SUN Hockey Pool

New agents view battle from afar

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 6:58 AM ET

While their professional colleagues are girding for the most frantic period of their lives, a pair of London player agents will be looking on with detached interest.

The most complex collective bargaining agreement in sports history is drawing nigh. When the NHL and the NHL Players' Association finally shake hands after the only completely abandoned season in North American pro sports history, it will be like a goal-mouth scramble, times one million.

It also will be the largest musical chairs game in history with player agents and general managers playing the music as more than 400 free agents seek teams.

Under a salary cap to be announced, big-payroll teams will be cutting talent adrift while the former small-market teams will be juggling rosters to accommodate one or two marquee players. Who is worth what -- and to whom -- will turn it into hockey's equivalent of establishing the European Economic Community.

Expect rage from players once the expected deal carves their salaries into relative slivers. Expect lawsuits from various quarters. And expect the NHLPA, which is coming out second-best, to place executive-director Bob Goodenow on the bubble.

Up on Waterloo Street, a couple of guys can relax until the smoke clears.

Brian MacDonald and Bryan Deasley head up the sports management department founded six months ago at Siskinds The Law Firm. Whether you're pitching hand grenades or punch lines, timing is everything. They don't have any NHLers, just players who will be in the NHL one day.

"The timing allowed us to concentrate on a younger market and not get caught up (in the NHL's problems)," said MacDonald, chief operating officer for Siskinds and formerly assistant general manager of the Colorado Avalanche.

"We targeted players at younger age category because NHL hockey wasn't there. As a startup, the timing was very good. Now we're developing our base and moving forward."

Talk about slipping in under the radar. No whining clients, no raging GMs and what should be a more stable NHL.

They're growing with their clients who, by the time they are ready for the pro ranks, will enter a financial climate that is perfectly normal.

Among the players with whom Siskind Sports Management has a working relationship are three taken in the recent Ontario Hockey League draft led by John Tavares, who went first overall to Oshawa Generals. The others are Adam Zamec of the Junior Knights, who went 27th overall to Toronto St. Michael's, and Bryan Cameron, eighth to the Belleville Bulls.

MacDonald and Deasley have time on their side. The dust will have settled by the time their players are ready.

And there'll be enough dust, some think, to result in some NHL-bound youngsters opting for Europe.

An expected salary cap of about $39 million, with a floor of about $24 million, is one thing.

Another is a reported $850,000 limit on incoming players for three years, which could send players such as Sidney Crosby to Europe for twice that amount for the early part of their pro careers. MacDonald sees that as more possible now than ever.

"After some players went over last year and apparently enjoyed it, it has become an option," he said."I think players were somewhat hesitant in the past because they didn't know what it was like. It's a pretty good lifestyle," added MacDonald, who once played in Sweden.

For his players, the future is some time off. For current NHLers, the future is going to be now.

It will be different for them, the teams they play for and the fans than what we've come to know as an incredible number of changes will be enforced on everyone.

At the moment, everyone is flying blind. Not many would like to see what's coming, anyway.


Videos

Photos