Hi Gareth,first of all,can you explain to our readers: What does your job consist in?

Currently 9 Hockey Management represents over 70 semi-professional and professional Ice Hockey players from the Central Hockey League in North America to you’re very own A2. The agency caters for today’s hockey player who is looking to enhance his career anywhere in the world. We provide mainly contract negotiation and player placement services but also career and wealth management, passport and citizenship guidance and image rights management (i.e. websites, Facebook, Twitter etc).

The situation of the economy have an influence on your job and on the salary of the players?
The economic downturn in Europe and North American has definitely had an effect on the hockey market. With their being very little money around, it has resulted in attendances, sponsorship, secondary spent having drastically reduced in addition to increased costs for equipment, housing, flights etc which is crippling a lot of hockey clubs. This has obviously effected the expenditure of clubs which in turn has pushed down the salary levels. Also with a number of leagues reducing import quotas and unfortunately even some teams going out of business, there are still a lot of players without jobs in the current market.

Where is the most exciting place for your job?
The aspect of my role that I really enjoy is the travelling and meeting new people. I had the opportunity to get out to Italy in May when myself and Rob Wilson went out to meet Neumarkt, so I had the chance to see Bolzano and the surrounding villages which was pretty exciting. I should hopefully be back in Italy in January as I am going out to see my clients Don Nichols and Jussi Heikinnen.

You work also here in Italy, speak about the Italian hockey. What usually the team search in a player when they contact you?
I’ve really just broken into Italian hockey market as I have predominately being working with teams in the UK, Holland, France and North America. I’ve found all the teams very professional to deal with, the sport in Italy does a very good job considering all the teams are in the Alpine region which is pretty unique for any league from throughout the world. The game is very fast in Italy, especially compared to the British Elite League, so I’ve enjoyed the game I’ve seen. When Italian teams contact me, they’re always looking for quality imports. What I like about Italian hockey is teams know that their imports must be their standout players as that’s where they’re spending the money. Players like Dan Tudin and Rob Sirianni could play in the DEL, so that shows you the quality of guys around the Italian game right now.

Can you tell to us if there are new players that will come in Italy?
Unfortunately I have to be very discrete when dealing with my clients on both fronts so I couldn’t pass on such information, but teams contact me on a regular basis from A1 and A2 looking to improve there rosters where possible. I have recently placed Don Nichols into Caldaro which is his first season in Italy having spent the previous ten seasons of his career in Holland.

You come from the UK, what do you think about the results of the U20 of your country?
The GB under 20’s had a very good World Championships which is good for the future development of the sport in the UK. Peter Russell is a very good coach and has a big future in the sport. The GB programme is starting to produce some very good up and coming players with the likes Sam Smith, Tom Squires and Robert Farmer already playing regular Elite League Ice Hockey.

In the end, we ask to you who will win the next WC and why?
It’s difficult to say but I would looking at their progression and recent history, Canada or Russia. I think both have invested well in their national programmes and Canada especially have progressed considerably from where they were ten years ago but literally in a tournament like that there’s always some surprised. With Slovakia being the hosts I wouldn’t rule them out or the Czech Republic either. Great Britain play in Kiev in April so I will be hoping they can do well, they have a difficult group with the likes of Ukraine and Kazakhstan, but they have shown in recent years that they are improving tournament after tournament.