Pioneering sports agent Art Kaminsky dies at 66
To the very end, Art Kaminsky willed himself to be there for his friend, client and college.
Kaminsky spent Saturday night at Madison Square Garden watching his school, Cornell, play Boston University in an ice hockey game. On Monday he accompanied his former college classmate, Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden, on a series of media interviews to promote the re-release of Dryden's acclaimed book, "The Game."
Early Thursday morning, Kaminsky, 66, died at his home in Manhasset after an 18-month battle with cancer, according to his wife, Andrea. "I'm glad he had those events to be happy about at the end," Andrea Kaminsky said. "He went out feeling good about that."
Art Kaminsky's circle of friends, acquaintances, clients and connections was vast. He met Dryden while at Cornell in the late 1960s and followed his career while at Yale Law School. When Kaminsky graduated from Yale, Dryden was about to sign his first contract with the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League.
"I always used to laugh at him and say, 'The reason you went to Yale Law School was not because Yale was such a good school but because it made you more centrally located to go to more college hockey games.' He was always there whenever Cornell played in New England," Dryden recalled. "He became my agent and I was his first client."
In fact, Kaminsky was a pioneer. "He was one of the first sports agents. When he negotiated Ken Dryden's contract [in 1971], nobody was doing that," said Barry Landers, a longtime Long Island sports announcer and Kaminsky's friend. "Art was in the historical chain in a field that has changed sports in terms of contracts."
Kaminsky later represented many NHL players and notable sports announcers, including Al Michaels. He gained fame as the agent for 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks, who guided the Americans to one of the greatest sports upsets in history when they defeated the powerful Soviets at Lake Placid and went on to win the gold medal. Kaminsky was the agent for nearly all of the players on the U.S. team, many of whom went on to NHL careers. He also parlayed those connections into a major credited consultant's role for the 2004 movie "Miracle," starring Kurt Russell as Brooks.
A Manhasset attorney and longtime booster of the community's high school sports programs, Kaminsky was the driving force behind the induction last spring of legendary high school, college and NFL star Jim Brown into the Manhasset High School Hall of Fame. "This is the fulfillment of a dream for me," Kaminsky said at the ceremony, which Brown attended.
Kaminsky also was a close family friend of the Hugheses of Great Neck, having been a Cornell classmate of John Hughes, whose daughters Sarah (gold medal in 2002 at Salt Lake City) and Emily (seventh-place finish at Torino, Italy, in 2006) were U.S. Olympic figure skaters.
"He was there at both Olympics, guiding my kids," John Hughes said. "For most of the major moments with my daughters, Art was there. He was a remarkable guy in so many ways -- passionate and knowledgeable with incredible talent and incredible intellect."
Survivors include his wife, Andrea; daughter Alexis Bleich and son-in-law Michael; grandchildren Annie and Max; sons Thomas and Eric; and his sister, Janet Pawson. The wake is Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. at Fairchild Funeral Chapel in Manhasset.
Kaminsky would have celebrated his 67th birthday on Dec. 29, as well as his wife's birthday and their wedding anniversary which also are later this month. "We will gather to celebrate his life instead," Andrea Kaminsky said.