Well after weeks of coming up just short, I was finally able to get Matt officially signed. After two days of practicing with his new team, I got a text from Matt Wednesday afternoon – “what’s your office fax number? they want to sign me later today.” For the previous 48 hours I had been anticipating the team offering Matt a contract and so I told him to get me a copy of it before he signed anything. I assumed that the agreement wouldn’t cover much and would probably be a standard boilerplate deal, but I wanted to be sure that we could get Matt out of any obligations in the event that I find another opportunity for him in a stronger league.
Matt gave his coach my office fax number and I let my partner know that the contract would be coming in at any time. I was going to need my co-worker to scan the fax and email me a PDF version of it – unfortunately for me, all this news came while I was working at the ice rink and the fax machine in our building wasn’t working. I waited an hour or so and we still had nothing. I called Matt up but he didn’t have much information for me either – apparently the coach hadn’t even talked numbers with him. I pulled the coach’s number up on my phone and hit “send.” Just then it struck me – if I get the coach on the line, I’m going to be handling my first contract negotiation. As the anxiety started to build, a part of me hoped to get his voicemail. I quickly calmed myself down by realizing that in a year or two, coaches at this level will be hoping I’m answering their phone calls – I’ve used this tactic before and it does actually help.
Right when I thought I was about to get his outgoing message, he answered. After a few moments of small talk, it’s time to talk numbers. When I was told how much they were willing to offer Matt, I was caught off guard big time – and not in a good way. I knew that Matt wouldn’t be making much in the AAHL, but the figure I was given was almost half as much as some players I know on other teams in the league earn. Quickly following the meager offer was the coach’s attempted justification – “You know this league is more about the opportunities that will come, not the money that’s earned.” I explained that I understood how the league works but that I was hoping he would be a little flexible with the figure. Matt plans to live at home during his time with the club so the team wouldn’t have to worry about housing costs. On top of that, Matt and I grew up only an hour away from the team’s home rink so each game he will have a handful of family members and friends paying the $8 admission. I tried to use both these factors to get Matt a little more, but I wasn’t getting much movement. Instead, I could sense some agitation on the other end of the phone.
After a few more minutes of pushing, I realized that this number wasn’t going anywhere. “I realize that you’re just doing your job as an agent and I respect that, but you need to tell Matt that we’re willing to offer him this amount of money per week…he can take it or leave it.” At that point I started to worry that I might have been a little too aggressive. I explained to the coach that I would pass the offer onto Matt and see how he feels. As I thought about the situation more and more, I began to realize that we needed this contract a lot more than the coach needed Matt. While having Matt on the team would surely help elevate the team’s level of play, if the deal wasn’t done, it’s not as if the coach was going to lose his job. On the other hand, if we didn’t get Matt signed, it could make it that much harder landing him on another team mid-season.
I called Matt up and we talked it over for a bit. I tried to explain all our options and suggested that maybe we just have him push the signing back one more day. The frustration of being released twice over the last few weeks had taken an emotional toll on the both of us and I could tell that Matt just wanted this suspense to be over, regardless of how much he’d be making. At the end of the day it really was his decision and so I told him that if he wanted to sign that night, just make sure he’s not stuck if a team in a higher league wants him later in the season. After we finally received the contract, I looked it over and it was pretty straightforward. Once I gave him the green light, Matt went in to meet with the coach. Just under an hour later, Matt was officially a pro hockey player. It might not have been as flashy as either of us expected, but it’s still another step in the right direction.
I figured that after I got Matt signed to his first deal, I’d be free from much of the stress that hung over me day after day. Twenty-four hours later, however, I was tossing and turning in bed – my Bar Exam results were being released the next morning. Four months of studying, two-and-a-half days of testing, and three months of waiting had finally come down to this. By the time 5:50am central rolled around, I’d gotten about three hours of sleep. While I was completely exhausted, rest was the last thing on my mind – it was time to get up, load the Ohio Office of Bar Admissions website, and start hitting the refresh button until the names of those passing the July exam got posted. At exactly 6:00am, just as the bar examiners promised, there they were. But now I couldn’t decide if looking was such a good idea. I mean what if my name wasn’t up there? What would I do for money? Would I have to lie to my girlfriend? Shut up Scott, just look. I could feel my heart pounding through my chest as I scrolled down the list of names. My name wasn’t there!!! Then I realize that “Deady” comes after “Davis.” What an idiot. Keep going, keep going. Holy crap…I passed! Never had I felt such a weight being lifted off my shoulders. Within seconds, I got a call from my girlfriend, Bridget. I talked to her briefly and then texted some buddies who also passed the exam and anyone else I could think of.
But the excitement of my day didn’t end there – later that night, Matt had his first professional game not far from where I live. After a nice celebration dinner with my family, I drove up to the rink and it was pretty much what I expected – about 75 people in the stands and an acoustic guitar rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Regardless, this was a special day for both Matt and myself. In the end, Matt’s team lost the game 4-3. Matt ended up with a minus one +/- rating, but he did have a couple of solid plays and nice hits. While the outcome may have been less than what we had hoped for, this was only the first of many games in what will hopefully be a long, successful career.
After the game, I went out with Matt and his family to grab some food and a few drinks. While there may have been a few jokes about the presentation of the game itself, I could tell that deep down everyone at the table was truly proud of Matt…myself included. And to be honest, that feeling is a big reason why I love doing this, despite all the frustration that comes along with it.
This Thursday, the annual Nike/Bauer International Invite will begin in rinks throughout the Chicagoland area. Much of the top young talent in the world will be in attendance – some of the age brackets there are as many as 80 teams competing. Years ago, when I was playing in a similar tournament, you could find future NHL talent including Zach Parise, Alexander Radulov, and Enver Lisin. Trust me when I tell you that the level of play hasn’t diminished since then. Needless to say, there’s going to be hordes of scouts and other agents floating around and the atmosphere should be incredible. I’m still working on getting in touch with the two Russian teams flying in and I’m hoping a client of mine playing professionally in Moscow can help me out. I’ll actually be giving him a call in just about an hour so hopefully that gets me somewhere.
By this time next week, I’d like to be explaining how I successfully pitched my firm to my next potential client. Until then, I’ll be sure to keep weekend updates posted on my Twitter account so follow along if interested. You can also find tournament details on their website at www.invitebauer.com.