As I mentioned last week, this entry marks the 26th week of “Rookie Duties” and to celebrate Darren not pulling the plug on my operation thus far, I wanted to provide you with a little “Best of” edition. I’m hoping that doing so will provide a little perspective on how far things have come in such a short period of time. And at the same time, if you’re just getting into this column, consider this your chance to catch up in a hurry.
In the past year, I’ve gone through more changes in my life than I had in the previous five. Since last May alone, I got my dream job running the hockey division of a sports agency, graduated from law school, took and passed the Bar Exam, moved back to Chicago, opened up a law practice, started authoring this column, met some great people, and watched more hockey than most Americans do in their entire lives. My ride thus far has been nothing short of insane – spending most weekends in my car driving from one rink to the next, running on next to no sleep, and practically living off the revitalizing nectar of the coffee bean. To be honest, if I recapped everything that’s happened in my life since I started contributing to SAB, I’d be seriously testing your attention span as readers. So although I’ve always been willing to share details of my personal life and work outside the agency (i.e. my immigration legal work), I’m going to keep my highlight reel focused on the sports side of my life – in the end that’s what this column is all about. Alright, well get yo popcorn ready and here we go!
August 1, 2009. At this point, I have one client – Matt Szypura. I grew up playing club hockey with Matt and he had recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. While at UW, Matt had played four years of NCAA DIII Ice Hockey and was looking to take his game to the pro level. He knew I had gotten a job working with a large sports agency and asked if I could help. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started calling teams in the SPHL and CHL, but I knew getting him on a team wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Knowing most coaches aren’t going to know who Matt is, I start putting together a player resume for Matt. Basically all it contains is a profile picture, his career stats from Juniors and College, and a player biography – nothing too flashy but the final product is professional and gets coaches what they want without wasting their time.
September 26, 2009. After getting him into the Texas Brahmas (CHL) camp, Matt separates his shoulder. If I thought getting him a roster spot was tough now, how bad would it be now that he couldn’t skate for a few weeks?
October 28, 2009. Matt signs a Standard Player Contract (SPC) with the Chi-Town Shooters of the All-American Hockey League (AAHL). It’s not ultimately where we wanted him to be, but I knew we had to get Matt on the ice if he wanted a chance of playing at a higher level.
October 30, 2009. Matt plays in his firs professional game. Despite having a pretty good performance, Matt goes -1 and the Shooter lose to the Chicago Blaze 3-2.
November 7, 2009. While scouting at the Bauer International Invite here in Chicago, I have a great conversation with a coach of a team that has three players I’ve had my eye on. Sean (one of the kids I’m currently advising) is one of them, and the coach introduces us. We spent a few minutes talking but it was late and Sean’s team had an early game the next morning. I attended their game the next day and although they lost, I got a better opportunity to talk with some of the kids about who I am and what my company does.
December 13, 2009. My phone rings and it’s Matt – he’s getting called up to the Dayton Gems of the IHL. Finally, it seems as though his strong play on the ice is getting noticed.
December 27, 2009. While in Toronto for the annual Marlies Holiday Classic, I have a sit-down with Sean and Chris to discuss the future direction of Sean’s hockey career. Sean wants to play D1 college somewhere, so right off the bat we know there can’t be any agreements between myself and Sean’s family (remember those NCAA eligibility rules). I really like the way Sean plays and he seems like a great kid off the ice, so I let his family know that I’d be happy to help advise them through the recruiting process. Chris tells me that they like the dedication and drive that they’ve seen from me up to this point, and he gives me the green light to start distributing Sean’s statistics to U.S. college teams.
January 8-10, 2010. The International Silver Stick Finals are being played up in Port Huron, MI. Some of the rinks are over an hour away from one another, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in my car. I have some good meetings with a few parents and players about advising them, and by the end of the weekend it looks as though I’ve got a solid lead on a kid named Colin.
