Well, just as every season has a beginning, every season must eventually come to an end. Some fortunate players get to participate in post-season action, but many do not. Unfortunately for the Chicago Steel, this season fell into the latter group. But while the 2009-10 season for the Steel might not have ended up the way the players, coaches, and staff might have liked, as far as I’m concerned, I can certainly say it was nothing short of a huge success.
With a busy travel and work schedule in store for me beginning this past Wednesday, I knew I had to have a productive few days in my office on Monday and Tuesday. My company was still working on getting Andrey’s highlight video finished up, so throughout the beginning of the week, we spent a lot of time on the phone brainstorming on the presentation of the package itself. This whole process has been extremely exciting for both me and the guys I work with. While “Team ISA” has been doing this kind of work for years in football and a few other sports, this was the first time we’d get to test out our video editing software in the hockey world. Unfortunately, it turned out that the transition was not going to be as smooth as we’d hoped.
With football, editing game film is a fairly simple process – each clip begins as the players are set in their positions (making it easy to indicate where your client is located on the field) and ends at the conclusion of the play. We found, however, that where you have a sport that flows with fewer stoppages in play, getting our indicator circles to respond can be fairly difficult. We ended up posting a rough copy of the video on YouTube, which got a number of good reviews, but we still couldn’t get the indicators to perform up to our company’s standards. Currently, we have the same video posted without the markers included and if you’re interested in seeing Andrey in action, it can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uPuOw5zmGM. It still isn’t the final product that we intend to send out, but it’s a good start, and with the NHL team meetings not taking place for a few weeks, getting copies sent out right now isn’t essential. We always want to be sure that whatever we send to teams represents the level of professionalism that we at our company demand. If we’re not completely comfortable with the product, we won’t send it out until we make the changes necessary to get us there. Right now, it looks like we’re going to be researching a few other video editing software products to see how we can improve what we currently have.
One thing that I’d like to quickly address is the presentation of the film that we send out to the scouts and teams across the different leagues. After we posted our rough draft of Kuch’s video, I received a few questions asking whether or not we intended to dub some sound in the background. In case you’re not up to speed with the comments posted on the Rookie Duties Facebook Page, what I basically explained is that there’s a common conception that the final product agents generate is a very flashy and “sexy” package. What many people don’t know, though, is that scouts and teams don’t care about that stuff. For the most part, clubs don’t even care to look at a highlight DVD unless they’ve never seen your client play in person before. What teams are really interested in is the raw game film – the stuff that shows both a player’s strengths and weaknesses. What we use the DVDs for isn’t to get a player drafted or signed. Instead, we use it more as a tool to get a team wanting to see more.
At the same time, though, when promoting clients to a fan base, that sexy stuff is what usually works best. So despite the fact that we’re going to be sending out a “scout” version of Andrey’s video, we’re also going to be posting a flashier version on YouTube for hockey fans wanting to see Kuchin at his best. I’ve already got the song picked out and as soon as we get the indicators polished up and the new version posted, I’ll be sure to provide you all with a link.
Besides working on Andrey’s video, this past week was also spent putting in a little QT with Kuch and Teddy. Monday night the boys wanted to go see “She’s Out of My League” so after I got my work done for the evening, I met up with them to go see that. Wasn’t sure if I was expecting much from the film but all three of us ended up loving it. Lately I’ve noticed that just going to a movie is one of my favorite things to do – maybe just because when I’m there I have no choice but to relax for two hours.
For the past few weeks, Kuch and Teddy had also been trying to get me to play tennis with them, so Tuesday afternoon I found some time to swing up their direction and hit the court. I had to stop by the Steel rink anyway to speak with Andrey’s coaches about his return trip to Moscow, so since the boys live close to the Edge, the timing worked out pretty well. Teddy’s played tennis for most of his life, so he’s a pretty good player. Andrey and I, on the other hand, have only played sparingly over the past year or two, so most of our game has to just come from our athleticism. We played a few sets, but with them just coming from practice and me not being in top condition, we were pretty gassed after that. Overall though, we had a blast and it’s always fun hanging out with those two.
