17 ñåíòÿáðÿ 2000 ãîäà. Talking a tough game! Yashin's hard-headed
agent Gandler takes heat (íà àíãëèéñêîì ÿçûêå)
By DON BRENNAN
He is considered the most outspoken and controversial player agent in
As a negotiator, he plays a dirty, Pete-Rose style of hardball.
He's been described as "unreasonable" and is known to overvalue his
players. In a game of give and take, he gives very little.
And in some cases it doesn't matter that you have a contract with Mark
Gandler. As he points out, it is only a piece of paper.
"Mark is an aggressive agent who vigilantly works on behalf of his clients,"
says Bob Goodenow, the NHLPA's executive director. "Some people have disagreed
with his judgment and tactics as they relate to hockey and business issues.
But, in the end, the results will speak for themselves."
Others aren't so polite.
"He's giving us all a bad name," one agent said recently.
Fewer people agree that the sun will rise somewhere in the world tomorrow.
Gandler, a 44-year-old New Jersey resident who was born in the former
Soviet Union, has been an agent since 1990.
He represents dozens of NHLers. Most are Russians, all are Europeans.
Included in his stable are Senators Alexei Yashin and Petr Schastlivy,
Anaheim's Ruslan Salei, Chicago's Valerie Zelepukin, Pittsburgh's Darius
Kasparaitis, Montreal's Sergei Zholtok and Toronto's Dimitry Yushkevich,
Igor Korolev and Alexander Karpovtsev.
His services don't come cheap. A former client reveals Gandler's take
on contracts is 5%, which is "on the high side" of what most agents
CLARKE MADE VOW
And his involvement places restrictions on his players. After being
unable to re-sign Yushkevich, Philadelphia GM Bobby Clarke finally traded
the defenceman to the Leafs, then vowed he will never have another Gandler
client on his team. Scratch the Flyers from the list of potential suitors
should Ottawa ever decide to deal Yashin.
Yet somehow, Gandler remains in business. How?
It could have something to do with his personality. Gandler may lack
scruples, but he is not an ogre. He has a gentle tone, a friendly smile,
a warm handshake. He can be an engaging conversationalist, even if he does
come across as a know-it-all. No doubt, he has it all turned up high when
he approaches a non-represented player for the first time.
"He can charm you, that's for sure," says Bill Watters, a former agent
who is now the assistant GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a contract sparring
partner of Gandler's. "Mark is a very pleasant man."
Gandler's most famous malcontent, of course, is Yashin.
Three times the Senators centre has bolted from the team while still
under contract. Three times he has refused to honour deals Gandler watched
"I don't have any experience with Mark other than in negotiating a deal
for Alexei," says former Senators GM Randy Sexton. "But his stance with
Alexei has always bordered on the outrageous."
After playing the first year of a five-year contract, Yashin didn't
show up for the second. He and Gandler cried that Sexton had promised to
renegotiate if Yashin ever lost his status as the highest paid player on
the team. Sexton still refers to it as an "invented accusation."
Yashin rejoined the Senators when some "face-saving" clauses were written
into his deal. But when then-coach Rick Bowness benched Yashin in a game
against Tampa Bay and the centre fell just shy of reaching the point-scoring
bonuses, Yashin refused to play for Ottawa ever again.
He relented when Sexton was fired and Pierre Gauthier smoothed out the
edges of the contract.
Sexton wasn't surprised when Yashin refused to honour the last year
of his existing deal.
"To most people, a $100,000 salary is pretty good," says Sexton. "Alexei
makes more than 35 times that much in six months. Now he wants to make
80 times that much. That doesn't garner a lot of sympathy from the average
Many accuse Gandler of being the straw that stirs Yashin's drink of
"From all the reports I've heard, Yashin's not a bad kid at all," said
another player rep. "I just think he's just the victim of some very questionable
But Yashin is calling the shots and said as much at the press conference
announcing his return.
Gandler, who was dressed, as usual, in a sweater, talked about Alexei's
"commitment" and claimed the player never let his teammates down.
Jaws fell to the floor.
Eyebrows hit the ceiling.
Possessing an impressive education resume that includes a degree at
the Columbia Law School in 1991, Gandler also claimed he did not understand
parts of the collective bargaining agreement that pertained to Yashin's
attempt at becoming a restricted free agent.
Another client might have fired him on the spot.
Gandler was the first agent for Senators prospect Martin Havlat. When
his contract expired, he began looking at hiring Jiri Crha, mainly because
a couple of his friends were represented by the former NHL goalie. Havlat
says Crha also "gave more information about the league" than Gandler, though
the difference between the two was discernible.
Gandler made one last pitch at keeping the prized prospect before he
signed with Crha.
"He said, `if you come back to me it will be good for you,' " Havlat
said recently. "He told me, `I know Alexei Yashin very good. He can help
you in Ottawa.' "
The Leafs are currently having their own problems with Karpovtsev, and
Gandler is being as loud and preposterous as ever. When talks on a new
deal for the defenceman hit a wall recently, Gandler sent the Leafs a fax
that said he was putting them "on suspension."
Gandler was trying to get Karpovtsev a contract that would pay him $3.5
million a year. The Leafs were willing to give him $1.8 million. Gandler
dissed the organization publicly and threatened to make Karpovtsev a holdout.
"I thought the offer was trash," Gandler told a Toronto paper. "I don't
even want to talk to that organization anymore. I'm sick of their gamesmanship
and their lack of respect for players. I'm not interested in their shenanigans."
The two sides are once again on speaking terms, but are still a long
way from reaching an agreement. And, at least, the Leafs are off Gandler's
NOT VERY NICE
"Mark's got his own style and I'm aware of what that style is," said
Watters. "The only way to counter it is not very nice, but you have to
go about business and play the hand that is dealt you. If I had a wish,
I'd wish he could take his players to arbitration and get a league-wide
view of their worth. He sees the only alternative as holding out ... my
job is to sign players and get them on the ice."
Kasparaitis once ignored Gandler's advice and signed a contract despite
being told not to. And still others have paid for his methods with their
Of Yashin's current $3.6-million (US) salary, Gandler figured that the
player would only get about $1.9 after taxes and to make up that money
after a lost season, Gandler planned on demanding $2 million more than
he would have on Yashin's next contract.
The entire episode has put Yashin, and other players for that matter,
in a negative light.
"The whole process has galvanized public attention on Yashin and gives
the impression all players are the same," said one agent. "At this point,
there are far more serious injustices being done by the other side, but
nobody has any time for them. People don't want to hear about it because
of Yashin. It's been perfect for owners. It almost gives them immunity
to do whatever they want to other players."
Gandler, meanwhile, continues to create his own legacy. To some, that's
negative. But to Gandler, it's just business as usual.