Former Lincs defenceman represented stars such as Beliveau, Staub, Lafleur and Howe
By Pat Payton
Jerry Petrie didn’t play pro hockey, but he ended up representing some of the biggest stars in the professional sports world.
In the early 1970s, the former St. Marys Lincolns’ defenceman (1960-61) launched a business with a partner Gerry Patterson in Montreal called Sports Administration Inc. A minority partner in the business was Jean Beliveau, the Montreal Canadiens’ star centre.
There were few sports agents at the time, and the others representing clients were mostly lawyers, so the SAI business began with a focus on superstar power, arranging marketing opportunities, product endorsements, and public service announcements for their clients.
Eventually, Sports Administration Inc. took on contract negotiations and represented many familiar sports figures, mainly from the hockey world, although they also represented Major League baseball players, the CFL Players Association (over 300 players), the Canadian Ski Association, and the Canadian Professional Golf Association.
Now 77, retired and living back in his hometown of Stratford, Petrie says most of his 17 years as a player agent in the 1970s and 80s were spent in Montreal. His two childhood heroes were Beliveau (hockey) and Duke Snider (baseball) and he ended up representing both men.
“Jean Beliveau was our first client,” Petrie told the Independent in a recent interview. “He was making more money with our marketing of him commercially than he was with the Montreal Canadiens. We got so much publicity from it.”
It drew the attention of the Montreal Expos, who had just acquired slugger Rusty Staub in a trade. “They told Rusty there were two guys in Montreal who could generate more income for him than the Expos could,” he recalled. “After that, we started representing Rusty, who was called the ‘Le Grand Orange’ in Montreal. We signed him up with Orange Crush, with the Bank of Montreal, and all different kinds of companies.”
Represented downhill skier
One of their next clients was Canadian Alpine skier Nancy Greene, who won gold in the giant slalom at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France. “We got her involved with the Bank of Montreal, Mars Bars, and a big clothing contract,” Petrie said.
By this time, not only was Sports Administration Inc. making more money for their clients, but they were generating great publicity for their business.
Next to come on board was Detroit Red Wings’ superstar Gordie Howe.
“Jean Beliveau introduced us to Howe in 1972 at his home in Longueuil. Both wives were there and Gerry and I met with all four of them. We represented Gordie in his playing career for quite a few years, then we suggested he come out of retirement and play with his sons Mark and Marty with Houston Aeros in the WHA. We got them into a lot of programs.”
Other pro hockey players they represented included: Guy Lafleur, Denis Savard, Borje Salming, Jean Pronovost, Mark Hardy and Tim Kerr.
Renews contract for Lafleur
Petrie remembers Lafleur insisting that his contract be renewed before he’d play an exhibition game at Maple Leafs Gardens. The agent had to fly to Toronto and get a deal done before the Canadiens’ star would step on the ice. Just mere minutes before the game, Lafleur agreed and got a huge cheer from his teammates as he entered the Montreal dressing room. “It sounded like the team had just won the Stanley Cup; they were so happy,” Petrie said with a laugh.
Kerr, meanwhile, scored 50 goals for Philadelphia four times, but Petrie recalled that the big centreman wasn’t drafted in Junior and he was signed as a free agent by the Flyers.
“I sat with his parents in the Montreal Forum on draft day. He was a great player and a fantastic guy. For 10 rounds, he wasn’t drafted and his mom and dad were crying.”
But things turned out just fine for Kerr. After the draft, Petrie remembers a “bidding war” started among GMs such as John Ferguson in Winnipeg, Jake Milford in Vancouver, and Keith Allen in Philadelphia. Allen won out. “Tim signed a contract that was better than what a second-round pick would sign for,” he said.
Canadiens’ coach Scotty Bowman was another client. He had just won four Stanley Cups in a row in the late 1970s when he approached Petrie.
Some of their other sports clients included: Expos’ catcher Gary Carter, CFLers Peter Dalla Riva and Ed George, and Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Howie Meeker. Petrie got Meeker commercial endorsements with the Bank of Nova Scotia and Bauer skates.
Every summer, Petrie sponsored a golf tournament in Montreal and invited all of his clients from the sports world.
Played with Lincs in 1960-61
Jerry Petrie, meanwhile, played one season with the Lincolns, who were coached by Joe Mavity in 1960-61. A few of his teammates included Terry Crisp (120 points), Gerry Dubois (56 goals), Jean Paul Parise, captain Larry Hossack, Jack Nairn, Doug Galloway, Glen Slater, Bill Dunnell and Ross Marshall. “We had so many quality guys on that team,” he remembers.
That first-place Lincs team went 27-4-1 in a 32-game schedule. Petrie recalled that leading scorers Crisp and Dubois got injured and Lincolns were defeated by Waterloo Siskins in the OHA championship final. “We didn’t have much scoring punch without those two guys,” he recalled.
Petrie then joined the Niagara Falls Jr. ‘A’ Flyers the following season (1961-62), along with Crisp, Parise, Nairn, Slater and Dunnell.
Petrie has a great fondness for Crisp. “I love the guy,” he said. “We went to Niagara Falls together, and I’ll tell you, he’s a guy who was always there for you. He’s one of the most quality guys that I’ve ever met in my life.”
Gets scholarship at Denver
After one season in Niagara Falls, Petrie obtained a U.S. hockey scholarship at the University of Denver, where there were 22 Canadians and just one American on the team.
In his Senior year at Denver, Petrie was team captain. A couple of teammates were Keith Magnuson and Cliff Koroll, who went on to star for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. Two other teammates were former NHLer Tom Miller and Craig Patrick, who was manager of the U.S. Olympic team which won gold at the 1980 Winter Olympics and he later coached New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
At the University of Denver, Petrie studied Hotel and Restaurant management. It was one of the four best schools in the U.S. which taught that course. It gave him a business administration degree, leading to a job with the Marriott Corporation and eventually bringing him back to Canada to run a chain of restaurants for Marriott.
It wasn’t long after that he teamed up with Patterson in Montreal, and Sports Administration Inc. was born. Petrie ran the company for the better part of 12 or 13 years when Patterson left in 1974 to join John Ferguson and other partners to start the National Lacrosse League. Ross Reucassel replaced Patterson as a silent partner.
After his days as a player agent, Petrie went back to the U.S. and helped start a company in San Diego, California. It involved interactive television, and he headed up the marketing and advertising division. After several years living and working in the U.S., he returned to Stratford in 2016.
Note: Jerry Petrie is currently in the process of writing a book on his life and times in the sports world. “It’s going to be a book full of stories,” he says.