Going beyond the game
The Agents of Change profiles hockey’s power brokers
The Agents of Change
Hockey agents are an interesting breed.
They are heavily involved with the ebbs and flows of daily NHL life and yet are rarely recognized by fans and the public alike.
Eight months ago, Ritch Winter — an agent for NHL standouts Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, and Ilya Bryzgalov — set out to change that. He wanted the voice of fellow agents to be heard.
Enter “The Agents of Change,”a website dedicated to giving the voiceless a voice.
Using blogs and social media, the site gives agents a chance to set the record straight on hockey-related issues.
Winter has advocated for change his entire life.
The fall of former NHLPA boss Alan Eagleson was due in large part to efforts put forth by Winter and other Agents of Change.
Eagleson, a former hockey agent turned convicted felon, once managed hall of famers such as Bobby Orr, Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald. Suspicions started to grow that Eagleson was stealing money from his players via the players association pensions.
In 1989, Winter and another colleague and agent Ron Salcer met with every single team asked them to vote on whether or not to investigate.
“They (the players) all chipped in $100,” Winter said. “They wrote a cheque so we had copies of their support of the initiative, and eventually we got about 300 players in the league to sign up and fund the investigation.”
After Eagleson fell, Winter was asked by former NHL’er Carl Brewer to recover the lost pensions from the NHL.
“Carl and I organized a legal team that ultimately successfully challenged the NHL pension and recovered from the NHL the $50 million dollars that the league had taken from the players,” Winter added.
Winter continued his legacy of honesty in 2005 when he was tracked down by Chris Chelios who was suspicious of then NHLPA head Ted Saskin.
Chelios presumed Saskin was reading emails that he shouldn’t have had access to in order to control the union. Following an investigation, Chelios’ suspicions were proven true.
Saskin was then removed and Winter once again was at the forefront of substantial change in the game of hockey.
Agents — like Winter — do much more than act as paper jockeys for players. They dedicate their lives to helping hockey players, not only get the most out of their careers, but most out of their lives too.
Just as Winter did when helping out former Edmonton Oilers’ defenseman Frank Musil escape Yugoslavia in the mid-‘80s.
“We were able to fly out, which doesn’t seem as cloak and dagger as it might otherwise of been, but it was still intimidating to Frank, who knew at every turn, if a Yugoslavian official turned him in he was going to jail for a long time,” Winter explained.
This genuine act of kindness on Winter’s part led him to working with more eastern European players including Dominik Hasek, Pavol Demitra and Marian Hossa.
Derrick Newman’s feature on hockey agents is part of on going series for The Reflector. Visit theagentsofchange.com to read more in-depth stories and to get a closer look into the game of hockey.