What expectations you should have of your Agent – Older Players.
Our topics today are: 20 Year Old Season, ‘Extras’, Agent’s Point of View, When to Approach an Agent.
20 year Old Year
If you haven’t signed a deal yet, maybe you will finally break out in your last year, well you need to evaluate all of your options.
NHL / AHL / ECHL / Central League / Europe / CIS.
Excluding Europe you are looking at speaking with 125+ teams in 5 leagues. That is a LOT of phone calls. That is a LOT of Options. Adding in Europe, fergetaboutit… You need a professional to sort out your options and help plan your future.
As a 20 year old coming out of the CHL system, there are basically three realistic options:
1 – Sign an NHL 3-way contract which will have you developing for the parent team somewhere in the AHL or ECHL for a few years to see if you have what it takes.
2 – Signing as a FREE agent in the AHL or ECHL. This option is less likely. If a team was going to sign you to an AHL deal, it would probably be dealt with under #1 as most AHL GM’s are the NHL AGM’s. Frankly, most WHL/CHL players are NOT ready to play in the AHL or ECHL as impact players. By signing with the NHL team, they more or less guarantee that you will get ice time to develop. AS an unsigned free agent, with no affiliation it’s tough to play against MEN and earn a job on the 3rd or 4th line.
3 – CIS – Take your CHL scholarship money and USE IT! They don’t expect that you will! In this case, it is useful to have an agent to find you a solid school where you can get a good education and play decent hockey.
** – Europe – I thought I’d mention this option briefly. POST-NHL Lockout/Strike the options in Europe are slimmer and slimmer. The days of CHLer’s walking into a job in Europe that pays more then the 400 per week they would earn in the ECHL are long gone. The reality is there are a LOT of existing pros who are fighting for low paying jobs they wouldn’t have considered 2-3 years ago, which doesn’t leave a lot of options for Junior Players straight from Medicine Hat. Typically, a player would have to play at 1-2 levels below they level they are capable of playing, just to get an opportunity. This means little money, minor-pro status and a fun year or two before its back to a real job.
Lastly, we have ALL heard the rumours about 20 year olds getting REAL money from CHL teams to play that final year when they could just as easily be playing in the AHL. It is certainly economical for a team that can draw 5-10,000+ fans per game to have Star players to fill the seats. Obviously, in this instance, you would want representation to deal with this clearly ‘forbidden’ topic that is only whispered about in public.
Extras & Fringe Benefits
Well, this is the ‘grey’ area. Some agents give away sticks and skates, some CASH, others promise future contract riches or Mega-endorsement guarantees. Some are just competent professionals who do their job with a high level of expertise and skill and don’t have to resort to ‘disreputable’ tactics. The fact is, it really depends on how good the player is and how likely and soon there will be a return on your investment. If he is going the NCAA route, he has 4 more years of NOT earning you income to look forward to and the everyday risk of losing him to someone else. The point I’m trying to make is that depending on the agent or agency, they may or may not have more resources to spend or less scruples in how they ‘spend’ their money to recruit you and help develop your career. The fact that rookie contracts in the NHL are now more or less Capped, you don’t need the BEST negotiator to get the best possible deal. However, people are motivated by many different things, from prestige to wealth to competence. What matters to you?
What SHOULD they provide you?
In general, having an agent is like any other relationship. You need to develop it and build trust and friendship. At the end of the day, you want someone who is competent, who can deliver on his promises and help to create and exploit opportunities for your Player. Don’t be dazzled by all the song and dance. Just because they have a big name player, doesn’t mean you will get the same priority, exposure or representation.
If you think getting a free pair of skates or an extra stick or autograph or phone call from one of his NHL Clients is the most important factor, then don’t be disappointed when music stops and you are left without a chair to sit on.
And PLEASE for the love of mike….don’t be #178 on some big name agent’s list of players. I know this is a mid level agents pet-peeve, but just think about it. You want the best service possible. Do you really think that someone who costs them money and who isn’t likely to get them 1st rd draft pick money is as valuable as their NHL all-star who is bringing in $400-500,000 a year in commission? Not likely. Find someone who is competent and who values you and will help you effectively.
Agents Point of View
Let’s briefly consider this whole situation from my point of view as an Agent. Knowing why they act the way they do or how they are going to conduct themselves is a useful tool as well.
You have to understand the risk I and all agents take with most prospects and how that might affect our outlook. They say the stock market is hard. Let’s say I sign a player at the WHL Bantam Draft and then I work with that player and family for the next 5 years. I would spend that time providing useful advice, contacts, various expert services, legal and otherwise. Throughout it all, if I am acting ‘morally’ and without going outside of the NHLPA regulations, I effectively see NO income until the Player turns professional. However, in practice, as NHLPA Agent contracts are NOT what the average person would consider a typical contract, Players have the ability to fire their current agent, by fax, with no explanation or tears, as long as they are paid up to date. Therefore, there is nothing that stops that player after receiving 5 years of loyal service to fire his agent on the spot and sign with another more high profile agency the day before he signs his pro deal. This would in effect leave me out in the cold with ZERO return on a 5 year investment. This is how the game is played at the NHL level. You see when Don Meehan loses a player to Pat Brisson, he doesn’t really lose any sleep since he has 100+ other clients to pay the bills and quite frankly, he can go out and steal another player from someone else and all is right in the world. However, when I as a middle level agent lose a top client to another ‘corporate raider’ I can’t just go steal another top player from one of the big guys. The result is I just lost 5 years of sweat, blood and toil. Poor baby, I know… But that’s the business. That’s the daily cost and risk of doing business in this industry. This concept and reality should give you some idea as to where an agent is coming from and perhaps why he might act as he does.
To Find an Agent or Play the Waiting Game?
Finally, if you look to be draftable or later on a lock to play pro at some level, THEY will come to you. If you want to be proactive, it is fine also, it is pretty easy to find a list of regional or otherwise agents and make a few calls. Just ask the right questions. On average, I would say that most players do not need professional assistance until they legitimately think they have an opportunity to go on to an Elite university or professional league. For most players, this should be evident by 18-19 year of age. In the mean time you need to be as well informed as possible. That is half the battle.