Just a few moments ago, I discussed a Montreal Gazette story that included an interesting bit regarding hockey agent Rich Winter’s formula for building elite NHL teams. As it turns out, I couldn’t help but find another portion of that story quite interesting.
It’s not surprising for teams to go all-out to court star players. Sometimes, in college sports, that process is dripping with illegal possibilities and shady dealings. Then again, often it’s as harmless as treating someone to a steak dinner. The Montreal Gazette piece described the Chicago Blackhawks’ courtship of Marian Hossa, which was nothing short of aggressive (or, as Winter says in the story, “relentless”).
Once the Blackhawks realized they were in the running, they were relentless. Winter credits Tallon and then-assistant general manager Stan Bowman for their aggressive pursuit. After meeting in Montreal, he said the phone calls were often, sometimes multiple conversations each day.
“They were just tremendous,” Winter said. “They forechecked him into submission and by the time free agency’s clock had started, they had Marian right where they wanted him.”
And now, once again, he’s right where he wants to be.
On the heels of the NBA fining Mark Cuban a ridiculous amount of money for “tampering” with Lebron James, it’s pretty stunning to read that the Blackhawks met with Hossa during the June ’09 NHL Draft. That’s a healthy amount of time before Hossa’s contract with the Detroit Red Wings officially expired on July 1, but apparently the team had a “gentleman’s agreement” with the Slovakian star, allowing him to negotiate with other teams if a long-term deal wasn’t in the cards.
Hossa wanted one thing: for his agent, Winter, to find him a “winner.” Being that Chicago is three wins away from getting him his hard-fought Cup, it seems like his agent is doing is job well. One can debate how truly elite the Blackhawks are, but they certainly know how to make a potential free agent feel special. Just ask Marian Hossa (and, really, Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet).