Headline Hockey

Rookie Duties: The Clock is Ticking

It is t-minus seven days until my trip to Moscow is officially underway. I still have a couple of Russian kids looking for spots on Junior teams in North America, and optimally I’d like to have something set up for them by the time I’m 30,000 feet over the Atlantic…but my date of departure is approaching quickly. As I’m sure you could tell from last week’s entry, working “with” some Junior coaches has proven to be a frustrating experience over the past couple weeks, but as I pointed out to one fellow agent, that’s why we have our jobs. Athletes don’t want to have to deal with a lot of the b.s. and grunt work that us agents have to put up with on a regular basis. To be honest, as agents, our clients probably only see about five percent of the work we actually do for them. But as I know I’ve said multiple times before – if this job was easy, there’d be a lot more people in the business. Now if push comes to shove and the Russian boys have to play this season at home again, it won’t be the end of the world, but I’m certainly going to keep on grinding with the hope that we come up with a good fit for them over here.

Tuesday it was time to get to work for another one of my minor pro clients, Bill Pinel. Bill’s a good friend of Matt’s from their days back at UW-River Falls and he had contacted me in the Spring about finding him a contract now that his collegiate career had concluded. I had spoken with the Bloomington PrarieThunder, then a member of the IHL, about getting Bill under contract for the remainder of the 2009-10 season, but the deal was contingent on Bloomington qualifying for the playoffs, which unfortunately didn’t happen. However, I knew the team was still very interested in getting Bill, so it was nice to have a solid foundation going into this year. I had a few possible ECHL and CHL opportunities for Bill in the work,s but I have a good working relationship with Bloomington and after speaking with Bill about the situation, I knew he really just wanted the security of having a contract. So Tuesday morning I gave Bloomington a call to discuss Bill’s future with the team. I was asked what things I had lined up for Bill over the summer and whether Bill would consider forgoing those other opportunities if he was offered a contract from Bloomington. After they let me know what they were willing to offer, I said that I’d have to get in touch with Bill and run everything past him. Even though I knew that Bill would be on board, I always confirm things with my clients when it’s possible. After a quick text over to Bill, I got the green light to get the paperwork rolling, so one more call back to Bloomington and Bill’s contract offer was in my email inbox just a few minutes later.

Later in the week I got some shocking and unfortunate news about a Russian player named Alex Denezhkin, who had recently been selected by the Chicago Steel for the 2010-11 season. His father called and let me know that Alex had been told he was being released by the team due to some sort of Import spot issue. He asked if I minded contacting the Steel to confirm that this was the case and unfortunately it turned out to be true. The Steel coaches had mentioned that they were trying to find him another spot in the USHL, which I relayed to Alex’ father, but I was still asked if I, myself, could make some calls. Alex isn’t a client of mine, but I have gotten to know him very well, so naturally I told his father that I’d be more than happy to help him out in any way that I can.

On Thursday and Friday, I sent out a few emails and made a few calls to teams in both the U.S. and Canada. Unfortunately, while Alex is good enough to play up at the Major Junior level (and he did so two years ago), since he was rostered by the Steel, he wasn’t selected in the CHL Import Draft, which rules out any possibilities there. The Draft requirement of Import players has already proven to be a pretty irritating thorn in my side. I understand the desire to have parity in the CHL and how the Import Draft addresses that issue – but to require a free agent Import player to be drafted just to sign a contract, doesn’t seem to be the most efficient way of achieving it. In my opinion, the league should adopt some sort of waiver process where teams could sign free agent Imports, but only after they’ve cleared waivers. Teams at that level are limited to the number of Import players they have on their roster anyway, but this way a kid stuck without a team after the Draft would have the option of playing in the CHL. I’ve actually had a number of coaches mention that they completely agree, and to be honest, I see it as something I eventually will want to discuss with the CHL.

Friday afternoon I was fortunate enough to meet up for lunch with Ryan Ballard of Dynasty Athlete Representation and SAB while he was in town. Ryan and I have worked pretty close together over the past year and we communicate regularly. Even though technically we’re competitors, we both recognize the value we add to each other, so we often bounce ideas off one another, and sometimes it pays off. Case in point – I mentioned to Ryan about the situation with Denezhkin getting released by the Steel and he let me know about a Junior team he’d been dealing with that might be looking for a forward like him. Not that there are any guarantees in anything like this, but a lead is always a great thing to have. We’ll see if anything formulates with that later this week.

Besides my hockey work, last week was a fairly busy one as far as my Immigration practice goes, as well. With my trip to Moscow all booked, I’m going to basically be unavailable to my legal clients for two weeks, so I need to make sure I don’t leave any loose ends hanging with their cases.

Well with my crazy travel schedule beginning this coming Sunday, I’m not exactly sure when Rookie Duties will be posted on SAB next week. But don’t worry…I plan on posting during my stay in Russia, as well as keeping you up to speed via Facebook and Twitter, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to when you can expect next week’s entry. I already have a number of meetings planned with Zhamnov, some Russian players and their families, and even hockey journalist and Rookie Duties follower, Alessandro Rosso, so be sure to stay tuned for what hopefully will be some exciting updates.

Thanks so much for all the wonderful birthday wishes. I was able to have an amazing weekend with the unbelievable family and friends I’m so lucky to have. And I can’t thank Lindsey enough for making the weekend absolutely perfect – she definitely went above and beyond the call of duty and I’m incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing girl in my life. Also, while we’re on the subject, I want to wish her good luck on her first day of work today. She finished up an internship just this past Friday after receiving her Master’s Degree in the Spring, and started her full-time position in a new department of the same facility earlier this morning.

Anyway, with a full week ahead of me, it’s time to start running around and getting things organized. I hope you all have a great week in store, and for all you studying for the Bar Exam – good luck during this last week of cramming. With that, and until next week…it’s time to hit the showers.