One question I’ve been asked in the past is how much attention I think should be given to clients. What I usually tell people is that there really isn’t a cut-and-dry answer – it depends on the individual client. Sometimes you may have a guy that just wants you to handle his business for him – basically just negotiate the contract and send the bill at the end of the season. At the same time, you may have a client that wants to build more of a personal relationship with you. When you’re working in an industry like sports where there’s a lot of money around, trust is essential. I personally feel that by building a solid personal relationship with someone you’re representing, it’s much easier to work with them. Sometimes you have to be the guy that tells a client that he needs to work on certain aspects of his game. This can be uncomfortable and awkward at times, but I think that if you get to the point where respect goes both ways, it gets much easier. Since Andrey’s living 5,000 miles away from home and isn’t completely fluent in English yet, I think he enjoys having another friend around – especially one that can speak his native language (or at least try to).
Wednesday night, the Steel had a game against the Youngstown Phantoms, so my stretch of four games in four nights began at 7:30 that evening. While the game ended up being pretty ugly (the Steel were down 9-1 early in the third), from my standpoint, it couldn’t have gone much better. Kuch ended up playing great and made a few phenomenal plays right in front of where I was discussing him with an NHL scout. After the game I was sure to thank him for making my job that much easier – fortunately, he’s been doing that a lot lately. To make things even sweeter, with the Steel down in the third period, Teddy came in and shutdown the Phantoms scoring, saving all nine shots that he faced. As I said, while the scoreboard looked more like that of a mens league game, as long as Andrey and Teddy play well, I’m a happy guy.
Thursday it was off to Fort Wayne, IN to catch Matt and the Gems take on the Komets. A great friend of mine and devoted follower/supporter of my work, named Kaitlyn, lives about 45 minutes west of Fort Wayne, and since she was home for the week, I had Matt get tickets for her family and we were able to meet up. The past few weeks have been pretty rough for the Gems as the season’s been winding down and things weren’t much different. Matt had a pretty solid game, but unfortunately, the Gems dropped the game 6-2. Matt’s sisters were also able to make it to the game, so afterwards we all met up with him to say “hi” before he had to board the bus.
Kaitlyn’s family was kind enough to invite me to stay at their home so I wouldn’t have to make my planned three-hour drive back to Chicago that night. While I usually prefer driving at night, I don’t get to see Kait very often anymore and I’m glad I decided to stay. These days I don’t get much time to relax with friends over a few drinks and it was great to catch up with her.
Friday morning it was back into my car and on my way back home. I rolled into town around 10:00am central time, took a quick shower, and headed to my office. I was able to get a few emails returned and make a few phone calls, but I wanted to get into the gym for a bit before Andrey and Teddy’s game that night. Lately, I’ve only been able to find maybe 20 minutes a day to workout, which is definitely less than I’d prefer, but it’s better than nothing and I’ve always told myself that no matter how busy I get, I’m going to make sure I take care of my body the best that I can. Personally, I think working out is a great way to get re-energized, and with the weather getting warmer, I’m looking forward to more long runs with my dog Halas.
That weekend at the games, it was business as usual – Andrey showing off his unreal ability with the puck and a lot of walking around talking to scouts about Kuch and just hockey in general. By now I’ve got a few really good guys that attend most games and it’s been nice to run into them on a regular basis. Having me at almost every one of his games is definitely an advantage for Andrey. At this point, I feel like most of the guys I’ve spoken with are comfortable with me enough to give me a call about his situation whenever they need to. While in most cases a “bad” agent isn’t enough to kill a potential deal, a good one sure makes things easier for a client’s situation. I’ve truly been blessed to work in a sport where the vast majority of guys I’ve met are really good people. Even though I understood that to a certain extent because of my experience in the sport, it certainly has gone to a different level this season.
Ask me four months ago how I’d feel at the conclusion of the Steel season and I probably would have told you it wouldn’t have bothered me a bit. But after standing around Saturday night watching the fan appreciation skate the Steel hosted, I couldn’t help but realize how much I was going to miss being around the rink for their games. This has literally been the most challenging and fulfilling year of my entire life. With the NHL Draft, USA Nationals and plenty of prospects tournaments in the coming week, my work for the year is by no means over, but it certainly feels as though a major chapter has come to a close.
Andrey heads back to Moscow on Wednesday, so the next few days should be pretty hectic. I think we’re planning on hitting up the White Sox game and if we get any good “Mobile Pics” from that, I’ll be sure to post them. I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend and until next week…it’s time to hit the showers.