SUN Hockey Pool

A natural jump for 2 lawyers

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:51 AM ET

The guys behind London's newest sports venture get asked the same question a lot these days. Why?

Why would a pair of smart guys -- and the high-powered law firm that employs them -- get involved in representing hockey players right now?

A bit like opening a high-end store in the midst of the Depression, isn't it, considering all the NHL players out of work at the moment?

On the contrary, insist former adversaries Brian MacDonald and Bryan Deasley of Siskinds Sports Management. Now is the time to get rolling in hockey and other sports.

"We're new to Siskinds, we're not new to the business," says former hockey pro Deasley, who came up against his new partner when MacDonald was negotiating contracts for the Colorado Avalanche and Deasley was representing players.

"People ask why now? We think it's a perfect time because the economy of the game is changing and the way athletes will be managed is changing."

Siskinds, of course, is the well-known London law firm, which provides the underpinning for the unique nature of the sports arm. From writs and torts to immigration and estate planning, Siskinds covers all the bases.

The pair teamed up when MacDonald, chief operating officer of Siskinds, saw the need for a complete legal platform in an athlete's career. He recruited Deasley for the venture, which got underway in December.

They never went head-to-head in any negotiations, although Deasley did the preliminary work prior to negotiations with MacDonald when he was assistant general manager with the Avalanche.

At one time, both were members of the Quebec Nordiques franchise -- Deasley as a player, MacDonald as chief scout.

A field once fraught with anybody who could assess the value of a player to a team, sports representation has evolved into a more scientific specialty. Favourite uncles, friendly lawyers and even sports writers were in it at one time, with mixed results.

The ante has gone up with the rise in player salaries. Athletes are more aware nowadays and expect full service, rather than have a negotiator farm out non-negotiating services.

However the current lockout is resolved, current and prospective NHLers are going to require every edge. Guys like MacDonald and Deasley figure they can provide it.

Each brings a unique skill set to the project. Deasley, a former University of Michigan star, has been in the Quebec and Calgary Flames organizations, played with Canada's national team and was recruited by MacDonald after 10 years of experience in athlete representation.

The former first-round NHL pick by Calgary has dealt with such high-end athletes as Detroit's Steve Yzerman, as well as incoming young players. In retrospect, he felt as a player some of his needs weren't met by his agent.

MacDonald, who joined Siskinds as COO nearly two years ago, did the junior-university-Swedish League route before scouting for Quebec and Colorado, where he oversaw the club's Hershey operation, as well as getting involved in the big club's contract negotiations and other personnel matters as assistant GM.

When he left Colorado, London was a natural, since he was based here seven years when he was the Avalanche's chief scout. The sports representation gig evolved, rather than being the purpose of his hiring by Siskinds.

The group has no plans for a massive client list. The goal is quality athletes who also are quality people.

Already in the fold are former Knights goaltender Chris Houle and University of Windsor football star Daryl Stephenson, top rookie in the OUA last year.

MacDonald and Deasley didn't have to look far for three obvious clients.

Figure skater Tessa Virtue and baseball player Kevin Virtue are the children of Siskinds partner Jim Virtue, and Stephenson's mother works for Siskinds.


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