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Talk to my agent: What a player agent can do for you

February 21, 2011 General 1 Comment

Oct 22, 2001, 17:10

Agent Don Meehan. ©BBS

Once they’re on the ice, most hockey players can take care of themselves. Off the ice, however, is a different story, especially for those at the elite level of the sport.

For example, almost all National Hockey League players have agents to assist them in what can be complicated legal matters involving their contracts, endorsements and other off-ice activities.

About 125 agents are registered with the NHL Players Association. Though the majority of them are constantly seeking new clients, one agent, Carl Lindros, is not. Though he’s been approached to represent others, Lindros is content to oversee the affairs of his only two clients, sons Eric and Brett, who are property of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders, respectively.

Other well-known hockey agents include Don Meehan, Anton Thun and Mel Bridgman, a former NHL player and general manager. Meehan, who works out of his office in Mississauga, Ontario (a 10-minute drive from Toronto) is one of the most influential men in hockey. He represents about 75 NHL players.

Who do you know?

Meehan’s client list includes some of the biggest names in the NHL; Buffalo’s Pat LaFontaine, Quebec’s Wendel Clark, Trevor Linden of Van-couver, and St. Louis Blues Curtis Joseph and Al MacInnis. But Meehan is selective about who he works with these days.

“At my stage, I work only on a referral basis,” says Meehan, who’s been a player agent since 1982. Why? “I did a test several years ago,” he revealed. “I found out (only) one-third of the players selected in the first round of the draft go on to sign a meaningful second NHL contract.”

This is a vital statistic for agents, considering they only get paid—a commission ranging from 2-to-10 per cent of the deal—when players sign their contracts.

While players can afford to take some time off during the off-season, Meehan said agents must work year-round.

“My month of August and the first two weeks of September are the busiest times of the year,” says Meehan, explaining this is the most hectic period for free agency issues. “Then it lets up a bit once the season starts.”

Meehan has also branched out to the point where he’s not just a player agent. At the turn of this decade, he also started to represent coaches. He now looks after the affairs of eight NHL bench bosses. In addition, Meehan helps represent NHL officials. He assisted the 58-member NHL Officials Association in working out their last collective bargaining agreement with the league in November 1993.

No doubt there are plenty of perks in being a player agent. Tickets are certainly easy to come by. And in terms of money, even a few percentage points of multi-million dollar contracts quickly add up to provide a more than comfortable living.

But what does Meehan think is the best part of his job?

“The friendships.”

And are there any negatives to being a so-called “super agent?”

“There’s really not any downside to it,” says Meehan after a careful consideration.

No set age required for players

Thun, who has been a player agent since 1984, currently has a list of about 50 clients, including 10 NHLers. Those he represents in the bigs include Quebec’s Mike Ricci, Glen Murray of Boston, Washington’s Randy Burridge and Nathan LaFayette of Vancouver.

Thun’s clientele also in-cludes two players who were top-five picks at the 1994 NHL Entry Draft; defenseman Ed Jovanovski and center Jeff O’Neill. Jovanovski, who was chosen by the Florida Panthers was the top pick over-all, while O’Neill, a Hartford Whalers selection, was the fifth player selected.

There is no set age when a player with pro aspirations can have an agent.

“Some players who are in Junior hockey get an agent when they’re 15 or 16,” Thun said. “Others who play college hockey might not need an agent until they’re done with their schooling, at which point they could be 23 years old.”

Several of the players Thun represents are still teenagers toiling at the Junior A level in the Ontario Hockey League. All of these players are considered risk ventures because Thun is not being paid a penny from them now. He’s basically working on a trust relationship, hoping these players are true to their word and retain his services when they turn professional.

As is the case with all other agents, Thun only gets paid if and when his clients sign pro contracts. That’s why he believes agents have to possess several versatile assets.

“There’s a variety of skills you need to have,” he said. “You have to have a good business background. And from the standpoint of recruiting, you have to be a good talent scout.”

Thun estimates he gets to about 120 games per season, looking for more potential players to add to his fold. Sometimes he approaches the athletes and/or their families in hopes of representing them. Other times he’s the one approached.

Almost all other agents work like this as well. Sometimes they aggressively pursue players. But it’s not uncommon to have players come to them, seeking representation.

Plenty of advice available

Thun, whose business is based in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, said there’s plenty of advice to give to players, even those who are as young as 15 years old.

“What you try to do is to counsel them on what their (playing) options are,” he said. “It’s like buying a car. When you decide you want to buy a car there are so many different ones to choose from. You can go for a Cadillac, a Volvo or a BMW. In the OHL, every city is different.”

Though it’s the player’s agent who goes head-to-head with general managers at contract time, Thun said the athletes are kept well informed of all happenings.

“For the most part they don’t sit in on the meetings with the general managers,” Thun said. “But they’re not kept in the dark. Any proposals made or received, they are made aware of.”

Bridgman is one of the NHL’s newest player agents. He’s only been at this game since last January, and as a result, all of his clients are amateur players.

The most notable Bridgman client is Nolan Baum-gartner, a Junior A defenseman with the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers. Baumgartner was selected in the first round, 10th overall, by the Washington Capitals at the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.

“I’m learning every day with regards to this job,” Bridgman said.

But it’s not as if Bridgman came into this business with no idea of how it works. After all, he himself was a former Number One draft pick: in 1975, the Philadelphia Flyers deemed Bridgman the cream of the crop in his draft class.

Top pick, GM, agent

Bridgman went on to enjoy a stellar 14-year playing career in the NHL. Besides Philadelphia, he also had stints in Calgary, New Jersey, Detroit and Vancouver. In 977 games, he picked up 701 career points.

After his playing days were over, Bridgman went back to business school in Pennsylvania. Then, when he was considering joining a firm in Phoenix, Bridgman was offered the general manager’s job with the then NHL expansion Ottawa Senators.

As the Senators GM, Bridgman was involved with the signings of several of Ottawa’s new players, including Alexei Yashin, who was the second pick over-all at the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.

Bridgman isn’t the only former NHL player who’s an agent now. The list of those who have followed this route includes Brian Lawton (the top overall pick in 1983), Tom Laidlaw, Gilles Lupien and David Shand, among others.

Now that Bridgman is getting a taste of how things work from the agent’s side, he likes it. He works out of Los Angeles, and says his family, which includes his wife and four young children, are content with his current hockey job.

“We wanted to stay in one place instead of moving around a lot, which you can’t do if you’re in the hockey business,” he said. “They’re settled down now and they’re happy and excited about it.”

And thanks to their agents, most pro players are happy and excited, too. Secure in the knowledge that their off-ice matters are being well handled for them, the players can concentrate fully on getting the job done where it counts—on the ice.

Sam Laskaris is a freelance sportswriter in Toronto.

This first appeared in the 01/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2011 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Travis says:

    where do i get an agent or go about getting an agent for my 15 year old son that plays AAA hockey and has received several offers to various places. please help

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