Exclusive interview with Landeskog´s agentEurolanche did the exclusive interview with Landeskog´s agent about his job and the Avalanche client.
Peter Wallen (*1965) is an NHLPA certified Swedish hockey agent who is a president and a founder of the Alterno Sports Management and also cooperates with the Octagon Hockey in North America. He played in the elite hockey league in Sweden for 10 years and won the championship in 1989 with Djurgarden – the same team that Gabriel Landeskog played during the last lockout for. At the age of 30, he retired of a professional hockey and had started a hockey agent´s career in 1995.
Peter visits Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, every summer due the famous international hockey tournament – Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup for under-18 player category – that is organized in two cities near to Bratislava. Eurolanche met with Peter in Bratislava and did an exclusive interview that was mainly focused on one of his clients – Landeskog. You can follow Peter on his Twitter - @P_alterno.
What did you do before you became a hockey agent?
I played a hockey until I was thirty. Then I started small steps to helping out some former team members and started to recruit little bid. I was also involving in a financial business, so I was mixing both of that (aspects) for couple of years.
What is the easiest way to become a hockey agent?
When I started it many years ago, the agent business wasn´t as big as today. I think you maybe need to go to a sports management school. If you want to be a good agent and want to keep it for a long time, you should hook up with older agents who have been around for many years and they show you how it works and you can be like an assistant. But you can get more and more responsibility all the time. It isn´t easy. There is nothing easy with being an agent at all. It is hard competition. We have a lot of agents all over Europe. It is tough. I would say the best way is to find an agent who has been work for many years.
When did you meet Landeskog for the first time?
When he was 15; the year he was turning 16, so in 2008.
What was the start of the cooperation between you?
I called his father, introduced myself and I asked if they would like to sit down and have a meeting with me. They said yes, so we had a lunch. We had a long lunch, I was doing my presentation. We had really good meeting. I enjoyed it. I was interested in him before the meeting, during the meeting and after the meeting. That was like double interesting.
Does it work in the way that you called to parents?
I don´t know how it works for other people. We do a lot of scouting, we do research and then we decide what players we would like to represent. Then we go out and try to recruit them. Always calling to a father or a mother – depending on a family situation. We are asking them to have a meeting with parents and a player.
Can you compare Landeskog when he was 16 and now?
Of course he had developed a lot during these five years. Compared to his age group, he was a natural leader. The meeting I had with him was like ´He is so mature!´. He wanted to learn the stuff.
What was your first impression when you saw him for the first time on the ice?
Tremendous leader. You could see he had a lot of responsibility, strong skater, strong body, great leadership.
Maybe some negative aspects that he has to develop?
He needs to develop all his sides, because he is going to be absolutely fantastic player. He scored a lot of points in his rookie year. It was expected from his style of the play. The North American style fits him pretty good. He has good shot, he is good passer, he is very good in many aspects. He will have to improve overall.
What was the cooperation between you when Landy went overseas to play in the juniors when he was still a kid?
We talked via telephone or Skype. I traveled there to meet him several times both years. I had some people in Canada who also met with him and took care about him, helped him out with couple of other issues off the ice. I had really good connection with his coach and GM. We had a good contact. He is mature kid, he knows how to take care in himself as well. His father was there a lot. It was a combination of things that made good relationship between us over these two years.
What was the preparation process for the draft?
We had a lot of meetings in Toronto. We had several meetings after the Combine. He also went to Stanley Cup Finals – top prospects were going. We had couple of meetings the day before the draft. Avs are his favorite team, Forsberg is a favorite player. Back in his room it was Avs and Peter Forsberg. When they called his name it was awesome, big moment for him.
What did he tell you first when he was picked up by the Avs?
He was just laughing. It was great and awesome.
When or where he learn how to talk with media? If I compare his behavior off the ice with for example some KHL´s young players, it is simply incomparable…
Gabriel is a natural. He enjoys being interviewed, he likes to communicate. He has always been a leader, so he wants to talk to everybody. It is just come natural from him. Before he went to Kitchener, we never had media training or anything, it is just him.
I guess there was any problem to negotiate his first contract.
No. If you´re number two overall at the draft, everything is set to be maximum except individual bonuses.
You talked with Greg Sherman?
Because fans and even some media speculated who really was in charge for the Avalanche business in that time. Sherman or Pierre Lacroix…
Whenever I talking to Avalanche regarding Landeskog (except the media issues), it had always been Greg. I think Greg has been outstanding to me, very polite, very good. We have had always good relationship. How or who is doing it behind the scene it is up to them. But if you are asking me, it has been Greg every time and for everything.
Will you focus on the length of Landy´s next contract?
I think you can look at that in two ways. If numbers are good, you can talk about a length of the contract. But if you can´t reach the numbers, it will decrease the years that you come in to. Making him a captain gives you a sense or a signal what they would like to. Gabriel is on the team that has been his favorite for his whole life, they named him a captain, he loves Denver. There is no reason why it shouldn´t be a long term contract with both sides being very, very pleased.
Don´t you think that Landy will be under big pressure next season? He enters the last year of his contract.
I think that would be something he isn´t going to be focus on at all. He is good enough to be the captain this year. I think they will keep him as a captain for many years.
Will he keep the captaincy in the next season?
I would be surprised if it was taken away from him.
