If you’ve been following my column throughout the past few months, I’m sure you’ve gotten the impression that I have some extremely hectic weeks, with a few down weeks sprinkled in between. Without a doubt, I can say that the past seven days fall into the former. I haven’t been able to find much time for sleep, especially with Olympic hockey often keeping me up ‘til 2:00am most nights, but all my work and running around culminated into what was the biggest day for our hockey division to date.
When the week began, I still hadn’t gotten any official commitment from Brian’s camp (mainly his mother and father). However, I knew that this was at least an opportunity to show my stuff and that’s exactly what I intended to do. I began my plan of attack by contacting some NHL teams to try and gauge their interest in Brian for the upcoming 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Step one – getting a hold of someone.
I knew that getting an NHL General Manager on the phone would be extremely difficult, and to be honest, someone that high up the power food chain probably wouldn’t be the appropriate person to contact at this stage in the game. Instead, I targeted a few clubs’ U.S. amateur scouting directors. Every team I called, though, wouldn’t give out the contact information for their personnel – even the regional scouts. That left me with me with only the dreaded option of leaving messages with the assurance that I would hear back soon. I might be a few credits shy of my telepathy degree, but I’ve dealt with enough executive assistants to know it wouldn’t be as simple as that. But hey, if this job was easy, everyone would do it. I made a few follow-up calls later in the week, and while I still wasn’t finding much luck, I was able to determine that the Anaheim Ducks would have a scout in attendance at one of Brian’s games this past weekend. I didn’t know whether he was there to scout Brian specifically, but quite frankly I didn’t care – my job is to sell my clients, and if a team doesn’t feel like my client is right for them, I’ll just show them why he is.
Thursday morning started off with a meeting with some financial planners who work specifically with high net worth individuals. They had heard about my work with my company and wanted to sit down with me to discuss the possibility of doing some work for my hockey clients. While none of my clients would currently be considered “high net worth” individuals, my experience in the industry has taught me that you have to be careful when entrusting athletes finances with outside financial planners. As with any industry, there are a few bad seeds, and before I would ever recommend a client to a particular firm, I’d have to know I could trust them. Basically, this was more of a first interview, and I’ll be sure to keep in touch with them as our hockey division progresses. Now I’ll be honest – at first I felt a little out of place during this meeting. I mean, I’m 25 years old, fresh out of law school, and I’m sitting down with executives that have been working in the financial world for close to 30 years. But I had to remind myself that they were there because they recognized that I was in a position to help them. When you mentally put yourself back into a position of power, it’s a lot easier to find that confidence and realize that you belong.
After my meeting, I headed into my office for a few hours to start contacting some OHL teams about drafting Brian this Spring. Brian’s only a ’91 birth year, so he still has two years of Junior hockey eligibility remaining, and regardless of whether or not he’s taken in the upcoming NHL Draft, he’ll most likely spend at least one more year developing his game in the Junior hockey system. The “O” would be the next step for Brian, so my short-term goal is to get him on a team up there for next year. Unfortunately, my initial success was similar to that which I had with the NHL clubs – more messages left and more assurances given.
After a few more failed attempts to get a scout or assistant GM on the phone, I had to head out to Brian’s and Joey’s practice. While sitting at the rink, I made a quick phone call to Sean’s father, Chris, about getting Sean’s application in for the first annual USHL Draft Combine this April. Sean and his family want him to play NCAA Hockey, and since the U.S. Colleges pull most of their talent from the USHL, I told Chris that this would be a great opportunity to, at the very least, get Sean some exposure in front of USHL and college coaches. The Combine is invite-only, so a player must apply for a spot and then be accepted, but with Sean’s resume, I’m really not concerned.
After practice, I met up with Brian and Joey just to see how things were going. Joey had gotten me a highlight DVD of himself that he wanted me to check out so that I could start helping him to prepare for his next season in Juniors. I knew I was going to be at both of Brian’s games over the weekend, so we kept our meeting pretty brief.
Thursday evening I found some time to head into the gym for a bit, but then it was right back to work – with the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois (AHAI) Tier I State Tournament underway, the Bantam Major Chicago Mission would square off against Team Illinois that night. Both teams were ranked in the top-ten nationally, so it was set up to be a great game. In the end, Team Illinois skated away with a decisive victory, but afterwards I was able to speak with the coach of the Mission. As I know I’ve said before, with the hockey community, it seems as though you have a connection with anyone you meet and this was certainly no exception. It turns out that their coach actually played for my Grandfather in college. My Grandpa was extremely well-respected in the sport, so needless to say, I walked away from our conversation feeling pretty confident that this was a guy I could call upon if he had a player I was looking to advise.
