Rants Sports had the great opportunity in interview NHL hockey agent, Scott Norton on the new CBA, potential lockout and how he got interested in becoming an agent. Norton represents numerous athletes other than hockey is the president of Norton Sports Management. He represents Stanley Cup Champion, Dustin Brown and Flyers prospect, Tom Sestito among other high profile clients.
Rant Sports: Entry level contracts also seem to be a sticking point in CBA negotiations, do you think they should be at three years or is the NHL reasonable in lengthening a player’s first contract?
Scott Norton: “I believe the current status of 3 years is fair and equitable to both sides.”
RS: If the owners are offering big contracts in relating to the length of years for the players, do you find it odd that they want smaller contracts? If they want a five year minimum on contracts, why are teams sending out numerous long term year deals?
Norton: “They want and have always wanted to protect against themselves, not the players and agents. If they could control their own operations/spending, then there would be no need for further limitations.”
RS: It seems that many CBA negotiations in other sports also come down to the wire, causing a late start. Should these talks be started earlier so both sides can identify what they want to see happen and counter proposals can be exchanged?
Norton: “Should they – yes, but the feeling is that until there is a deadline and realistic leverage point, talks will not get serious enough.”
RS: When the commissioner, Gary Bettman says the fans will come back regardless, is he disregarding NHL fans? It seems to me the fans are what makes all this revenue possible.
Norton: “I think he is disrespecting all sports fans in general, and specifically hockey fans, but saying that, if you look at history, the fans have typically all come back within a short amount of time. The owners are banking on the fact that fans love hockey; that it is a great sport; and that when the CBA is resolved, fans will want to return to see the sport they missed watching.”
RS: Have you been involved with the CBA negotiations or are you sort of taking it all in? Do you think there is any possibility a deal can be done before September 15th or is that opportunity long gone?
Norton: “Agents are on the perimeter of the talks. I have kept in consistent contact with all of my hockey clients and the NHLPA, but have not been in any of the meetings. I have been pessimistic for a long time now, but there is always a chance that this could be settled in time for a complete season.”
RS: The players have said they would be willing to play while negotiating a new CBA. Is this at all fair? Keeps revenue for the league and avoids the 3rd lockout during Bettman’s tenure?
Norton: “Not sure how you define “fair”, but the NHLPA and players believe firmly that the games can and should continue while talks progress.”
RS: Do you think there is a trust issue between the small market and big market owners in regards to revenue sharing?
Norton: “I am not sure when you say “trust issue”. I do not believe it is a trust issue as much as a philosophical issue. I do not know that any big market team in any sport enjoys revenue sharing, but in many sports, they know it is in the best interest of the sport.”
RS: Becoming an unrestricted free agent happens a few times in a players’ career. Does the NHL have a cause for decreasing this opportunity?
RS: How did you get interested in becoming a sports agent?
Scott: “I was a commodity trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange while coaching and running the Team Illinois AAA organization. I was approached by a small agent to recruit for him. It combined my love for business and sports, and a few years later, I ended up buying him out.”
RS: For aspiring agents, what qualifications or education should one pursue for this career path?
Norton: “That is a very difficult question – obviously you have to have some business background and be able to negotiate, but you also need to feel very comfortable speaking. I have always said that a psychology degree could be more valuable than one in sports management as dealing with a client’s ups and downs is a crucial part of this business.”
RS: At what level do you look to sign clients? Is it a process of building relationships with players at a young age or are their families more likely to look for an agency?
Norton: “Depends on the sport and the NCAA rules and regulations – some sports we have to begin building those relationships at a very young age, and in hockey, many of the top players who go to Major Junior hire agents by the age of 15 or 16.”
A big thank you goes out to Scott Norton for taking his time to do the interview. You can follow Scott on twitter @NortonSports. He also has introduced Make My Day Monday, a philanthropic initiative to give back to the community. You can follow Make My Day Monday on twitter @MakeMyDayMonday.