SBJ/September 17-23, 2012/Labor and Agents

NHL players, eyeing Europe, keep specialty insurers busy

Liz Mullen
Sutton Special Risk in the last month has given out quotes on how much it would cost to insure about 100 individual NHL players if they were to take jobs in Europe in the event of an NHL work stoppage, said Colin Fairlie, vice president of sports for the Toronto-based underwriter.

“It started about the middle of August, and I would say about 25 agents have called [for quotes], but some of those agents represent a number of players,” Fairlie said last week. “And it’s pretty annoying, to be honest with you, because, when push comes to shove, I am not sure how many players are going to go.”

The NHL’s collective-bargaining agreement was due to expire this past weekend. It was widely expected at press time for this column that the deadline would come without a new deal being reached and that the league would subsequently lock out the players.

Players under NHL contracts could only take jobs in Europe if the NHL were to lock them out.

Rich Salgado, founder and president of Coastal Advisors, was in the process of securing quotes for eight NHL players last week. Salgado’s New York-based insurance consulting firm specializes in insuring professional athletes.

Former NHL player Basil McRae, owner of London, Ontario-based Basil McRae & Associates, said his firm also has given advice to about 50 to 100 players seeking information about what coverage is available if they were to choose to play in Europe. McRae’s firm provides disability and other insurance to pro athletes.

McRae said players were seeking to insure that they would get at least part of their NHL contracts if they went overseas, got injured, and then returned to play on their respective NHL teams if the lockout was lifted. “It is not cheap, that is for sure,” said McRae, without giving specifics. “We are looking not only at career-ending injury, but temporary injury.”

Agents said last week they were preparing players to be locked out. The agents requested anonymity, saying they could not talk publicly about getting deals for clients under NHL contracts until there is a lockout.

One prominent agent said he planned on making calls to European clubs on Sunday, potentially the first day of a lockout. “We have to,” he said. “The players are going to find work. The KHL has money,” a reference to the Russian professional hockey league.

Another agent said it is too soon to say whether many players, if locked out, would go to Europe. “I talk to my players, and then they decide if they want to pay the premiums,” this agent said.

CAA SIGNS McGUIRE: CAA Sports has signed new Toronto Raptors forward Dominic McGuire. He will be represented by a team of agents led by Aaron Mintz. McGuire was formerly represented by Priority Sports & Entertainment. Mintz left Priority earlier this year, and they are involved in litigation in Los Angeles federal court. Mintz sued Priority, seeking a declaration that his noncompete and other restrictive covenants in his Priority employment agreement were unenforceable. Priority countersued Mintz and CAA, alleging breach of contract, among other things.

MORE SIGNINGS: Wasserman Media Group has signed Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma for representation. Wasserman Vice Chairman Arn Tellem and agent Josh Persell will represent him. He was formerly represented by Sosnick Cobbe Sports. … Relativity Sports has signed Cleveland Cavaliers forward Alonzo Gee. Happy Walters, co-COO of Relativity Media and head of the sports division launched by that company earlier this summer, will represent him. Gee was formerly represented by NBA agent Andre Buck.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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