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Eichel takes a selective approach to endorsement deals

His face is all over the highlights, particularly when he’s scoring game-winning goals in overtime that leave everyone in the room breathless. And Jack Eichel is certainly a central piece in the Buffalo Sabres' marketing scheme.

But the popular young forward could be smiling down on Western New York from countless more billboards and bus ads as well. His agents have fielded plenty of requests from businesses wanting to catch a bit of tailwind from Eichel’s rising star. So far, he’s only signed deals with three – Bauer, Tim Hortons and the sports drink BodyArmor.

The endorsement offers have been plentiful, but Eichel decided early on to take a methodical approach to the business side of his professional hockey career. The game comes first. The other opportunities will follow.

“In terms of the requests I told my agents last year that I wanted to keep it minimal my first year and we did that for the most part,” Eichel said. “It was Bauer and Tim Hortons.

“The thing I always say and my agents always say to me, is that hockey drives everything. If you’re playing well and things are going well for you on the ice then your marketing ability and your endorsements obviously will go through the roof. I just try to kind of let this drive that.”

There are two things Eichel and his agents look at with endorsement deals – is it a good fit and how much time will it take?

The first order of business was his equipment deal. “Bauer is a company I’ve used my whole life. So it was a no-brainer for me,” Eichel said.

NHL prospect Auston Matthews, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Sabres Jack EIchel are interviewed by Dave Fischer from USA Hockey at 716 during a Bauer hockey equipment event on June 23, 2016. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Next came Tim Hortons.

“The Tim Hortons thing kind of came because obviously Tim Hortons is so big here in Buffalo and that opportunity presented itself and it was a great one,” Eichel said. “I was able to jump on that.”

But Eichel only jumps on opportunities that make sense to him, his career and representing the Sabres organization.

“If a certain company came we all know but was not really representative of Jack or his family or the Sabres, he would look at that and say ‘I don’t know if that’s really me,’” said Peter Fish, Eichel’s agent. “Money or not I don’t think he’d want to do that. Using BodyArmor as an example, Jack had a fridge full of BodyArmor and I didn’t even know this. I told him we got a call from Body Armor and Jack said, ‘Oh I love that stuff. That’s what I use anyway.’ Stuff like that works out nicely.”

And that’s how Eichel ended up on a billboard on I-190 South touting the sports drink.

Aside from his three endorsement deals, Eichel also signed two memorabilia agreements, one with Leaf Trading Cards and another with Dave & Adams Card World, which is the authorized outlet for Eichel’s public signings outside those conducted by the Sabres.

“Every new player who is a hot prospect will have the opportunity to have an autograph deal with a certain company,” Fish said. “There are all sorts of people trying to sell his autograph so to do it with one company, that  makes sense. The trading card deal, every athlete worth anything has that as well.”

There was one key project initiated by Eichel – his apparel line Shine Gold, sold online and through Dave & Adams, which benefits Carly’s Club at Roswell Park. But the rest of his endorsement deals are struck by his agent fielding requests and Team Eichel sorting through what they want to do.

“It’s more or less companies calling me and us seeing if it’s a good fit,” Fish said. “Jack doesn’t want to do something for money because if that were the case we’d have a ton of things going on right now.”

Eichel's personal marketing includes aligning himself with products and businesses that reflect his own values and help him make meaningful connections in the community. He also understands the links among hockey success, image and financial opportunities.

“I think obviously you only have so much time in your career to really make money and build your image and I think hockey’s a tougher sport to do so because of the culture,” Eichel said, noting that hockey isn't as popular as football and basketball.

“It’s just trying to have the opportunity to build yourself, your image and market yourself. Obviously hockey’s a great game but it only lasts for so long so you want to create the best future for yourself. You work your whole life to play this game, you want to put yourself in a good position for after hockey."

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