Headline Hockey

Rookie Duties: Help Me, Help You!

Ever have those weeks when the work just never stops coming? You know – those ones when it seems as though just as you wrap up one issue, another follows right in its footsteps ready to smack you in the face? Sure, in this business, a busy agenda is usually a good thing…but at a certain point, fighting the natural tendency to get “frazzled” just seems impossible. With a handful of hockey clients looking for contracts and a number of Immigration clients waiting on Visa approvals, this past week was just another one of those in the crazy year that has been my first full year in the “real world.” But despite all the calls coming into, and going out from, my office the past seven days, I somehow finally managed to book my first annual visit to Moscow just about twelve months after I had originally planned on making it. It’s been quite a process getting this trip all put together, and a real pain continually having to push it back. But when clients keeping me busy is the reason for the delay, I guess I really can’t complain.

My first order of business for the week – finalize Matt’s contract situation. As I know I had mentioned, last Saturday the Dayton Gems sent us an offer for this upcoming season. But throughout the summer, I’d also been talking with Matt about getting him into some ECHL tryouts. I have a few connections in the league, and we thought that with the way Matt performed in his rookie season, he might be ready to take the next step forward.

Normally, players signed to minor pro leagues are allowed to leave for contracts with teams in a “higher” league. For example, the CHL (Central Hockey League – not to be confused with the Canadian Hockey League), which the Dayton Gems are now members of, is a “AA” professional league. If a player signed to a “AA” club is offered a contract with an AHL (“AAA”) or NHL team, he can accept the offer without violating his contract. However, while it is generally understood throughout the hockey community that the ECHL is a stronger league than the CHL, the ECHL is still technically only a “AA” pro league, and thus at the same level as the CHL. If Matt signed with Dayton and was offered a contract by an ECHL team, the Gems could release him and allow him to sign with the ECHL club – but they wouldn’t have to. So it came down to decision time – sign the contract and rest easy that Matt has a deal in place, or get him set up with a few ECHL camps and hope that things work out.

Before we did anything, I wanted to give Matt’s new coach (who interestingly enough I played against in college) a call and feel him out a bit.You never know – maybe he’d be open to allowing Matt to attend an ECHL camp even after he’s signed with Dayton. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, but we did speak for a while and I was happy with what I heard regarding his opinion on the progression of Matt’s career.

After a long discussion with Matt, we decided to have him sign and fax the contract to the Gems. A major factor in our ultimate decision was the stress we remembered dealing with last summer. In case you don’t recall, or simply weren’t following along at the time, Matt injured his shoulder during a CHL camp last August, which left him without a contract and unable to skate during those crucial weeks leading into the season. In the end, we had to settle for a contract with a team which we knew he was over-qualified for, but also with the understanding that the best (and possibly only) way to get him where he wanted to be was to make sure he was on the ice, playing somewhere. His brief stint with the Shooters is what got him up to Dayton, and we’re hoping that our strategy will once again pay off and help him get another bump up on the totem pole.

While things were going well with Matt for the upcoming season, the situation on the Junior hockey front with my Russian boys was continuing to prove itself to be a difficult one. The primary issue holding things up – reluctance on the part of coaches to save a roster spot for a player they’ve never seen play personally. Most Junior camps will be over within the next week or two, so time is of the essence. But with the boys still in Russia, I don’t want to have them fly all the way out here unless I’m able to first get some sort of indication that a coach is seriously interested.

Obviously as the agent/advisor of the boys, my assessment is only going to carry so much weight with a coach or scout – especially where the team isn’t a Tier I club where most of my relationships are found. I had hoped that some of the outside scouting reports from the Chicago Steel camp would add a little credibility to my recommendations, but it doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. What makes it especially frustrating is that lack of effort in following up with these scouts I’m referring is most likely the true source of the problem. I understand that coaches at the Tier II level and below only have so much time and so many resources to allocate when putting a team together, but when I’m making things this easy, it’s always aggravating to find out that they’re not taking advantage of my assistance. Just help me help you – pick up the phone and make the call! I’ll be honest – I wasn’t shy in telling a few coaches that they were making a big mistake in not securing kids that will be some of the top players in their respective leagues. At least when that “I told you so” moment rolls around they’ll make sure to take a mental note to listen to me next time.

Despite a few frustrating days during the week, by Friday I was able to lock down a spot for the younger of the two boys to skate with an American team within the next couple weeks. He gets back to Moscow from Turkey on Thursday, so hopefully we’ll figure out a way to get him into the U.S. before our planes are passing each other over the Atlantic.

Also keeping me busy in my office this past week was trying to find an AHL PTO for another Russian client who’s spent the last few seasons in Russia skating in the KHL. The financial situation with his team has had a significant monetary impact on his contract and he’s looking to explore his options overseas. After speaking with about half the teams in the AHL, we’ve got some leads on a few possible options, but certainly nothing that can be counted on at this point. So what does that mean for me? Come on, you should know this by now – more calls for me to make this week.

Saturday was Yakubov’s last day at the Academy of Human Performance. It’s unbelievable how fast the past couple months have flown by and it’s amazing how much Mike was able to accomplish in such a short period of time with the great staff at the Academy. In just five weeks of training, he was able to add three pounds of lean muscle tissue, drop his body fat by two percent, and increase his vertical jump by almost four full inches. In addition, the staff provided Mike with a uniquely tailored program for him to follow during the playing season. Both Mike and I couldn’t be happier with the results he saw, and it’s definitely just the beginning of what I think will be a very successful partnership between ISA and the Academy. Right now we’ve got Kuchin scheduled to begin his training on Saturday, August 14th and I can’t wait to see the impact it has on his game. And if any agents working out of the Chicagoland area are interested in getting some top-notch training for their clients, get a hold of me and I’ll be sure to put you in touch with R.W. Brown and his group.

After I got back from the facility Saturday afternoon, it was time to book my flight to Moscow. I’m still waiting on my Visa to be approved (which means purchasing a ticket is somewhat of a gamble) but with air fares climbing higher and higher as my desired date of departure crept closer, I had to secure myself a seat. Thankfully I was able to find a reasonable round-trip fare which has me heading to Moscow July 26th and coming back home August 11th. I wasn’t able to get on Andrey’s flight heading back to Chicago but we’ll just have to deal with it I suppose. Seeing as how this much anticipated trip is now only two weeks away, I’m starting to get very excited to spend time with some of my friends that I haven’t seen for years. The spike in my Russian vocabulary that I know I’ll see after my stay in Moscow is another thing I’m really looking forward to.

Well with lots of trip preparation and loose ends to tie up within the next fourteen days, it’s time for me to get back to work. Have a wonderful week and until next Monday…it’s time to hit the showers.

One reply on “Rookie Duties: Help Me, Help You!”

Scott, have you tried any NAHL teams for the Russians or are you just looking at USHL teams? I mean something is better than nothing if they really want to play over here.

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