10/17/2012 10:22:00 AM A day in the life of Sundogs' GM Chris Presson
Arizona Sundogs General Manager Chris Presson concentrates on hockey business but his office artwork is strictly family-generated. He runs on water, coffee, a high from doing his job, and the love of his wife and three daughters.
Trib Photo/Cheryl Hartz
Oh-dark-thirty finds Arizona Sundogs' General Manager Chris Presson lying in bed answering emails and texts from hockey players and agents, trying to shield his wife from the cell phone's light.
Advantages to living in Arizona are numerous, but a 3-hour time difference to the East coast is not one of them. Ergo, Presson's day typically begins at 4:45 a.m., when new messages pop in.
He finally takes time to get up and get to the office by 6 a.m. There he whittles down his priorities list by answering more emails and phone calls, and, on the day of this 8 a.m. interview, preparing for a 9 a.m. presentation to the organization's co-owners.
A text came in from returning fan favorite Adam Smyth that he, his wife and two children would be arriving that afternoon after four days of driving, and wondering if they could get into their house.
"My day is never the same," Presson said. "Part of the day has structure, but part doesn't."
By getting in a couple of hours before the staff, he said he can "get things done quicker."
By 8 a.m., his co-workers - DeeAnna Brown, Catfish Athelli, Sean Tessman and Ashley Stovall - filter in to the Prescott Valley office, discuss the parameters of their day with Presson, and get to it.
"They work just as hard as I do. Our work ethic is our strength," Presson said.
His two phones ring constantly. "People call my cell phone for a reason," he said.
Phone conversations encompass individual or conference calls with prospective or signed players, agents, sales representatives, owners, or sponsors and advertisers.
He could be preparing a proposal to a potential advertiser, such as an educational piece on the Sundogs - who, what, when and where they play and how many fans enter the arena.
That initial contact could produce two or three face-to-face meetings.
To players coming to town for the first time he's relaying the location of their housing, the arena, its locker room, restaurants and shopping.
Or he might be wooing an agent to get the best players, a process that can take three months from contact to actual signing.
"There are so many things to recruiting a player," he said. "I call an agent for one of two reasons: to ask for a specific player or to ask who's still available. And that same agent is talking to 10 other teams about his players. It's a competitive environment."
If a player is interested, Presson enumerates the benefits of coming to Arizona - climate, geography, the organization as a whole.
"It's about building a relationship with that player," he noted. "You have to set yourself apart. But we have a very good reputation."
To fit a player into available housing, Presson said it does matter if he's married, has children, or even has a dog.
Sometimes a player will tell him the Sundogs' offer is fair, but he's accepted another one.
And because so many players come from Canada or overseas there's the Homeland Security Petition to send in.
"We send it in through an attorney 60 days before the season starts. We try to get as many players on as possible on the first filing. It's very expensive," Presson said.
New issues arose this season in hiring NHL players, with their league on lockout. Salary caps and insurance complicate things. Still the Sundogs managed to sign two from the Phoenix Coyotes: former Sundog David Schlemko, and on Monday, Kyle Chipchura.
It's quite a process to get those 30 guys a team's allowed for training camp, which is going on now.
Presson's shift ends between 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., depending on the day, and not before he compares recruiting notes with Sundogs' coach David Lohrei. They call on separate networks of players.
"There's never a night (this time of year) where I go home that I'm not on the phone until 9:30 p.m.," he said. "It's the best time to catch players because they all work during the day."
He does try to get off before his three daughters go to bed, and wind down with his wife for an hour or so.
"I love my job and co-workers or I wouldn't spend as much time as I do," he said. "I feel like we make a difference in the community."
He invites everyone to the Sundogs' opening game on Oct. 26. Puck drops at 7:05 p.m.