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 2009-2010 period for VSM Hockey was one of intense growth. Just like a child, when a company starts to get bigger, there are most likely some growing pains.
Our recruiting power became much stronger, now that coaches and parents knew about us. We represented a whopping number of players at the Quebec Major Junior Entry Draft. 8 of our guys were selected, including 4 in the second round!
As stated in episode 2, I had to make a change when it came to the person with whom I was working with.
Where there is loss, there are also gains. One of my mentors once told me that life is cyclic and not linear. It is a cycle of expansion and contraction. He also said that the sooner you learn to accept that, the easier the contraction period will be and you will also spend more time in expansion periods. So I took on a couple of partners. Don MacAdam, a legend in hockey, became our Chief Agent and V.P. of player representation. To sum up Don’s career in hockey, I would need at least 3 to 4 pages, seriously! He coached in the NHL, AHL, ECHL, Europe, Japan and Team Canada. Won a Stanley Cup, Coach of the Year in Canadian University, National Championship in Japan and a Silver Medal at the World Championships with Canada. He has also written 6 books about hockey coaching. With more than 35 years of experience, I figured that Don would be an amazing addition to the VSM family. He is first and foremost a highly passionate, respectful and caring person with so much to teach both me and all our prospects!
Now, on to the growing pains. It all started when we tried to open offices in Boston and expand to the East Coast of the U.S. while doing the same thing in Atlantic Canada. Growth is good, but it is also very demanding. Opening up two new regions at the same time is totally crazy, now that I think about it. Things were looking good initially, as we recruited 2 seniors from an NCAA D1 program. But as things went along, it became too difficult to manage everything in the U.S. and in Atlantic Canada all at the same time. See, our partners in both places were all new to the VSM family, so just educating them on our principles and values was a full time job itself. Eventually, we decided to focus on growth in Atlantic Canada and dropped our adventure in the North East U.S. We will be back later though!
Coming back to the whole expansion-contraction philosophy, 2008-2009 saw us grow exponentially. Our mind set was growth is better. Now, in 2009-2010, after trying to grow too much and too fast, our mind set started to change and settle. Small and steady growth is better!
During this season, we actually let go of 8 players from our agency, bringing us back down to around 30-35 players compared to 40-45 players the year before. We decided to become even stricter in terms of recruitment, now that we had made a name for ourselves. Our philosophy has always been quality over quantity, but the problem is that when you are new, you kind of take whatever you can get and the more you get the more people know about you.
The 2010 summer was incredible! All of our players, from Gatineau all the way to Prince Edward Island, came to spend 6 weeks in Quebec City. On the menu: training, nutrition seminars, yoga, tai chi, mental training and on-ice development. To see these young players come from all over Eastern Canada to spend the summer in Quebec City in order to reach their hockey dreams was quite the site!
Don MacAdam and I also went to Los Angeles for the NHL Entry Draft. Even though we did not have any players eligible for the draft, we wanted to show the NHL that we are here and that we are serious. We made some real good contacts and had a great time. Thankfully, one of my mom’s friends let us stay at her amazing home in Malibu. It was so nice that I was fantasizing dropping everything in my life in order to move to Cali and become a surfer, and then I came back to my senses!
The boys all trained hard and were very serious during the summer. As September came along, we saw the first VSM recruits (guys that had been with us since almost day 1), become professionals. We had a goalie sign with the Dallas Stars organisation and a defensemen go to the Montreal Canadians training camp. All in all, we ended up having 4 guys turn pro’!
The guys are all currently having great seasons. Our 2 pro’ goalies are dominating at the young age of 21 and one of our junior players participated in the Canada-Russia super series!
We also started recruiting in Europe, now that our presence is established in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Although we have not signed any players yet, we are almost there!