“After every meal you just get up and leave. Do you have a deal with the owner?”
“No, it’s in my contract,” replied Ryan Minkoff.
“You asked for free meals in your contract? I signed so quickly that I didn’t ask for a single thing; I thought they would cut me if I asked for anything. Can you help me renegotiate?”
Minkoff nodded and they shook hands, “let’s go see what we can do.”
This conversation, which took place outside of a local diner in Finland after Ryan Minkoff and his teammate- and roomate- Arturs Ozols finished their lunch, is one of many stories that is featured in Minkoff’s upcoming book Thin Ice: A Hockey Journey from Unknown to Elite — and the Gift of a Lifetime.
I had the chance to speak with Ryan earlier this week over the phone. Our conversation was wide-ranging and his stories abundant, making it quite clear that his book will be a must-read.
SBA: What got you interested in hockey?
RM: Growing up in Minnesota, it’s basically just a way of life. My dad got me started in the game at an early age and it was kind of love at first sight. We had season tickets to the (University of Minnesota) Gophers and it was family tradition to go to the games every week. I knew I wanted to play college hockey from this moment on.
SBA: You ended going to the University of Washington to play Club hockey. How did that happen?
RM: It was a path all my own, that’s for sure. I was playing for my high school team and not getting much ice time. I made the switch to another team, got to play more, and had interest from Union College and some Division III schools. Originally they (Union) wanted me to come after my senior year of high school, but then they changed their mind and wanted me to play juniors until 20. That wasn’t what I wanted, so I started looking at other schools. Penn State and UW (University of Washington) moved to the top of my list and upon visiting, I knew UW would become home for the next four years. Club hockey is a different kind of hockey, a lot more relaxed and fun than what I was used to. It forced me stop taking myself so seriously and to enjoy the game.
SBA: You had a successful Club career and a team in Europe reached out. There has to be a cool story behind this.
RM: It was so random. I was sitting on the beach in Mexico on Spring Break and I received a friend request on Facebook from some guy in Finland. I didn’t know a single person in Finland so I deleted it and went back to enjoying the sunshine. The next morning there was another request from the same guy and I thought “why not? Let’s see what he wants”. He introduced himself as the GM of a team in Finland and they wanted me to come play for them. We exchanged messages for a month and a half trying to lock down a deal and that fall I was on my way to Finland.
SBA: What made you want to go from playing to being an agent?
RM: I had a Latvian roommate and we were out for lunch. I had two meals a day at a local diner in my contract, so we always went to the same place. I would get up and leave after eating and Arturs would have to go pay. He asked me why I never paid and I told him I had negotiated daily meals into my contract. We started talking about his contract and he said he was scared to ask questions during signing because he didn’t want to lose his deal. The next day I went with him to talk to the GM and we renegotiated his deal. At the end of the season I knew my playing days were numbered so I had a conversation with Arturs and became his agent. There are a lot of guys playing in Europe who agents wouldn’t touch because their deals weren’t big enough. I saw this as an opportunity and started reaching out to players seeing if they wanted representation. It worked out and I now have clients in 14 different countries, playing in leagues ranging from developmental to the AHL here in North America.
SBA: What are your future plans and goals for your agency, 83, LLC?
RM: Ultimately I would love to see some of my clients make it to the NHL. But as far as the agency, I just want to keep growing. With the game being so global and a lot of North American players heading to Europe, I want to become the go-to agent for anyone considering making the jump to Europe. I love the hockey community and especially this job. I wake up every day and get to help guys live out their dreams. It’s a pretty great feeling.
SBA: Your upcoming book Thin Ice: A Hockey Journey from Unknown to Elite — and the Gift of a Lifetime is set to release November 1st. Why write a book and why now?
RM: I started keeping a journal in college to kind of reflect on what was happening with Club hockey. I would write in it every night about things that happened during a game, practice, or in the locker room. I didn’t know I would ever turn it into a book, but the stories were too good to not put on paper. I kept writing during my time in Finland, hoping that my experience could help anyone thinking of moving to Europe to play and shine some light on what to expect when leaving North America. I had as much fun writing about the stories as I did living them- hockey truly has been a gift of a lifetime.
SBA: What advice would you give to aspiring agents?
RM: Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build up your reputation and land clients. Most of the time they (new clients) come by way of referrals, so pride yourself on being honest and transparent. You don’t necessarily need to be a lawyer to be a good agent. I majored in Economics and Entrepreneurship, but I feel as if I have an honorary degree in contract law. Focus on your clients. It’s a tough way to make a living, but once you get established you’ll be hard pressed to find a better career.
Ryan Minkoff is the founder of 83, LLC, a hockey-focused agency based in Seattle, Washington. You can get your copy of Thin Ice: A Hockey Journey from Unknown to Elite — and the Gift of a Lifetime here or from your favourite book seller. Minkoff can be reached through his website www.83llc.com or on social media @83rminkoff and @83llc_hockey.