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Roy Sports Group issuing open challenge in esports in support of ECHL Player Relief Fund

April 28th, 2020 by Darryl Dionne, PHPA Director of Communications and Business Development

When the 2019-20 ECHL season came to a premature end on March 16th, due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, ECHL players were advised to return to their home territory, thus losing the opportunity to earn salary for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. In a league where players earn on average $700 per week during the regular season, losing out on this income was a big blow. To make matters worse, many ECHL players operate or instruct hockey schools and conditioning camps to earn extra income during the off-season, which may no longer be possible with arenas closed and social distancing measures in full effect.

To help players recoup some income, the PHPA and ECHL worked in partnership to create the “PHPA-ECHL COVID-19 Player Relief Fund”, a crowdfunding platform where 100% of funds raised will be directed towards ECHL players, and administered by a non-compensated group of Trustees consisting of representatives from both the PHPA and ECHL.

While the PHPA made an initial contribution of $200,000, ECHL teams have been hosting jersey auctions to help contribute to the fund, Booster Clubs have hosted fundraisers, former NHL players such as Dion Phaneuf and Daniel Briere have made sizable contributions as have NHL executives such as Kyle Dubas and Jim Devellano among others. Current ECHL players such as Parker Milner have initiated fundraising events, philanthropists and sponsors have also contributed, while ECHL Alum Paul Bissonnette has strongly advocated for the fund on his popular Spittin’ Chiclets podcast and has done his part to help.

Now, prominent hockey agent, Allain Roy, is doing what he can to assist ECHL players by setting up a RSG Esports Charity Challenge where half of the proceeds raised will be directed towards the ECHL Player Relief Fund (and the other half to COVID-19 Frontline Workers Fund), and has put out a challenge to other agents to take part.

“I have a bit of a background in esports” said Roy. “I’ve worked with a company called GamerzArena for years who has hosted these types of events in the past. I thought we would challenge some of the other hockey agencies as a different way to compete against each other in an entertaining and positive way to help raise awareness and build the ECHL Player Relief Fund, as well as other charities.”

The ECHL Relief Fund is important to Roy. His agency has a long history with the League which has played a big role in developing several of his clients over the years.

“We’ve had many players such as Philipp Grubauer, Carter Rowney, Logan Shaw and Rich Peverley for example, who started their pro careers in the ECHL and eventually advanced up to the NHL. There are too many to mention by name. This is a way for us to do our part, give back and show our support for the League and its players who in some cases have young families.”

After extending a challenge to other Agents to participate in the tournament and donate to the cause, Peter Wallen from Alterno Sports Management was the first to step up. Steve Bartlett’s Bartlett Group also recently came on board.

“We’ve discussed ways how we can set up multiple esports charity tournaments. Some of our clients may square off against some of Peter’s and Steve’s clients. Some of our guys such as Carter Hart, Max Comtois, Taro Hirose, Timothy Liljegren, Rasmus Asplund, Mattias Janmark, and more have already agreed to participate and show off their gaming skills.”

The tournament will be streamed live on Twitch through the GamerzArena platform on Saturday, April 25th, with the first round beginning at 2pm Eastern time to accommodate the time zone difference for European players participating in the event, followed by another battle at 8pm EST. Roy hopes the tournament will help raise funds and awareness for the Player Relief Fund.

“Our Agency has about 80 NHL contracted clients. About 40% of those players were playing in the NHL when the season was paused while the balance were in the AHL and ECHL, so I have first-hand knowledge of the financial impact that some of these players are experiencing and what this Fund means to them and their families. What the PHPA did by contributing the first $200,000 was a huge step in assisting their Members. I just wanted to do my part to help.”

Following a four-year NCAA career as a goaltender with Harvard, and after being drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the fourth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Roy played on the Canadian National and Olympic Teams before embarking on a 5-year professional hockey career in Europe. He knew he wanted to stay involved in the game once his playing career had come to an end, and being an agent was something that intrigued him.

“In 2000, I bought out a small Agency, and along with Mel Bridgman (who enjoyed a 14-year career in the NHL and was named the first General Manager of the Ottawa Senators) and Dennis Polonich (who had a 13-year pro career), we started with a client base of 15 players. Since then, we’ve expanded and currently represent around 200 clients worldwide. As an Agent, the fact that you can witness guys improve and see them make the jump to the next level is so rewarding. To be able to be part of that, and help these guys throughout their journey is the best part of my job.”

Having been around the game for so long, Roy understands the value and important role the ECHL occupies within the professional hockey landscape.

“I talk about this all the time to younger players. I have lots of respect for coaches and players who have experience in the ECHL. If you take any Head Coach or Assistant Coach in the NHL or AHL who previously coached in the ECHL, you know they did every front office task for that team, including booking hotel rooms. ECHL teams carry a smaller roster size which means players receive a ton of ice time, the calibre is very good, and it has become a true development league. I know at one time it had this reputation as a sort of goon league, but that hasn’t been the case for years. A young guy who buys in to playing in the ECHL in order to help hone his game is going to get an opportunity to move up. The calibre of play isn’t that far off from the AHL, which is one step away from the NHL.”

Although Roy knows many of his clients are years away from retirement, he is suggesting players use this down time wisely to consider their post hockey career. “Right now, aside from staying in shape and trying to keep busy, I’ve been encouraging players to at least think about their post career options and plan for the future. It’s never too early to plan for the next phase of your life.”

Roy is also planning more online events to help raise awareness for the ECHL Player Relief Fund.

“The goal will be to switch up games, and possibly host a new tournament every weekend. I’ve actually reached out to some agencies who represent athletes in other pro sports. Maybe we’ll see some pro hockey players against some NBA players. I really hope some of the other agents and their clients step up to our challenge, and support the cause and these ECHL players and their young families however they can.”

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