Art Kaminsky, Top Agent for Hockey Players, Dies at 66
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: December 6, 2013
On Feb. 22, 1980, the United States hockey team triumphed over the powerful Soviet squad in the Winter Olympics in what came to be called the Miracle on Ice. The Americans went on to win the gold medal.
For Art Kaminsky, a lawyer and sports and entertainment agent who died at 66 on Thursday at his home on Long Island, the victory was particularly sweet. He had cultivated the American players for months, convincing them of the benefits of staying amateur a while longer to play on a medal-winning team.
After the win, in Lake Placid, N.Y., more than two-thirds of the 20-member team — as well as Herb Brooks, the coach — chose Mr. Kaminsky to handle contract negotiations and other financial affairs. At the time, he represented about one-third of the players in the National Hockey League.
“It is unlikely that any lawyer ever tied up so large a portion of a major sports league,” The New York Times reported in 1980.
At the Lake Placid Games he also represented Eric Heiden, who won five individual gold medals in speedskating — the only time that has happened — and his sister, Beth, who won a bronze medal in speedskating.
He represented Ken Dryden, who was trying his hand at broadcasting for ABC after a Hall of Fame career as a goalie for the Montreal Canadiens. A few years later, Mr. Kaminsky added Mr. Dryden’s co-announcer at the Games, Al Michaels, who memorably exclaimed at the end of the Americans’ victory over the Soviets: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
Though Mr. Kaminsky continued to represent hockey and baseball players and other athletes, he increasingly gathered television announcers under his wing. “At one point, he may have represented more people in the sports television industry than anybody in the business,” Mr. Michaels said in an interview Friday.
He expanded beyond sports broadcasters to news announcers and commentators like Keith Olbermann, Forrest Sawyer, Christiane Amanpour and Robert Krulwich.
“He had great rapport with every broadcast and news executive on the planet,” the sports announcer Marv Albert said.
Arthur Charles Kaminsky was born in the Bronx on Dec. 29, 1946. His wife, Andrea, said he died of metastasized cancer at their home, in Manhasset, N.Y.
Mr. Kaminsky’s parents moved to Manhattan before he was 5 and then to Jericho, on Long Island, when he was 12. He entered Cornell as a confirmed basketball fan but soon fell in love with hockey.
In his senior year, he piled three friends in a car and drove 20 hours to Duluth, Minn., to watch Cornell play North Dakota in the N.C.A.A. tournament. He became friends with Dryden, who played for Cornell.
Mr. Kaminsky graduated with a major in government in 1968 and from Yale Law School in 1971. He was an intern with the consumer advocate Ralph Nader for a summer. After working in Congress for Representative Michael J. Harrington, Democrat of Massachusetts, he joined the powerful Paul, Weiss law firm and helped organize political campaigns for Representative Allard K. Lowenstein, Democrat of New York, and others.
In 1972-73, Mr. Kaminsky helped Dryden negotiate a contract with the Canadiens, and his association with him eased his way in approaching others. Mr. Kaminsky began cultivating relationships with American college players who were top prospects for the N.H.L.
He also began covering collegiate hockey for The Yale Daily News, hockey newsletters and The Times, giving him access to locker rooms. Other agents complained, pointing out that the N.C.A.A. barred agents from talking with college athletes. Mr. Kaminsky’s access to athletes as a lawyer gave him another advantage over many other agents.
In addition to his wife, the former Andrea Polin, Mr. Kaminsky is survived by his daughter, Alexis Bleich; his sons, Thomas and Eric; his sister, Janet Pawson; and two grandchildren.
Mr. Michaels remembered Mr. Kaminsky as a rumpled man who carried armfuls of manila folders into negotiations, and as fierce in protecting athletes from the news media and other distractions.
When Debi Thomas did not win a gold medal in figure skating at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, Mr. Kaminsky blamed an interview she had given during an afternoon practice session before the night’s event.
“I saw Debi’s interview, and I said to myself, ‘She’s going to lose,’ ” he told The Times.
She finished third.