How Ryan Minkoff went from star college hockey player to successful agent and author

Pro players
min - read
Ariel Melendez
Pro players
min - read
If you only have a few minutes to spare, here's what you should know:
Ryan Minkoff’s biggest message to aspiring players is to always believe in yourself and ignore those who aren’t supportive of your goals.
Having a long-term approach to your goals is key as worrying about potential roadblocks down the line will only hurt your progress.
Everyone’s story is different and no one will take the same journey. Knowing that will help you get anywhere that you want to go.

From Minnesota to the West Coast: Minkoff’s Journey to Washington

How does a star college hockey player from the University of Washington become a successful hockey agent and a children’s book author?

Ryan Minkoff’s story is unique and had some twists and turns to get where he is today.

And that story began in Minnesota. All young hockey players dream of making it to the pros one day. It was the same for Minkoff. But his path to get there wasn’t going to be an easy one.

Attending a NCAA Division I hockey school was a goal for Minkoff, but the offers weren’t coming.

Minkoff recalled the offer he got from a school in New York. However, the coaches wanted him to play a few years of junior hockey and return. That was never in the cards for Minkoff as he wanted to go straight from high school to college.

That is where Washington came into play. His mother was from the area and Minkoff himself enjoyed visiting the West Coast. But he didn’t know much about what hockey was like in that part of the country. It grew on him the more he thought about it, though.

“My mom was from the state of Washington and I actually applied to UDUB on the last day they accepted applications just because she wanted me to have a West Coast option,” Minkoff told Hockey of Tomorrow. “Through senior year I ended up looking at that option a lot more as time went on and that’s where I ended up going. I thought it could be a cool opportunity.”

“I felt like it was an opportunity for me to try to put the program on the map and to see what can happen.”

And Minkoff did exactly that.

He helped lead them to Regionals for the first time in the school’s history as they won their conference championship. Minkoff himself still holds numerous scoring records for the school’s hockey program. Going pro was up next but it didn’t exactly come about the way one would expect.

Ryan Minkoff when he was young

It All Started with a Facebook Request

Minkoff was in Mexico with a friend during spring break of his senior year of college. He received a friend request from a Finnish guy and originally thought nothing of it. But once another request came in, Minkoff decided to see what was going on.

“I had no idea who it was, really didn’t think anything of it. So I deleted the request. And then I woke up the next morning, he sent me another friend request. I was like ‘Okay this is kind of weird so I’ll accept it.’ He sent me this nice little message. He was the team manager of this team in Finland and they were interested in having me. And then it just went from there.”

After a month or so of negotiating, Minkoff was off to a small town a few hours away from Helsinki to play for Lapuan Virkia. The opportunity had come as a surprise, but Minkoff knew he was good enough to play.

In fact, he was the first men’s hockey player from UW to turn pro.

Playing in Finland was an experience that Minkoff is glad he was able to do. The overall atmosphere was top-notch and the people there were laid back and very friendly. Immersing himself in the community was something he wanted to do to help him pass the time when he wasn’t playing.

“I was trying to get involved in the community and the school as much as I could just to stay busy and find ways to enjoy my experience while not on the ice. So that was probably the biggest challenge was just trying to occupy my time in a good way.”

The terms of his contract included free meals along with the team helping him secure a job. He helped coach a youth hockey team, Lapuan Virkia U12, as well as driving the Zamboni at the local rink. The pay, whenever he would get it, wasn’t enough to live off of on its own.

During the season, Minkoff found himself becoming more interested in the business side of things. While he was with the Huskies, Minkoff was in charge of things like scheduling games and whatnot. That’s the life of a college hockey program. It was up to the team to find out how they were going to play. The coaches were there as volunteers so it left things up to the players at times.

With that experience under his belt, Minkoff noticed early on that his Latvian roommate, Arturs Ozols, wasn’t getting the same treatment as he was. When the two would go out to eat, Minkoff would not have to pay while his roommate did. He learned more about the differences in their deals over the next few weeks.

While the team gave Minkoff a job, they did not do the same for Ozols despite promising they would.

“I just kind of took it upon myself. I just felt like this was wrong. Can’t be living with somebody and just have a totally different deal.”

He was able to help rework Ozols’ deal to where he could get meals and other opportunities. He helped get him a job so he was able to make more money. As the season ended, Minkoff realized that he could do more to help other players in similar situations. He was learning how different deals worked. Minkoff was planning to leave at the end of the season but he promised to help his roommate work out a deal for next season.

That turned into helping some other Finnish players and was the beginning of Minkoff discovering what would turn into something much bigger. Minkoff used his prior experience at UW to help form a hockey agency that would be able to help not only North American players but European ones as well.

via Ryan Minkoff twitter
One of Ryan Minkoff book, Thin Ice

Hockey Player Turned Agent

Speaking with Minkoff, it is clear how much passion he has for what he’s doing. But he didn’t come into this thinking it was going to turn into what it has. He was originally doing it to stay involved in European hockey and help out some friends.

