This is an in depth weekly series that chronicles the quest of a boutique hockey agency, VSM Hockey, to reach the top of the NHL hockey agent world. Its story is narrated by its president and founder, Nikolaï Ray.
The year is 2008. I’m enjoying a beautiful day on the historic Plains of Abraham in Old Quebec. I’m running some of my major junior guys through some light speed and agility drills. The mood is fun and relaxed; it’s the month of May and the boys just started their off-season training. I ask a couple of my guys if they would be interested in hitting up a cool café in downtown Quebec to chat about me possibly taking care of the agent side of things. The 4 guys are more than happy to oblige.
We head off to a nice little place on Grande-Allée (a real hip street in Quebec) and grab some drinks (non alcoholic of course!). I give the boys my pitch. After discussing many details, they are all on board! Wow, I now have a sports agency. Seemed easy! Mind you, I had been taking care of these guys for over a year, and they really trusted me.
The summer goes by, and by the time training camps start, VSM Hockey has signed 10 players! Now, obviously, none of these guys had huge star potential, but they were good, solid, honest and hard working guys. I knew that we would have fun and that they would be good ambassadors for the future of VSM Hockey.
On a side note, for the first 2 years or so, I had a partner in VSM, who worked side by side with me. Unfortunately, I had to take drastic measures in 2010 due to the fact that we were going to lose nearly 25% of our clients due to their dissatisfaction with him. On top of that, 2 of our top kids from our next recruiting class refused to sign with us unless this person left our organisation. So, he is no longer with us, however I truly do wish him the best, as I know that he was never mal intentioned, maybe just clumsy.
The 2008-2009 season was one of ups and downs. We actually signed a kid who later went to an NHL camp, but he left us only 5 days after signing with us. We then had another kid at an NHL camp, but I ended up kicking him out of the agency due to his less than respectful behaviour. So, we had 2 guys at NHL camps within our first year, but neither of these players ended up sticking with VSM Hockey. We had some real cool success stories. One of our players barely thought that he would even make his major junior team. Too small, not fast enough. He combined his crazy work ethic with our scientific expertise and ended up being a captain as a rookie and becoming their top defenseman in only his first season. Another player whom we will call Jimmy was a real cool story too. Jimmy only got serious about hockey at the age of 17. He had never trained a day in his life. Weighing in at a measly 150 pounds on his 6 foot frame, needless to say he was less than impressive. Why wasn’t he serious you ask? Get this, at 15 years old he was only 5 foot 2 inches tall. At 16, he grew to be 6 foot tall. Anyway, we managed to get him to a Junior A team at 17, he ended up making the all-star team and being named a team captain, in his first season of competitive hockey. At 18, we managed to get him an invite to a major junior team. He ended up making the team despite being such an old rookie.
I made a lot of contacts during the year, just by being present at many games and introducing myself. Obviously, when you are 22, not many people take you serious. Nonetheless, I was persistent and very professional. I took many coaches, scouts and parents to lunch or coffee, and explained to them my philosophy and my vision. I met a lot of nice people, and also a lot of flaky and arrogant people. It’s a give and take world I guess. For all of you, who wish to become agents, remember two things: believe in yourself and work, work, work!
The 2008-2009 season saw us reach a total number of players of 30. An impressive number, especially if you consider how so few people had even heard of us. But the VSM brand was growing, and people were starting to recognize us!