NHL player agent Allan Walsh, in conversation with Free Press sports columnist Mike McIntyre on Thursday, had plenty to say about a number of subjects.
ON HOW HIS TIME IN LAW SCHOOL TOOK HIM ON AN UNEXPECTED DETOUR, PUSHING HIS HOCKEY AMBITIONS TO THE BACKGROUND:
“I was in my third year. There was a sign-up sheet, the first 10 got to do an internship with the LA District Attorney. I was the 10th. One of the neat things is once you’ve done two years of law school you can appear in court if a licenced lawyer is next to you.”
Walsh said he got partnered with a 30-year veteran lawyer he described as “lazy”, who allowed him to do all the work while he read the newspaper as they dealt with cases in court.
“He would open up the L.A. Times and I would do his job for him.”
ON HIS FIVE YEARS AS A PROSECUTOR, AND HOW A STAFF SHORTAGE LED TO BIG OPPORTUNITIES:
“We were elevated to cases we had no business or experience handling. I was punching way above my weight. I tried my first murder case when I was 25 years old. It was a great learning experience. I ended up doing about 40 murder cases.”
ON SPEAKING UP WHEN OTHER AGENTS TYPICALLY REMAIN QUIET:
“I think my five years as a prosecutor taught me a lot. When I started representing players, I really looked at all the other agents out there. There were some people I really respected. And there were others less so. I sat down and really thought to myself why I wanted to get into the business and what I wanted to accomplish for my clients. And fashioned for myself a set of values. And I’ve tried to remain true to those values from the day I started.”
ON HIS VIEW TOWARDS CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS:
“I don’t care about the GM. I don’t care about the owner. I don’t care about the relationship with them. My relationship with people on the other side is professional, not personal.”
ON WHY HE DESPISES A SALARY CAP:
“The very essence of salary caps and one of the reasons I’ve been against them is they pit players vs players. That’s why owners love salary caps. Depending on where you are in the cycle, your interests are going to conflict with other players.”
ON GARY BETTMAN’S COSTLY MISCALCULATION:
“I think what changed is Gary Bettman made a bet that by January the worst of the pandemic would be over with and we would be able to generate at least a moderate case scenario of US$2.5 billion of HRR on the season, which means fans being allowed into buildings around the league at at least 25 per cent capacity, with the hopes of getting up to 50 per cent. But it looks right now, with the second wave going on, it’s going to look more and more like a worst case scenario. Maybe US$1.2 to US$1.3 billion. And so now he’s got a group of owners, not many, maybe five, maybe six, who are furious with this deal because it means they need to go find the cash, probably going into debt, to generate the cash flow needed to get through he season. And they don’t want to do it.”
SO IS THERE GOING TO BE A YOUNG VS OLD CONFLICT AT PLAY NOW WITH THIS SITUATION?
“There was a delicate balance struck in this agreement between the competing interests of players. And what Gary Bettman is trying to do is re-negotiate that balance. Not because he’s spending his nights staring at his ceiling worrying about players coming into the league in three years, but because he’s got some owners mad at him over their current cash flow.”
ON SO MANY UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS STILL BEING UNSIGNED BY TEAMS:
“I think once we get past the return-to-play and we have a schedule and know when camps are open the puck is dropping on the season, there will be a flurry of signings around the league, and all the players you’d expect to sign in the off-season will have signed.”
ON WHAT ALL THIS UNCERTAINTY IS LIKE FOR PLAYERS:
“It is an unsettling time. A lot of players who are not signed are outside their comfort zone. They’ve never been in this situation before. Expectations need to managed.”
WHY HE THINKS A 48-GAME SEASON STARTING IN FEBRUARY IS THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO:
“Gary has a precedent set (with the 2012-13 lockout) where he thinks for a regular season to have integrity and be regarded as a legitimate regular season, the minimum number of games he needs to put on is 48.”
GIVEN THE CURRENT STALEMATE, WERE ALL THOSE GOOD VIBES BETWEEN THE NHL AND NHLPA LAST SUMMER A FARCE?
“I think it was accurate at the time. There was unprecedented co-operation between the league and the NHLPA. From the very beginning they worked together and not against each other. It was great to see.”
SPEAKING OF FEUDS, HOW ABOUT THE ONE BETWEEN NHL PLAYERS EVANDER KANE AND RYAN REAVES, INCLUDING PLENTY OF JABS ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
“Love it. Wish we had more of it. That’s what we need off the ice to generate the kind of interest you see in the NFL and NBA.”