It was very early in the morning on the second day of this year’s NHL Draft in Dallas on June 23 when Allan Walsh’s cellphone rang.
Max Pacioretty was on the other end, looking for a new agent after a trade the Canadiens had tried to make with the Los Angeles Kings fell through because Pacioretty wouldn’t agree to a contract extension.
“He asked me if I was interested in representing him,” Walsh said during a wide-ranging interview at the Jonathan Drouin Golf Tournament on Sept. 6. “He briefed me on what was going on with his situation at the time, what his goals were, what he was looking to accomplish going forward. We had a real good discussion … it was a very early call, around 5 o’clock in the morning. At the end of the phone call, I agreed to work with him and that’s how it started.”
Pacioretty hired Walsh to replace Pat Brisson — a longtime friend of Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin — as his agent. Walsh said his instructions from Pacioretty were to do everything possible to keep him in Montreal, but it became obvious the Canadiens had no interest in giving their 29-year-old captain a contract extension as he headed into the final season of a six-year, US$27-million deal.
On Sept. 10, the Canadiens traded Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick at the 2019 NHL Draft. Pacioretty agreed to a four-year, US$28-million contract extension with the Golden Knights that will take him through the 2022-23 season.
On Saturday night, Pacioretty will play his first game against his former team when the Golden Knights visit the Bell Centre (7 p.m., SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).
“Looking back on that whole situation, I think it was resolved to everyone’s best interests,” Walsh said Friday from Los Angeles.
Walsh did exactly what Pacioretty paid him to do — get the best deal possible for him and his family, who are still settling into their new house in Las Vegas. On the ice, Pacioretty is off to a slow start with two goals and no assists in his first 12 games with the Golden Knights and he missed four games with an upper-body injury. The Golden Knights (7-8-1) had the day off Friday in Montreal and there was no media availability for the team.
Walsh, who is also Drouin’s agent, has been keeping a low profile when it comes to the Canadiens since all the heat leading up to and after the Pacioretty trade. But the 53-year-old has never shied away from the spotlight and is very active with his more than 40,000 followers on Twitter, expressing his opinions and supporting his clients.
As a boy growing up in Chomedey, Walsh was a huge Canadiens fan and dreamed about one day being an NHL goalie, just like his idol Ken Dryden.
“I wanted to be the next Ken Dryden, although I was vertically challenged being only like 5-foot-8 instead of 6-foot-4,” Walsh said. “My entire bedroom was posters and photos of Dryden in action on all four walls. If Dryden was in the net and the Canadiens would lose a game — which didn’t happen very often back in the ’70s — I’d literally be in tears.”
Walsh filled two scrapbooks with newspaper stories about Dryden and the Canadiens.
“One got filled up around 1976, so the second scrapbook is from ’76 to ’79,” Walsh said. “I would diligently read every day The Gazette and The Montreal Star sports sections. I would painstakingly cut the stories out and tape them into the scrapbook and sometimes write little memories or stories about a game if I was there or if I watched it on TV. I still have both scrapbooks to this day.
“My parents divorced when I was around 13 and I went to live with my father (in Côte St-Luc) and I don’t have much of anything from 0-13 except those scrapbooks,” Walsh added. “They’re at my home now.”
For the last 33 years, home for Walsh has been Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife, Stephanie, son Ethan and daughter Ani. After graduating from McGill University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Walsh went to Southwestern Law School in L.A. From 1989-95, he was an L.A. County deputy district attorney, prosecuting gang murder cases.
The first NHL player Walsh represented as an agent was defenceman Dean Chynoweth, selected by the New York Islanders in the first round (13th overall) at the 1987 NHL Draft. Walsh still calls Chynoweth “No. 1” instead of by his name. Walsh is now co-managing director of Octagon Hockey, which represents about 90 players in the NHL.
When asked what makes him a good agent, Walsh smiled and started to laugh.
“You’re asking the wrong guy,” he said. “First of all, you’re assuming I am a good agent and that’s a huge assumption there. You’d have to ask other people about that. You’re going to get mixed results on that one.”
Pacioretty and Bergevin would certainly have different answers to that question.