How an NHL agent lands a big client

Auston Matthews of USA celebrates after scoring against Czech Republic at the world juniors. (Roni Rekomaa/ Lehtikuva via AP)

Agents make headlines when they score big-money contracts for their clients, but netting those same clients is just as important a part of the job. We asked a veteran hockey agent to lay out his recruitment strategy.

1. Homework
“Identifying players at age 14 and 15 isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Otherwise you’re too late.”

1A. Network
“As much as I can go to bantam and minor-midget games or tournaments, I have to spend serious time with my NHL clients. So [getting] information from coaches and other people in minor hockey is crucial. I count on their tips for finding clients.”

2. Attendance
“You can’t recruit over the phone. It’s the ‘90 percent of life is showing up’ line. Get out to the game and introduce yourself to the parents.”

3. Establish a relationship before hard-selling
“With kids at this level, hard-selling too early will drive families away more likely than get them on board. There’s nothing that urgent—the first thing is going to the Canadian Hockey League or college, and that’s [still] a long way off. If you’re pressing hard too early, they’ll smell your desperation.”

4. Manage expectations
“Most parents have an inflated sense of their kid’s place in the grand scheme of things. The kids are likely more realistic. Don’t feed the monster of unrealistic expectations.”

5. Discreetly discuss the work you’ve done with pro clients before, during and after their NHL careers
“Make them understand that you’re not selling them your services to negotiate a contract. You’re selling all-purpose life-planning services.”

This story originally appeared as part of the How-To package in the March issue of Sportsnet magazine.