54th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Captain of the Canadian U20 World Junior team. And now, suspended from his junior team for the rest of the season. Patrice Cormier has gone from the height of success to the depths of hockey disdain.
Cormier played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (the Q) for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. In a game against the Quebec Ramparts on January 17th, Cormier skated across the neutral zone and delivered a flying elbow to the head of Mikael Tam. Normally I would post a link to a video of the hit, but it’s just too gruesome. The hit sent Tam into convulsions on the ice and he is still recovering.
Cormier has built a reputation for these types of hits, which is another reason the Q suspended him for the remainder of the season. The hit also made me think of a column this site used to run called “Nightmare Clients.” While Cormier’s dirty hits on the ice may not reflect his character off the ice, it still presents a big issue for his agent to deal with. As Cormier’s agent, Sports Management Worldwide’s Tim Cranston has the duty of dealing with this issue.
Cormier’s situation presents several problems. First, he doesn’t have a team to play with for the rest of the season. It was likely that he was going to join the New Jersey Devils, the team that drafted him, at the end of this season. So maybe he can just suit up with the Devils’ farm team for the remainder of the season? Well anything chance of that happening was ruined by two developments: (1) the Devils said they would honor the suspension handed down by the Q and (2) Cormier was one of the players traded from the Devils to the Atlanta Thrashers in the deal for Illya Kovalchuk. Cormier was someone the Thrashers really wanted in the trade, so it doesn’t appear that Cranston needs sell them on Cormier’s character.
Second, how do you keep Cormier’s development on track when he will be missing out on potentially 48 games and even more practice time? It’s one thing to stay in the gym and get on the ice here and there, but it’s another thing to practice with a team and then utilize the skills learned in a game.
One issue agents should always be concerned with is endorsement value of the client. Cormier hasn’t even made an NHL roster yet and he’s already seriously tarnished his image. But making mistakes this early in his career could give him time to rebuild that image. He already took one step in the right direction by meeting in person with Tam in a closed-doors conversation. If he were my client, I would try to get him involved with an existing campaign dedicated to hockey safety. One that comes to mind immediately is Don Cherry and the Ontario Minor Hockey Association’s STOP campaign that aims to deter checking from behind.
What would you do if Cormier was your client?