January 30-31, 2010. Shattuck St. Mary’s has sent their U16 team to the Chicago area to face off against both the Chicago Mission and Team Illinois. I get the chance to see some great games and players, and while I’d at one of the games, I meet Oren Koules – the then-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. His son plays for SSM and he was able to find the time to fly up for the weekend games. We talked a few times over the weekend and he seems like a really nice guy – hopefully we’ll be crossing paths professionally in the not-too-distant future.
February 11, 2010. After hearing that a potential 2010 NHL Draft pick is interested in signing with me, we go out to dinner with his host family to discuss business. It seems as though things are going very well and that we’re on the same page with how and where we think his game should continue to develop. At this point I know I need to remain very visible and hope that my hard work will pay off.
February 12-14, 2010. Another weekend trip – this time to catch Matt’s game in Dayton and an ECHL game up in Toledo, OH. Not as much scouting for me as usual, but getting to see my buddy who coaches for the Toledo Walleye could be good for Matt and/or other future clients and their careers.
February 21, 2010. I receive the call I’ve been waiting for. It’s Brian’s host mother, Nicole, and after a week and a half of making phone calls and sending out emails to OHL and NHL clubs, Brian’s family is impressed with what they’ve seen from me and want me to represent their son. I already know that Brian is comfortable with me representing him, and in getting his parents on board, it looks like I just cleared the last major hurdle in getting him signed.
February 26, 2010. It’s been a busy couple weeks, but my company is extremely happy with the way the Hockey Division is coming together. While I’m in Indianapolis with three of my co-workers, the founder of our company lets me know that they’re promoting me…not a bad start to the weekend.
March 1, 2010. Brian officially signs with our firm. I should note that I’m still using a fake name, but I may be revealing his true identity soon – I just have to run it by Brian himself and get his permission.
March 5-7, 2010. This past weekend was yet another busy but productive one. After actually finding some time to spend socially Friday night, I drove up to Detroit where I’d be staying for the night. Unfortunately I was only able to get a couple hours of sleep and then it was up again early on Saturday – the qualifying rounds of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) Championships were being played in Guelph, Ontario and I still had a three-hour drive ahead of me.
I arrived at the rink around 11am and they were just dropping the puck in the first game. Sean’s team skated away with an easy victory and after losing a game the day before, it seemed as though they’d be back on track to advance through the qualifiers. It was around 2pm EST, though, when I received an upsetting call from Nicole – she wanted to give me a heads up that an agent from another firm had been calling Brian and his family everyday. I knew that this guy had been calling last week, so just this past Wednesday I left him a voicemail letting him know that Brian had signed with us and asking him to stop contacting Brian and/or his family. Apparently he wasn’t getting the message (both literally and figuratively). I tracked down his cell number, but not surprisingly he didn’t answer that either. We’ll have to see how this develops over the next few days but needless to say I’m not happy about the situation.
With six months in the bag, who knows what’s in store for the next 26 weeks? Hopefully by the time I’m typing up my year in review, I’ll have Brian heading towards a successful NHL career with some of my other advisees not too far behind. If my work to this point as taught me anything, though, it’s that in this business, the only thing you can expect is the unexpected.
Before I leave you for the week, I want to take a second to once again thank you all for your support over this time we’ve spent together. With my busy schedule and long weekends, sometimes the last thing I feel like doing is sitting down at my computer for a few hours to type this up. However, your thoughtful and encouraging posts, emails, and phone calls truly drive me to get this column to you week in and week out. While I certainly have gained a lot from this whole experience, “Rookie Duties” is really for you and I’m just happy to help in any way that I can. Please keep your comments and questions coming and I’ll continue to do my best to address them each week.
These next few days will be spent once again burning up the phone lines trying to get some leads on NHL scouts and their schedules. I’ve got some solid leads already but there’s still a handful of clubs that have been difficult to get a hold of. This upcoming weekend, at least one scout that I spoke with will be coming down to see Brian skate and we should have a few more in line for the next weekend as well. I hope you all have a great productive week ahead of you and until next Monday…it’s time to hit the showers.