Last week I focused the discussion on an agent’s fiduciary duties to his/her clients in the Sport Agency Management course I teach at Indiana University. Part of that discussion highlighted the fact that an agent must put his/her interests behind those of the clients, and sometimes, that means forfeiting potential commissions based on a client’s preference. Not all clients care about squeezing every last cent out of a team and signing with the team that offers the most money. Believe it or not, other factors such as location, proximity to family, ownership of a home, taxes and other considerations may come into play when a player is deciding on where to play. The quality of competition may also be a determining factor. Agents must always keep such items in mind when negotiating players’ contracts.
NHL and KHL agent Igor Larionov appears to understand his role as a fiduciary for his clients. In an interview with the Winnipeg Sun, Larionov stated, “They know there’s the KHL, there’s the money, but some of the guys are willing to come and pay the price and play here. You have to know inside-out what the player is up to, what his goals are. It’s a lot of questions before you make up your mind.”
The article focused on what is perceived to be a growing problem in hockey: Russian players migrating back to their homeland due to increasing payouts provided by the Russian-based teams in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). A concern is that NHL general managers may respond by staying away from talented Russian players due to an overwhelming fear that said stars may come to the United States for a brief stay, only to return to Russia for the bulk of their careers.
In his brief tenure as an agent, Larionov notices that GMs are starting to grow weary of taking a chance on Russian players. But Larionov says that he still prefers that his clients play in the NHL over the KHL. “I care about the career of the young players,” said Larionov. “I want to give them a chance to make it here. It’s never going to be easy, but it’s worth it.” When Larionov says “here,” he means the U.S. If other agents follow Larionov’s thinking, then perhaps NHL GMs will preserve faith in the Russian hockey player. But for now, it appears that they are using some caution.