Getting To Know NHL Player Agent Scott Norton
Most people don’t look fondly upon agents of professional athletes. In fact, the general consensus is that agents are only interested in procuring as much money as possible for their clients in order to maximize their own profits.
“I’m always gonna be the bad guy,” he told the Checking Line in a recent interview. “If you look at it, there’s no way that I can make everyone happy. The client, the team, the fan…you can’t please everyone.”
As far as Norton is concerned, his number one interest is to represent his clients in the best possible light. He would rather take the heat for a disgruntled player begging for a trade than have the player complain to the media and stain their own reputation.
“I’ve had players at all levels ask for trades, but I never want one of those situations where a player is making it public. If an agent makes it public, great. Badmouth me all you want. That’s the nature of my business.”
That’s what fans often forget—the game we all love to watch is ultimately a business. The teams we cheer for are companies, the players we idolize are employees, and the agents are just another part of the system—one that Norton is very familiar with, having grown up in a family involved with the ownership of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox.
However, his rise as an NHL player agent was much more serendipitous than simply being handed his career on a silver plate courtesy of his family name.
After graduating from Columbia University, Norton began his career as a commodity trader and ran the Team Illinois AAA hockey program on the side. When he was approached by a small-time agent who wanted Norton to help him recruit young players, he welcomed this change in lifestyle.
“It was sort of combining my two loves of business and hockey,” he explained. “I was a pretty good commodity trader but I didn’t actually get the fulfillment of working with people.”
Norton avoided any potential conflicts of interest when he put aside his family’s connections with basketball and baseball and focused on creating a legacy in a new sport.
“I was a hockey player growing up so hockey was always my first love. And as much as it’s nice being my parents’ son, I wanted to make a name for myself also.”
For the last 17 years, that’s exactly what he has done.
When you begin to name some of the players that Norton represents, a notable trend begins to develop. It’s not usually the flashy goal-scorers but bruisers like Cam Janssen of the St. Louis Blues and Krys Barch of the Dallas Stars that fit the prototype for the majority of NSM’s clientele.
“I think there’s a common thread in most of my players that they’re hardworking, gritty, leave-it-all-out-on-the-ice kind of guys,” Norton confirmed. “If you’re the hardest worker and the best player, you’re gonna play and you’re gonna succeed.”
To Norton, who feels that players such as Brown and Janssen are more like little brothers than clients, Norton Sports Management is just as much a family as it is a business.
“I’m very involved with the players—I want to see them succeed and their families succeed.”
“To see a guy play his first NHL game, or to see players sign contracts when a few years ago they never thought they could, or now they can pay for things that their parents could never afford, things like that are always very touching.”
One of his favorite moments as an agent was seeing St. Louis native Janssen throw out the first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game this past summer, while Janssen’s parents watched and teared up from the first row.
During the interview, it became clear that Norton truly cares about his clients in all aspects, not just their contracts or hockey career. Calling NSM a family isn’t rhetoric—it’s heartfelt and sincere.
That’s not to say that maximizing his client’s compensation is unimportant. In fact, Norton is quite realistic about his role as an agent.
“I’m not Mother Teresa—I don’t want people to think I’m in this to help everyone. Obviously it’s a business at some point.”
What sets Norton apart from others in his profession is his human and comprehensive approach to working with players and teams. When negotiating deals for his players, he’s concerned with much more than just a paycheck. He wants to make sure that these contracts consider the specific needs and future of each of his clients and their families.
But as long as athletes continue to make millions of dollars each year, agents will likely still be viewed by many as cold, greedy businessmen.
Norton hopes that his interaction with fans through social media, along with other NHL agents such as Allan Walsh and Ben Hankinson, will slowly change the perception of his profession in the coming years.
Through Twitter, Norton has successfully spearheaded the “Make My Day Mondays” campaign which encourages people to go out of their way to help others every Monday.
He’s also organized several charity events with Brown and Janssen that have given fans a chance to hear about some of the great work his clients do by giving back to their communities.
The more we learn about the real lives of Norton and his colleagues, the more that the negative connotation surrounding player agents will fade away and allow people respect them as the credible businessmen and human beings they are.
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