Aiming For The Top! – Episode 4: The New Year
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.
Hello everyone! This article will discuss everything that has happened since the beginning of the New Year.
First off, our chief agent Don MacAdam spent the first week at the World Under 17 Championships in Winnipeg. He had the chance to meet up with many coaches and scouts and also to follow some of the stars of tomorrow. The Canadian teams and the U.S. had many solid blue-chip prospects; however some of the European teams were very disappointing, including Slovakia and Czech Republic. It is important to note that due to IIHF negotiations going on, Sweden and Russia were not present at this tournament. Don ended up making first contact with 3 top Canadians and 3 Europeans.
On the pro’ side, 2 of our pro’ players ended up going back to college hockey. How does that work, you ask? See, when you play major junior hockey in Canada, you are given a scholarship for every year played in major junior. So if you played 3 seasons, the league pays for 3 years of your education and a Canadian university. In order to receive your scholarship, you cannot play more than half a season in pro’ hockey. So, many major junior guys play minor pro’ until Christmas of their 21rst birth year and then go back to Canadian university hockey. They usually go back to pro’ hockey after graduating from college. This is a very different compared to NCAA. Although this is not great news for us financially, it is probably a very good decision for these guys. It gives them an education while still playing very strong hockey, and they usually do very well when they go back to pro’ hockey, a couple years older and a bit stronger.
All this was followed up with the great news that one of our minor pro’ goalies got called up to his AHL team. He will be spending at least a month with them, maybe even the rest of the season. I am so happy for him; he represents what it means to be a VSM player, combining talent with unmatched work ethic and great character!
As with everything though, when there is good news, there is probably bad news too. Our other pro’ goalie decided that he was leaving us for another agent. I must say, I was not really surprised. He has hesitated leaving us a couple times as he has always felt that we gave more attention to our other goalie. For all you agents out there, never sign 2 goalies from the same birth year, it is a pain in the neck! I really feel that this kid is making a big mistake, but at the same time I did not really try to stop him because I do not feel he understands everything that VSM stands for. It is always sad when a player leaves; it’s kind of like being dumped by your girlfriend. But, sometimes it is for the best!
The Quebec Major Junior League trade deadline passed on the first week of January. I am grateful that only 1 of our guys got traded because last year was hectic, to say the least. The worst thing about QMJHL trade deadline is that it is during Christmas time, so forget being on vacation. This year was very peaceful though, as there was half the amount of trades compared to last year’s deadline. Being traded is never an easy situation for a player. The guys get attached to their city, their billet family and their teammates. As an agent, you not only have to be in contact with teams about possible trades and such, but you must also be a moral support to the players as they get nervous about rumours, or even worse, they actually get traded.
Some more good news, one of our top young prospects found out that he will be representing Quebec at the Canada Games in March. This is huge because it suggests that he has already been considered as one of the top players of his age group, in the country.
Finally, we spent last week at a major bantam tournament in Quebec city. Not many kids impressed me there, and I feel that the 1996 age group is very weak in Quebec. This is normal, as age groups often fluctuate. I hear that the 1997 age group is much stronger. It is also important to consider relativity. When I watch a minor hockey game, whether it is midget or bantam, I am looking with the eyes of an NHL scout, not a major junior scout. This is something that I have developed while speaking with NHL scouts. Even though a kid has the potential to be a top junior player, and all the agents are on him, if I feel that he does not have true NHL potential, then he does not interest me. I feel that this will make the difference between us being just another agency and us making the NHL in the next couple of years!
Until next week, keep your heads up and keep working!