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With the increased publicity and media attention in recent years surrounding high profile NHL events such as the trade deadline and free agency, the average hockey fan is gaining more insight into the role of player agents and advisers in the NHL. Generally, fans are aware that agents are hired by players to negotiate contracts, listen to potential suitors during free agency, and handle arbitration issues when they arise. However, the role of player agent goes much deeper than this. Today, players as young as 13 are beginning to seek out agents and family advisers to help their hockey careers gain traction. To find out more about the role of player agents beyond the NHL and basic contract negotiations, I spoke to Peter Baptista of Points West Sports and Entertainment.
JHR: Can you describe how you became involved in player advising/representation?
PB: I grew up on hockey and it’s always been in my blood so I knew I wanted it to be my career in some fashion. I met my now boss, Rich Evans of Points West Sports & Entertainment, while writing articles for a hockey prospect web site and a relationship blossomed out of that and here we are 9 years later. It’s next to impossible to break into this business without aligning yourself with an established and well-respected agent or agency.
JHR: Who are some of the players you represent?
PB: Points West Sports & Entertainment represents over a dozen NHLers including Jamie Benn (Dallas), Tomas Fleischmann (Florida) and the next generation of elite players like Jason Zucker (Minnesota).
JHR: I imagine when you are just starting out in the industry, it’s important for you to go out and find players on your own. Can you explain how you find players?
PB: You need to live in rinks and network. Player’s begin speaking with family advisors as young as 13 and 14 so developing relationships with bantam and midget coaches is a priority early in your career. Some agents and advisors believe in “quantity over quality” while our firm takes the complete opposite approach. There is only so much time in a day so you need to find the right players who have realistic professional potential.
JHR: Generally, what value do you believe hockey agents can add to a player’s career at the NCAA/Major Junior level?
PB: Family advisors are crucial in a player’s career. Youth hockey has turned into a big business with players moving from team-to-team, the US National Development program and players under the Western Hockey League umbrella being drafted as bantams and players in the Ontario & Quebec leagues being drafted as midget minors. Having guidance and assistance from a professional is vital to ensure the player’s rights are protected and his family is fully informed to make good decisions on a day-to-day basis. The reality is – after the family, a family advisor has the player’s best long term interests at heart so having a seasoned professional that is clearly in your corner with a clear agenda (your son reaching the highest level of hockey possible) is crucial.
JHR: Can you provide some detail as to what factors need to be weighed when a player is deciding between the NCAA and Major Junior route?
PB: There is no cut & dry advice one way or the other. Some players may benefit from the NCAA experience and more development time while others are best suited for major junior hockey. It’s an extremely personal decision and the player and his family should make it at their pace. Both routes have their plusses and minuses.
JHR: What are some of your key responsibilities in representing your professional players?
PB: The key is being there for them. They lead busy lives on and off the ice and we’re there for every step of it. We’ve dealt with it all – equipment, endorsement, housing, insurance, vehicle, immigration and family issues just to name a few. As for contract and arbitration issues, our clients are very lucky that Rich Evans is one of the best negotiators in the game and understands the ins and outs of the CBA better than anyone so he takes the ball and runs with it when it comes to those issues.