Do you think he was ready to become a captain? Denver Post reported that Landy should speak in the locker room, not Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the infamous “Las Vegas conflict”.
Landy would never say yes if he wasn´t prepared. He was asked and he replied yes that means he is prepared. Would he know everything about being the captain NHL? No, for sure not. But he got good company around him, helping him out and supporting him, because it is learning period of course. When you are 19, 24 or 27 and if you never been a captain, it is always a learning process. I think Landy has a kind of respect that is required to be a captain. There will always be players frustrated for something, somehow, sometimes, that will say something in the press that doesn´t belong there. While anyone would say that should be talking Landy in the dressing room, he can never stop Giguere and anyone else to talk. He can try to reach out them and say ´Let´s keep this in the locker room, we won´t do that in the media, but in the locker room´. He is that kind of a guy as well, but you can´t control the group of 25 people. It will always happen.
How often do you fly to Denver per season?
Last year, I was only once or twice because of the lockout. Year before it was lot more. Denver is nice. The home opener was Forsberg´s retirement ceremony. We had public signing, some marketing stuff. I was probably there for 3-4 times in his first year.
What do you do there except the business with Landy in Denver?
It is a lot of business. But we meet to go for dinner, asking him how he is, how he feels, what´s new. I also see him on the away games, Chicago, New York, somewhere else. Or we have breakfast, lunch, stuff like that. It started with the draft. It was the Combine, draft, home opener, November, All Star, February and Awards. It was crazy year.
Do you remember on some funny moment that you experienced with Landy?
I saw him playing at World Championship under-18 in the USA. They had day off and we went to game together. Once we were sitting there, I asked him a question if he would like to play here. He turned to me and said ´Absolutely´. He had a contract offer to Swedish league on the table back home. We said let´s not do it before the World Championship. That´s funny moment, because it was the first time we talked about it seriously and he was like ´I wanna go!´.
The plan B was playing in Sweden?
Yeah, it was when he went to Kitchener, when he was 16. So he turned Swedish Elite League down to go to Kitchener.
Were there any problems when Gabriel was younger that you had to solve? Something with the organization issues or business…
He was drafted by Plymouth Whalers and we were going to Kitchener Rangers. I dealt with that for like 4-5 weeks or something like that before Kitchener came up with the solution and could trade him.
Didn´t he want to play for Plymouth?
It wasn´t that he didn´t want to play for Plymouth. He wanted to play for Kitchener. He went there, we (me and his father) went there and saw that place – locker room, rink and school. Everything was preset and he was set to go there. He didn´t want to see other places. I had Rickard Rakell in Whalers and this year Victor Crus Rydberg will be playing there so I like Whalers as much as Kitchener. He was really looking for go to Kitchener.
Did you get some souvenirs from Landy?
I have the All-Star Game Jersey on the wall in the office. The year he was drafted we had top three draftees – he signed a big picture three of them for me. Then Landeskog´s t-shirt of course. There is a Denver guy who likes to paint sports guys in an action. This guy draw some pictures of Landy in an action and one of them Landy signed for me and I put it in the office as well.
You point prediction for Landy in the next season?
That´s too tough to say. If he can go back to rookie year, it would be awesome. But the main thing is that the team is taking the next step. I think it would be great if they made playoffs. I think that´s where the team maybe needs to be. To be able to work in long term without a pressure from everybody outside or even inside of the organization. Get some peace and quiet working environment. I hope it will be around playoffs spot all the time since it is important for them. But if they made it, it is awesome, because it draws attention, excitement of fans. It is more important that teams makes playoffs. That´s the main goal.
What are your other clients?
Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay), Patrick Berglund (St. Blues), Jonas Brodin (Minnesota), Jacob Josefson (New Jersey), Jhonas Enroth (Buffalo), Jacob Markstrom (Florida), Elias Lindholm (Carolina) and we have couple of other players that are assigned of the AHL to become the NHL players. And we have Wilhelm Westlund that was drafted in 7th round this year by you.
Do you think that Westlund has a chance to play for the Avalanche in the future?
Yeah, that´s why they drafted him.
What is a real chance for him to play for the Avs?
I don´t know. He had his first game in the Swedish Elite league last season, now he is going to play there. Hopefully he will play there for around half to three quarter of the season this year and the next year it will be a full season. Once it is over we can look into how close he is. The next two years will be very interesting and exciting to follow where he can go. If he becomes great Swedish Elite player in the next two years, then he has good chance in the Avalanche as well.
What are his main skills?
He is a two-way defenseman, he has good sense of a play, he can read a game very well. He is good skater and good passer. He has decent size, he is maybe not super skilled. He has good platform on skills. He is only 18, he has a lot of things to develop, mainly get stronger, little bit faster.
Can you say on the public the percentage that you get off the contracts your clients?
It is between me and the player.
What do you think about MacKinnon?
I know they have very high expectations of him. They think he is high skilled. I haven´t seen him a lot as he plays in the juniors over there. I saw him at the World Junior Championship. He didn´t get to play his role that he used to. It is obviously super skilled point maker, natural goal scorer, great skater. It is big adjustment from junior to NHL. I think the Avalanche will make room for him to succeed. It is going very interesting to see him play at the beginning of the season. I hope he stays healthy.
David Puchovsky, Slovakia, email@example.com
09/08/2013 - 16:30