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Alan Eagleson: Agent to the superstars

He never played the game, but he was the most powerful man in hockey. Alan Eagleson played many roles off the ice: agent to the stars, union boss and international hockey impresario. But he was also accused of less savoury activities: cozying up to management, bullying players and misusing their money. Then came the investigations, criminal convictions and a dizzying fall from grace.

Though he already represented many NHL stars, Alan Eagleson skyrocketed to fame and fortune when he became lawyer and agent for wunderkind Bobby Orr. Now, as the superstar approaches the end of his contract, Eagleson tells the Boston Bruins to pony up $10 million to re-sign their star defenceman. The jaw-dropping figure would make Orr the highest-paid professional sportsman in history. As we hear in this clip, Eagleson blames the dizzying salaries on the "line-up of fools" willing to pay.
. Bobby Orr is considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time (second only to Wayne Gretzky). Born in Parry Sound, Ont., in 1948, Orr began playing for the Boston Bruins in 1966 at age 18, and was the NHL rookie of the year. He was an outstanding defender and a tremendous skater and stick handler. Orr was league scoring champion twice (the only defenceman to ever win the award) and was named defenceman of the year a record eight times.

. One of Orr's finest moments came on May 10, 1970, when he scored an acrobatic overtime goal to help the Bruins capture their first Stanley Cup in 29 years.
. Alan Eagleson had once played baseball with Orr's father Doug in northern Ontario. Years later, at a baseball banquet in MacTier, Ont., Doug Orr approached Eagleson about representing his son. Eagleson negotiated a tough contract with the Boston Bruins (Orr signed in 1966 for $75,000, an impressive hike from the Bruin's $10,500 pre-Eagleson "final offer").

. NHL player salaries rose significantly in the 1970s while there was competition from the World Hockey Association. Appearing on 90 Minutes Live with Peter Gzowski in December 1976, Eagleson said he had to accept some responsibility for skyrocketing player contracts: "When they were handing out the bags of money, I thought I better try to get to the front of the line."

. The Boston Bruins balked at the $10 million contract demand. That season Orr underwent knee surgery. The WHA's Minnesota North Stars reportedly offered Orr $6.5 million, but in the end Orr signed with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1976 for a reported $3 million over five years, payable regardless of his health.
. It was later reported that the Bruins had offered to include an 18.5 per cent ownership stake in the franchise. According to journalist Russ Conway, Eagleson neglected to tell Orr about that.

. Knee problems led to an early retirement for Bobby Orr in 1978, and in 1979 he was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame (the usual waiting period was waived).
. When Orr retired he faced tax issues that left him almost bankrupt. His pension was said to be $8,400 per year.

. Bobby Orr soon had a falling out with Eagleson, and severed their relationship in 1980. A month earlier, Eagleson's partner (and future Toronto Maple Leafs executive) Bill Watters had done the same, citing differences over the high 10 per cent fees Eagleson charged.

. Deidra Clayton, author of Eagle: The Life and Times of R. Alan Eagleson quotes Bobby Orr as saying the following about Eagleson's fees: "It's a 90-10 business with Al. He gets 90 percent and we keep 10 percent... just to make sure we have an easier time handling our money."
Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Magazine
Broadcast Date: Aug. 10, 1975
Guest(s): Ken Dryden, Alan Eagleson, Harry Sinden
Host: Bob Oxley, Owen Godden
Duration: 12:46

Last updated: August 31, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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