Remember last week how I mentioned that by now I know to expect the unexpected with my work? Well Kuchin must have read my column Monday morning because within just a few hours of it posting on the SAB website, I got a call from Kuch at the rink:
“Scott – when do you think I can go home?”
“Kuch, we talked about this – you’re going back to Moscow in July after the Draft is over and I’m flying with you.”
“Oh, alright…well I think I’ll go home on Thursday.”
We had originally planned on having Kuchin in the States when the NHL Draft took place. I figured that if we ran into issues with his Russian club regarding his availability for the 2010-11 season, they’d be a lot easier to handle with him being already out of the country. Also, seeing as how this is the first NHL Draft I’ve prepared for, I knew it’d be a lot more fun having him around. But in the end, it’s about what your client wants (as long as it’s within reason), and since he’s going to be spending the entire hockey season halfway around the world from his girlfriend, family, and friends, I could tell he wanted to soak up as much time with them as he could this Summer. And it sure didn’t help that the three of the four other Russian kids that were attending the Steel camp were all heading home right after camp closed.
After I gave it some thought, with him scheduled to attend his KHL club’s camp next month anyway, if a problem comes up, I’m going to have to deal with it eventually regardless. Another huge factor in my decision to allow Kuchin to head back home earlier than planned was the fact that Kuchin’s Russian GM, Alex Zhamnov’s been great so far through the process of getting him a transfer card for this season. If I’d sensed any resistance in any of my several conversations with him, I probably would have been a little more hesitant to ask the Steel guys to book Kuchin’s flight back so early.
We ended up getting a flight for him for Friday afternoon, but Kuchin’s travel itinerary was by no means the only variable in the complex equation that was my week. In fact, with the four other Russian players in town for camp, it didn’t feel like there were any constants at all – except maybe bowling that is.
For the most part, Monday through Wednesday was spent either in the rink watching practices and games or in my car shuttling Russian players around town – when you represent one Russian, you basically represent all the rest that are in town. Fortunately, as an agent, this obviously gives me a great opportunity to showcase who I am and what I can do. When the boys see me fielding phone calls from NHL teams about, and getting travel arrangements in place for, Kuch, they naturally become a little curious. In these situations, I don’t even bring up representation besides simply asking if they have an agent – you should always make sure you’re not stepping on someone else’s toes. And usually after a day or two of hard work, the athletes will start asking me about helping them out anyway.
Throughout camp, ice times were scheduled for the morning and night, which left a lot of dead time to kill in between. Thankfully, the Steel guys put all the Russians together on the same team in camp. Otherwise, I have no idea how I would’ve been able to make things work. I’m sure by now you can tell how Russians are generally indecisive and spontaneous when it comes to planning out their days. Well let me tell you, when you’re dealing with five teenaged Russians, forget about it. I don’t know how many times I had to pull my car over because our plans would change while en route to our initial destination. But besides just fighting traffic, walking through shopping malls, sitting in ice rinks for hours on end, and bowling more than I have in the past 12 months combined, you also have to consider the fact that only Kuchin and one other kid spoke English which left me with a healthy dose of translating duties. Trust me when I say that as someone not native to the language, translating Russian all day is extremely mentally exhausting. By the end of each night, all I wanted to do was relax with a cold beer and go to sleep.
Overall though, the week was a great one – all the boys played very well and we had a lot of fun the few nights they were around. Fortunately, I was also given the green light to start working for a couple of the Russian kids I had been helping out throughout camp. I told you, didn’t I? But by Thursday afternoon it was time for them to start running them back up to O’Hare to head back home, making things with my new “advisees” a little more difficult.
See, the two boys I’m now helping out ended up not making the Steel. But what makes their situations different from those of the American players who got cut is the reason for their not getting selected. Under the USA Hockey Import Rule, teams competing in the USHL are only allowed to roster a maximum of two rookie Import (non-American) players, so often making the team as an Import player can be much more difficult than it is for an American. Instead of trying out for one of 25 spots, they’re essentially competing for one of two roster slots. Also, generally those competing for the limited Import spots have been invited for a reason – a club isn’t going to pay to have a kid flown in if they don’t think he has a real shot of being a solid contributor to the team, so the competition is at a very high level. Oh and did I mention that one my boys is only 15 years old? Not bad seeing as the Steel coaches let me know that they were extremely close to taking him despite being so young.
Throughout the week, I had a number of scouts ask me about the situations of both Russian boys. At the time, nobody knew that I was going to be working for them, but by now scouts and coaches know that I’m the guy to talk to when there are Russian players in the building. I basically explained that I was going to start looking for a good spot for them somewhere in the USHL and Major Juniors. One guy in particular that works for an independent scouting service was kind enough to offer his recommendation if I needed it – and since both boys are back in Moscow and not currently available for a North American tryout, I’m already cashing that favor in.
Kuchin was the last of the boys to head back to Russia. Luckily, that meant that I was able to get him in for an initial testing day over at the Academy of Human Performance, where Yakubov’s been working out and loving every minute of it. Just like with Yak, Kuchin didn’t exactly enjoy the first day, but he had a long flight to relax, so I wasn’t too worried about it.
After the guys over at the Academy were finished with Kuch, it was straight off to the airport. I always hate the days when clients leave town for a while. Sure, I should be seeing Kuch in less than a month, but with the excitement of the NHL Draft building all this week, it’d sure be fun having him around. And I’m not going to lie – despite all the issues I had to deal with having the boys in town, I felt pretty lonely leaving O’Hare Friday. Although, don’t get me wrong – it was great to finally be able to spend some time with Lindsey over the weekend after a long, busy week. Sure am lucky to have found somebody that doesn’t mind my crazy schedule (although I’m sure most of my friends would agree that a break from me every once in a while could never hurt).
Well, needless to say, with the Draft commencing this Friday night at 6:00pm CST, it’s going to be a ridiculous week for me in my office. For any of you who are going to be following along, don’t expect Kuchin’s name to be called on the first day. Friday night is only for Round 1 which will be televised on Versus here in the States. Saturday, though, is when things should get really exciting. Coverage of Rounds 2-7 will begin at 12:00pm CST, and while most experts are projecting Kuch to fall in the 5th-7th Round range, you never know what team could wise up and snag him earlier.
But besides finalizing some last minute draft prep this week, as I mentioned, I’ve also got a lot of work ahead of me with the other Russian boys. I’ve already sent out emails to a number of teams that might be interested, so the next few days will be spent following up on some leads and trying to get something in place quickly.
Feel free as always to keep the questions and comments coming this week. I’ll be sure to post Draft updates through this weekend and I’ll do my best to respond to anything you might post on the Facebook Page. I hope you all had a wonderful Father’s Day with your family and I’d like to give a special shout out to the guy the Deady crew so lovingly refers to as “Briman.” Without you Dad, I would never have been able to go after the job that I now have and truly love. Oh and I almost forgot…Lindsey got offered a job on Friday and she definitely deserves a big congratulations on that – definitely an exciting time in life for both of us and plans for an obnoxious number celebration parties are in the works. Anyway, I hope you all have a terrific week in store for you and any good luck wishes and prayers this week will be greatly appreciated. Well with that and until next week…it’s time hit the showers.