“Once I started helping my Latvian roommate and his brother, they started saying ‘Hey my friend needs some help, can you help him out?’ Some Finnish players were doing the same thing as time went on. And I started getting some North Americans that were reaching out to me. So it just kind of gradually built over the first couple of years.”

Minkoff’s client base began to grow over the years, going from around seven to mid-30s, mostly thanks to referrals that he was getting. That’s the moment that Minkoff knew he could do something with this. He joked that if he knew more about the business coming in, he may not have begun. But he’s glad he did.

To this day, Minkoff can look back at the situation in Finland and use that to help him today. The same issues that show up in the lower levels are just as present in the higher ones as well.

“I can relate to players’ issues really well because they all know my issues already. Obviously, you hope that players never have to go through any problems. But it’s sort of bound to happen at some point.”

Looking at Minkoff’s client list today, there are 57 players that his agency, 83LLC, represents. That doesn’t include the even longer list of past clients.

So after helping that many players, is there one that stuck out? It was a hard question for Minkoff to answer, but it all came back to Ozols and what he was able to do in Finland.

“He’s the reason I got into the business. I ended up sending him to England and visiting him. It was a great time, it was nice to see that he had good living conditions. I stayed with him, so it was a fun time. I got to go to a game. That was a good moment. I was like ‘This is really fun for me. I can see that I’m helping,’ because I knew what he dealt with before.” Minkoff said about Ozols’ impact on him.

That has been the best part of the business for Minkoff.

Seeing the impact it has on these players and even just being able to move them into a bigger league has brought him enjoyment with what he is doing.

Empowering Women With Children’s Book

Just as it was with his first book, Minkoff hadn’t thought about writing a children’s book. His first book, Thin Ice: A Hockey Journey from Unknown to Elite — and the Gift of a Lifetime, is an autobiography that details the unique journey that he went through. Minkoff began writing during his junior year of college, simply to keep track of what he had done up until that point.

That writing continued into his senior year and in Finland as well. By then he was up to about 200 pages.

“I just felt like, at the time, that my story and how I just navigated to the level I got to would really be beneficial for other players going through tough times when they’re in high school or even in youth hockey.”

He hadn’t planned to do anything with the book. It was going to be something he could look back on when he was older. But after his experience in Finland, he went with it. It took about two years to find a publisher to take it on and it went from there.

Minkoff wrote the entire draft of the children’s book while in Finland. He was involved in the community and helped the kids around the school, something Minkoff mentioned as being one of the best things he did there.

But he wanted to do more to help and that’s how the children’s book came to be. Minkoff wanted to make more of an impact on the children. It could be something that would help them learn English and show that he wanted to do more to help.

Nora’s Hockey Dream is based on his sister’s own experiences growing up. With his mom being involved in women’s hockey for over 10 years when he was younger, Minkoff grew up around players like Julie Chu and Jenny Potter. He saw that these women were playing on Saturday mornings, mostly in front of friends and family, and they were doing it for free.

The opportunities also weren’t there for them in terms of girls’ associations and having to end up playing with the boys. It’s something that Minkoff really began to understand once he got older. It was something he was inspired by.

“When I came up with this idea for the book, I was like ‘This is a great way to quickly repay those players that made a big impact on me and my sister growing up.’ Most of them have the book now and they really loved it. I’m really happy I was able to sort of give back this book to them and the women’s hockey community.”

Minkoff has been involved with numerous NHL teams who have welcomed him in. He has done events with the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, and Anaheim Ducks among others.

“It’s awesome to see the reception that NHL teams are giving to promoting them as hockey. I can see they’re trying. I think it’ll just continue to grow.”

It’s also been cool to see, for him, that the NHL appears to be grasping that it doesn’t matter who is a fan of the game. It just matters that someone is a fan in general.

In the end, Minkoff did not come into any of this with any expectations of how things would turn out. In Finland, he was just looking to have a good experience that he could look back on. And it was the same thing with his agency and both books he has written.  

“I really didn’t go in with an expectation like this is gonna turn into something. I did have a little feeling that I can do something to make an impact. I know that my path and story could really resonate with people in the hockey world.”  

If there is one thing that Minkoff wants people to take away from his story, it is about believing in yourself and ignoring those around you who aren’t supportive of your goals.

It also involves having a long-term approach to things as well. Worrying about roadblocks along the way is only going to hurt you in the end.

The reality is that these players can achieve their goals in many different ways. No one goes through the same experiences or has the same story. Minkoff is just one example of that. That is probably his biggest message to everyone out there.

“I can’t stress it enough to parents and players that as long as you have perspective and you have your own belief, you can get to where you want to get to. You need to have some faith and just keep going.”

Pro Players