Friday, though, is when things started getting really interesting. While I continued making calls to teams in the OHL, all of a sudden I started getting calls back. I spoke with a handful of front office officials from various clubs in the league, and while they are all very interested in Brian, none of them even knew that he was interested in playing in the “O” next year. While it seemed as though they all had numerous scouting reports on Brian, I wanted to give them an idea of what he could offer each of their clubs. I explained that my company was working on his media and highlight package and that I’d be sure to let them know when we’d be sending them out. After days of feeling neglected, it sure was nice to feel like they were fortunate to be speaking with me.
That night I was extremely anxious to speak with Brian after his game. As I mentioned, we still had no commitment from him, but this was a great chance to show him the value that I could add to his career. Brian played well and his team pulled off a nice victory. I didn’t notice the scout from Anaheim, but there was still another game the next evening. Afterwards, I spoke with Brian briefly and explained what had transpired over the past 24-hours. He seemed very grateful for my help so far and I assured him that there’d be more to come.
I got back home around 11:00pm – just in time to catch the Finland/Germany game. Finland dominated the game and won 5-0, but I still couldn’t drag myself off the couch until after the game concluded…I mean, it’s Olympic hockey. On top of that, I still had to check out Joey’s highlight DVD. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was exactly what I was looking for. While it was a little long to send out to Junior coaches, it provided a lot of great clips that we could chose from in creating the final product. Sometime soon, I plan on getting Joey ice time at the rink so we can get some additional footage as well.
Saturday is when things really started to pick up. While at Brian’s game that night, I noticed the Anaheim scout standing at the top of the bleachers above where Joey, Nicole (Joey’s mom) and I were sitting. At the first intermission, I decided to head up and strike up a conversation and it couldn’t have gone much better. I asked him who he was watching and what he thought about Brian’s game. While he mentioned that he didn’t think the Ducks would be taking him this year because of their particular style of play, he did say that he was on their radar and he wouldn’t be surprised if an NHL club took a chance on him. In all, we spoke for about 20 minutes – mostly discussing each of our career paths and some of those hockey connections we share. After meeting him, I’d definitely consider him one of those “good” guys in the industry. We exchanged contact information and I’ll be sure to follow up with him soon.
After the game, Nicole invited me over to their home for a late dinner, some drinks, and to watch the Belarus/Germany game. Since I’ve been friends with Nicole’s family for a few years, it’s always nice to spend time with them away from the rink. It also gave us a better opportunity to discuss both Joey’s and Brian’s futures in the sport. It wasn’t all business though – Joey and Brian were sure to find some time to give me a free lesson on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Let’s just say I was less than impressive. Ah, the days when I had time for videogames and was actually good at them.
Sunday morning for me started out as usual – church in the morning and getting ready for work at the rink that afternoon and evening. With it being “Hatred Day” as Jeremy Roenick coined it, I certainly wanted to be on my couch watching the terrific Olympic hockey lineup. But I still have bills to pay, and with two high-definition televisions at the rink, I knew I’d get by. It turned out, though, that the Olympic hockey wouldn’t be the highlight of my day – not by a long shot. Right before they dropped the puck on the U.S./Canada game, I got a call from Nicole. Apparently she’d continued to speak with Brian’s parents, and after a few days of consideration, Brian and his family were on board with our firm. Getting such good news certainly helped me get through the remainder of my 11-hour shift at the rink. But now the real work begins.
So here I am, completely exhausted, but ready to get back at it today. I’ve got a ton of phone calls to make and I’m planning on getting some of Brian’s games from his coach later this afternoon when I swing by their practice.
One thing I want to be sure to point out is the fact that all these “breaks” I’ve been getting aren’t merely a product of being lucky. In my opinion, in life you make your own luck and if you truly want to succeed in life, you need to make sacrifices and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Sure, I could have been out at the bars with my friends in the city this past weekend. Instead, though, I chose to spend my time in an ice rink, showing my commitment to a potential client – and apparently, my hard work is paying off. But as I said, it doesn’t stop now.
On a side note, it seems that despite my endless amount of work as an agent, attorney, columnist, scout, and ice rink employee, I’ll be taking an opportunity to do some work for a college hockey buddy on the side to earn a little extra money. It pretty much means that I won’t have a second to myself, but I could use the cash, and since he’s a friend, I could work whenever it’s convenient for me. Looking back, I can’t understand how anyone would ever question whether I have the drive to succeed in life. Don’t’ get me wrong, for the most part, I’ve surrounded myself with incredibly supportive family and friends and I truly appreciate the numerous emails I’ve gotten from all you faithful readers out there – but everybody has their doubters. And if there’s anything I want you to take away from this week’s entry, it’s that believing in yourself is more important than anything. When you truly know what makes you happy, you have to go for it despite what others around you might say along the way. In the end, it’s your life – and you only get to live it once.
And with that, I must leave you. Hopefully soon, our firm will be making the official announcement of our new signing and then when I’m not on the phone this week I’ll be pouring through hours of game film looking for the best clips for Brian’s highlight reel. Until next week…it’s time to hit the showers.