If you recall last week’s edition of this column, I started off by explaining how much I love the fact that everyday with my job is truly different. The one challenge that comes along with that, though, is that you always have to be flexible. When I put together my business plan for our hockey division, I insisted that our focus should be on providing world-class service and personal attention, and my philosophy hasn’t changed. I want every athlete who signs with our firm to know that their agent genuinely cares about each one of their personal lives and careers. The easiest way to do that is to always be there – and not merely when it’s convenient for you, but when it’s convenient for them. Last week was a prime example of this.
As I mentioned before, very recently I got a lead on a potential 2010 NHL draft pick. Although I still can’t give away any details that might compromise his anonymity (can’t believe I spelled that correctly without spell check), I will explain how this all came about.
A few years ago I befriended a woman named Nicole (remember…fake names) who has close ties to many professional and amateur hockey players. She had been a housing parent for some players in a tournament I was attending, and after speaking with her for a while, I realized that besides being extremely nice, she was very willing and able to help me with my plan to eventually represent professional hockey players. I stayed in touch with her over the years and when it came time for me to put together my business plan, she proved to be an invaluable resource. Anyway, just about two weeks ago, I had heard that her son (we’ll call him “Joey”), who is a 19 year-old goalie who had been playing junior hockey here in the States, was suddenly without a team and wondered if I’d mind making some calls for him. Naturally, since I had known him for a few years, I told him I would be more than happy to help him out in any way that I could. I called around a few junior leagues, and while I wasn’t able to get him on a team this season (there’s only a handful of games left at the Tier II and III Junior levels and so coaches just aren’t looking to make moves), he still has two years of eligibility remaining and we’ve got some solid leads for next season. Joey called me expressing his appreciation for everything I was doing and let me know that his friend (let’s go with “Brian”) who was living with him and playing in the USHL, could use a good agent like me. I had known about Brian for a few years – back in 2006 he was already getting pegged as a first-round NHL draft pick. Getting a prospect like this would be a huge step forward for our hockey division, so I knew I had to stay on top of this one. Joey and I spoke more over the weekend and since Joey was skating with Brian’s team as a practice goalie, we decided it’d be a good idea for me to come to their skate on Monday and join them for dinner to discuss business that evening.
When Monday rolled around, however, just as I was about to leave for the practice I got a call from Joey – that day, practice was just going to be a light scrimmage and thus probably a waste of my time. On top of that, with Brian’s girlfriend in town, they were going to make a trip into the city that night to show her around. Not a big deal – as I said, you have to be flexible. Joey told me that Thursday his family, Brian, and Brian’s girlfriend were all going out to dinner to celebrate a birthday and said that I should come with. While originally I had planned on leaving for Ohio on Thursday, I decided to push my trip back a day – I knew this was an opportunity that I couldn’t blow.
Although Tuesday didn’t work out for me because of a scheduling conflict with an immigration client, I made it out to Brian and Joey’s practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. Obviously, I’m not going to base my judgment of a player on what I see in a couple of practices, but that’s not really why I’m there. Remember…I’m there because I care and because I work for my clients.
Thursday night ended up being a great one. Dinner went fantastic, and afterwards we all went bowling, which ended up being a blast. While nothing is official yet, it looks as though pretty soon we’ll have our next big client. Nicole speaks regularly with Brian’s mother, and with her experience in the sport, it seems as though she basically acts as the family advisor. I’m supposed to call Nicole later today and hopefully we’ll be talking about when to get Brian into my office to officially sign with my company.
The next morning I hit the road for Dayton to catch game one of the weekend. I pulled into town 45 minutes before Matt’s game and met up with a friend from Ohio Northern who now lives in the area. My cousin also goes to school there, so she and some friends met us up at the game as well. I rolled into the rink with my entourage of five college girls, and the rink was exactly as Matt had described it. Think War Memorial Stadium from “Slap Shot” and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about. Although the Gems dropped the game to the first-place Muskegon Lumberjacks, Matt played pretty well. While he was -1 on the night, he had a number of nice hits and moved the puck extremely well. If he keeps progressing at this rate, hopefully we’ll get him playing up with an ECHL squad next season.
The next morning I swung over to Matt’s apartment and hung out with him for a bit before he had to hit the road – the Gems were playing a home-and-home series with Muskegon, so they had a six-hour bus trip ahead of them that day. After he left, I got some emails sent out, made some phone calls, and then it was time to head up north to Toledo.
I arrived at the Walleye’s stadium right as the game was about to begin. Needless to say, I’ve been to a lot of ice rinks at all different levels of hockey, and I’ve got to say that Toledo has one of the nicer buildings in the country. While it only seats around 8,000, it just opened in 2009 and is a great place to watch a game. Besides just providing me with a nice seat, though, the Walleye gave me some great on-ice entertainment as well. In the end, Toledo took the game 3-0 (although the third goal was an empty-netter). Even better – my good friend Dan Watson coaches the Walleye defensemen who had the first two Walleye goals. After the game, I headed down to the locker rooms to see Dan. We spoke for a while, talking about hockey and everything else in our lives, and it was great to catch up. Dan’s a great guy who definitely knows his stuff, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to make it out there for another game later this season.
Since I was tired from a long couple days of travel, Saturday night I decided to head down to Ohio Northern for the night instead of driving all the way back home. I still have a lot of friends that go to school there, so it was a great chance for me to see them. Overall, we had a great time, which isn’t exactly a regular occurrence in the small, desolate town of Ada, Ohio.
After four more hours in my car Sunday afternoon, I was back home in Chicago by about 3pm. And the great news…I was scheduled to work the 4-close shift at the rink that night. So much for unwinding right? Oh well…I guess that’s what retirement is for.
This week should be another busy one – I’ve got a meeting with an immigration client in about an hour, and as I mentioned, I have to get the ball rolling on Brian’s situation. At this point, I haven’t had time to look at the amateur schedules for this upcoming weekend, but for the most part, state tournaments are in full gear, so there should be some good hockey for me to watch somewhere. If any big news comes up, I’ll be sure to update my Twitter and Facebook accounts as usual. Until next week…it’s time to hit the showers.