxi, Mississippi with his grandparents for a few days. There’s an SPHL team located in Biloxi, so I decided to set my cross-hairs on them and refuse to give up until I came up with something.
Tuesday morning, I placed a call to the head coach of Mississippi (I should note that the team’s website provided neither a phone number or email address – I had to get his office number through the team’s ticket sales line). Little did I know how hard getting a hold of him would be – three voice messages and two emails later, I still had nothing. I could sense Matt was becoming impatient too, and I’m quickly learning that as an agent, a lot of client frustration will be aimed in your direction, regardless of whether or not you’re deserving of it. As a last ditch effort, I decided to send Matt over to the rink Thursday to try and get a hold of the coach in person. Naturally, no front office officials were in when Matt got there so he was forced to leave a message with the coach’s secretary. I’ll let you guess whether Matt ever heard back either.
However, on Wednesday, Matt did get a call from a buddy of his who is close with a coach in the All-American Hockey League (the “AAHL”), a Single-A minor pro league in the Great Lakes area. Apparently the coach liked what he saw from Matt’s resume that I had sent him and was interested in bringing Matt in. Matt certainly would be a top player in the league and we’d rather he play somewhere that would push him to develop his game further, but I told Matt that at this point we just need to get him on the ice and hope opportunities at higher levels present themselves – he agreed.
I spoke with the coach on the phone Friday, and just this morning Matt began practicing with the team. They should let us know by tomorrow whether or not they’re going to sign him so hopefully we’ll soon be able to finally close the books on goal number one – getting Matt signed with a team. After that, it’ll just be keeping my eyes and ears open for any opportunity that Matt might be able to take advantage of.
In addition, in just under two weeks, a huge International amateur tournament will be held in my hometown of Chicago, IL. Some of the top young talent will be present, so I’ll have a great opportunity to scout some of the new up-and-comings. Two teams from Moscow are scheduled to be in attendance, so I’ve already began contacting some friends who have ties with many of the Russian clubs. And no, they’re not tied through the Russian mob, if that’s what you’re thinking.
In next week’s entry, I’ll give you more details on the tournament and any developments with Matt’s contract status. Until then, and as always, feel free to follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.