With only a few weeks remaining in most leagues’ regular seasons, the opportunities for players to get noticed are dwindling by the day. When your team isn’t in the playoff picture, as is the case with the Chicago Steel, performing well each time you lace up the skates becomes even more crucial. And the same goes for agents – each game that passes means there’s one less chance to interact with scouts and sell your client in-person. Over the past two weeks I’ve been to five of the six games Andrey and the Steel have played in – including a game in Green Bay last Sunday and one in Des Moines just this past Saturday. Needless to say, it’s been a hectic but exciting time. And with Steel games scheduled for this Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and a Dayton Gems game at Fort Wayne, IN sandwiched in there on Thursday, it doesn’t seem as though my life will be slowing down quite yet.
For the most part, the early portion of last week was spent trying to get some leads on a few NHL teams that I hadn’t noticed at the rink lately. At this point, I’ve got a pretty good idea as to where I think Andrey will go in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. While it’s only a projection, it is based off some things I’ve heard from scouts and it helps me gauge which teams will be more or less interested in taking him. With that in mind, I was able to narrow down a list of clubs to pursue more actively. I based my assessment on both the individual clubs’ style of play and also on whether each club had a good number of selections available this year in the rounds near where I think Kuchin’s likely to be picked. Fortunately, a few of the teams that I had put high on my list ended up being clubs who’ve sent a number of scouts down over the past couple weeks. Unfortunately, though, there were still a handful of clubs that Kuchin matched up with very nicely that I hadn’t noticed around. So it was back to the phones to leave another round of messages hoping to hear anything back. I was able to touch base with a scout from one team I had my eye on, and while I once again wasn’t able to get any direct answers, there were a few things said that indicated that there was some definite interest. That’s the thing about team officials though – they know not to tip their hand. When I asked one particular scout who I’m fairly close with how I could get some information from the NHL clubs, all I got in response was “you don’t,” accompanied by a smile and a laugh.
On Thursday afternoon I made a trip into the city for a Sports Lawyers Association meeting. I’ve been a member of SLA for the past year, and just this past Fall, we started a Midwest chapter that has met a few times since then. We sat down for a short presentation regarding Family Law issues that commonly arise with professional athletes, and afterwards most of those in attendance stuck around for a little socializing/networking. I was able to meet a reader of this column, Rich Wallace (hope you don’t mind the shout out) as well as a few other people working in different areas of the sports industry. I recognized several faces from our past meetings, and with our annual SLA Conference taking place this May, hopefully I’ll be seeing them again soon.
For anyone not familiar with SLA, I encourage you to check it out. Besides enabling you to meet some great people, SLA puts on some terrific events. If you’re still in law school or graduated within the past two years, then I definitely suggest that you to look into membership – annual dues are extremely reasonable for individuals falling into that group. The SLA website can be found at www.sportslaw.org.
Friday morning it was off to Des Moines. For anyone not a “fan” of this column on Facebook, that night I was going to be meeting with members of the Drake University Sports Business Association and the Drake University Law School Sports and Entertainment Law Society. Overall, things went terrific – the students had some great questions and I hope that I was able to provide a little guidance. Special thanks should go out to Colin Hagan for putting everything together.
The next day the Steel were set to square off against the Des Moines Buccaneers at Buccaneer Arena. After I’d caught up on my email and ran a few errands, I had a few hours to kill, so I swung by a local sports bar to catch a little bit of the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Regional action. If you’re not a big hockey fan, I suggest you check out the Frozen Four next weekend – without question it’s one of the most exciting tournaments in sports. Unfortunately, the scheduling forces it to compete with much of the Men’s Basketball tournament, so when I asked if they could put the Yale/North Dakota game on, I was escorted to a seat by a TV in the back corner of the restaurant. I was able to enjoy a cold drink and some food while I watched the first half of the game and then it was back in my car to head to the rink.
This was my first experience with Buccaneer Arena, and boy am I glad I decided to go. When I tried to picture what the rink would be like, I actually wasn’t too far off. If you’d like to see a picture taken from my vantage point, I have one posted on the Facebook page. Luckily, when I got to the rink and there wasn’t a ticket waiting for me at will call, I was able to speak with one of the events directors and when I told him I was Kuchin’s agent, he got me set up with one pretty quickly. He even was able to direct me to the hot spot for scouting activity. Not bad right?
During the game, I noticed a handful of guys who were obviously scouting with a team or teams, but it didn’t seem like there were too many in attendance. Andrey scored a goal on a nice defection in the first period, so I knew there’d be a little less pressure my initial approach. After the first period ended, I slid down and struck up a conversation with two of the guys I had noticed. It turned out that one was scouting for an NHL team and the other coached for an NCAA DI program. I brought up Andrey early in the conversation to try and get a feel for the interest level, but as expected, I wasn’t given much. The three of us spoke for most of the intermission about random aspects of our jobs and hockey in general. For the most part, I just want these guys to see that I’m a good guy that they can feel comfortable around. I want them to know that if they ever have any questions about any of my clients – in this case Andrey – they can call me without hesitation. Obviously, when I’m dealing with a college coach, there really isn’t as much immediate pressure (Andrey’s ineligible for NCAA play since he’s already played professional hockey in Russia), but at the same time, I still have younger kids whose families I advise, and knowing coaches at the NCAA level can certainly help out their situations.
With the goalie pulled late in the game, Kuch was able to bury a backhand shot for his 20th goal of the season, but in the end, the Steel fell short once again – this time by a score of 4-3. Afterwards, I met with Andrey and Teddy (who by the way dressed the past three games) and was able to speak with them for a bit before they had to board the bus. Then it was back on the road for myself as well.
After a long five-hour drive, I pulled back into Chicago around 3:40am. I had considered staying over in Iowa City Saturday night, but sometimes all I want to do is sleep in my own bed. As long as I’ve got a little caffeine and some good music, sometimes driving at night is a great way for me to just have some time to myself. Come to think of it, lately it’s been the only time I have to myself.
With Andrey’s marketing packet close to completion, these next 48 hours or so will be spent putting the finishing touches on it. We still have some minor editing of his highlight DVD remaining, but once that’s done, which should be either today or tomorrow, we’ll be mailing them out to the teams we’re focusing most of our resources on. I should note that some clubs I’ve spoken with already have all his game film, so we’re really not too worried about them. Also, we should be posting the video on YouTube once it’s finished and I’ll be sure to keep you all posted via the Facebook Fan Page on that.
Well as I said, I have another busy week ahead of me. I apologize for the brevity of this week’s entry in comparison to those of weeks past, but I hope that my Facebook updates have been effectively filling any gaps in between. Thanks again to everyone I met with at Drake University this past weekend, and I hope you all have a terrific week. With that…it’s time to hit the showers.