More than money
Hockey agent Neil Sheehy talks about putting players first
The Agents of Change
Neil Sheehy a Harvard graduate, former NHL defenceman and a father to nine kids, is an NHL player agent for some of hockey’s biggest stars.
The Ontario born but Minnesota bred Sheehy now focuses on helping current players get the most out of their careers and puts the players first in every instance.
“You never do something for the money,” he said. “If you do the right thing, the money follows.”
He is an “Agent of Change,” who’s not interested in poaching players from other agents. Instead, he focuses on building relationships and doing what’s best for the player.
“Even when you get clients there are always guys out there trying to steal them,” he said. “That’s probably the worst part of it. They say it’s competition, I say it’s unethical. The question is ‘Do you want to play the same game?’ And I’ve chosen not to operate like that.”
“What I do is recruit. I talk about what I have to offer. I don’t talk on the negatives of others.”
Sheehy has been an advocate of change during his time as an agent, making sure players get a fair shake.
This was never more apparent than when Sheehy, as previously mentioned in The Reflector, along with fellow agent Ritch Winter, helped NHL players Trent Klatt, Chris Chelios, and a slew of other NHL players un-seated Ted Saskin as executive director of the NHLPA after Saskin was illegally handed the position following the resignation of Bob Goodenow.
Following the incident, Saskin, who was caught hacking into player emails, accused Sheehy of wanting a position with the NHLPA.
“We were vindicated in the end,” Sheehy said. “At the end of the day we wanted the right thing for the players.
“It was the people doing the wrong things that were trying to paint us as villains. Who knows where we would be right now if we didn’t stand up.”
His honest approach was evident in the mid-1990s when he recruited Sarnia Sting all-star Jon Sim. As Sheehy says, he was really high on Sim but no one else really was despite Sim scoring 112 goals in his first two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League.
Sim was drafted by the Dallas Stars in 1996 and the team wanted to sign him immediately. Sheehy refused and insisted that Sim would be better served to spend another year in junior hockey.
The move worked as Sim signed the following year and received $100,000 more than he would of the previous season. Although better news was on the way.
The next spring Sheehy flew to Sim’s home in New Glasgow, NS, to watch Sim parade the Stanley Cup through his hometown. Sim’s father Hugh Sim had some choice words for Sheehy on that day.
“I don’t know what kind of agent you are, but one thing I can say is that I know that you care about my kid and at the end of the day that’s all that matters,” Sheehy recalled Hugh Sim saying.
Derrick Newman’s feature on hockey agents is part of ongoing series for The Reflector. Visit theagentsofchange.com to read more in-depth stories and to get a closer look into the game of hockey