This weekend, Don Baizley -- a man who helped bring the European hockey player to North America -- will celebrate what a small world the game of hockey actually is.
Baizley, the Winnipeg lawyer/agent who has represented professional players for 35 years, was one of the inductees into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday.
The 65-year-old might be one of the most famous names in the game, negotiating contracts for stars like Joe Sakic, Teemu Selanne and Peter Forsberg, but he hasn't forgot the player and general manager who got it all started.
"My first player was referred to me by a good friend of mine, Geoff Ball, who's part of the Manitoba Bisons team (1964-65) that's being inducted, too," Baizley said from his Winnipeg office Friday.
Selkirk's Terry Ball, Geoff's brother, was the player. He bounced between the NHL to the AHL in the late-'60s and early '70s, putting together an all-star season with the Cincinnati Swords in 1971.
Coming off that successful year, an upstart league -- the World Hockey Association -- came calling for his services.
Ball was in the process of signing with the Minnesota Fighting Saints, but had some doubts about the new loop. Bobby Hull had yet to sign with the Jets and players weren't sure they wanted to commit to a new league.
No one wanted to make the first move.
"It was a big jump for players to try this," Baizley said. "The Saints offered him a two-year contract that would pay him $30,000 a year. My job was not to negotiate the contract, my job was to draft a contract that would secure payment regardless if the league went or not.
"In the end, the club put his entire two-year salary in an escrow account, so whether the league had run or not, he would be able to draw that salary down."
The GM for the Fighting Saints was Glen Sonmor. Coincidentally, Sonmor joined Baizley in the MHHoF yesterday as a member of the 1948-49 Brandon Wheat Kings.
Back then, it wasn't easy for Baizley to put a deal together as it is now. Young lawyers who were interested in representing players had to not only compete with the Alan Eaglesons of the world (Baizley said he was really the only big agent back when he started), but the popular notion was that agents were nothing short of Lucifer himself, and smart teams don't do deals with the devil.
"Any third person representation, you were considered a pariah," said Baizley, who now handles about 20-25 players.
Fellow builders Elmer Hildebrand, Bill Maluta, Dr. Morris Mott; players Reggie Abbott, Dan Bonar, Danny Johnson, Bill Kendall, Perry Miller, James Patrick, Tom Rendall, Gordon Stratton; and official Perry Allan were also enshrined. The late Moe Cartman was inducted in the media category.