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Art Kaminsky, a life well-lived

Pioneer Long Island sports agent/attorney Art Kaminsky of

Pioneer Long Island sports agent/attorney Art Kaminsky of Manhasset is shown in this undated photo. Credit: Handout

Art Kaminsky was a Forrest Gump sort of character who always seemed to be around or know the people who were around some of the greatest sports events of the past five decades.

But for the Manhasset sports agent-attorney who died early Tuesday at age 66 after losing his 18-month battle with cancer, life wasn't a mysterious box of chocolates. Life was all about conversations. Once you started one with Art, you didn't know what you were going to get. But you were going to get an earful.

Some people are chocoholics. Kaminsky was a talk-a-holic who got you involved.

"With Art, you never ran short of things to say. There was always something more," Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden said of the man who befriended him at Cornell and became his agent when Dryden signed his first contract with the Montreal Canadiens in 1971. "You'd start a conversation with him with nothing, and 45 minutes later you're still at it and you're talking about eight different things that were never in your mind when the conversation began."

Kaminsky had the gift of gab, all right, but he also had the gift of knowledge that went way, way beyond sports. "Don't play Trivial Pursuit with him because you wouldn't get a turn!" said another long-time friend from his Cornell days, John Hughes.

Hughes is the father of U.S. Olympic figure skaters Sarah and Emily Hughes and said that Kaminsky was always there for his daughters, counseling them at both Olympics -- Sarah winning gold at Salt Lake City in 2002 and Emily finishing seventh in Torino, Italy in 2006.

"Emily works for the IOC in Switzerland and when she heard the news, she immediately jumped on a plane," Hughes said. His family will be at Sunday's wake along with many people that will give the affair a bittersweet flavor.

Kaminsky will be mourned, but also remembered fondly. When you think of him, you can't help but smile. His wife, Andrea, said that she will make sure the folks attending the wake remember Art the way he was, quirks and all.

"He'll have the pen and the flashlight around his neck," Andrea said, referring to his style of wearing a lanyard with those two items. The pen was because he was always writing little notes on scraps of paper and the flashlight, presumably, was because he was always reading and sometimes found himself in dark rooms or dimly lit subway cars and cabs. Another Kaminsky accessory was the plastic grocery bag he inevitably had with him, sometimes containing lunch, always containing reading material - daily newspapers, magazines and books.

"Waldbaum's luggage, my kids used to call it," Hughes said.

He was well-informed on so many topics. Kaminsky worked on several political campaigns for people such as John Lindsay and Eugene Nickerson. He got through recent long MRI sessions by recalling all the counties in New York State, which he had memorized as a kid, along with Yankees lineups.

But he most loved being around athletes and entertainers. He was an entertainment attorney for a while and also an active member of the Friars Club - and loved the art of the deal.

"He just loved being an agent - being on the phones, dealing with one person after another," Dryden said. "He loved playing time zones and being up half the night."

His influence was as vast as his knowledge.

"There are many athletes and sportscasters whose careers he launched," Hughes said. "The mark he left went well beyond the sports and entertainment worlds."

Kaminsky was able to merge both worlds through his connection with the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that famously shocked the Soviets and went on to win an improbable gold medal at Lake Placid. He represented U.S. coach Herb Brooks as well as nearly every member of that true dream team, many of whom had productive NHL careers. He was in Lake Placid, where Al Michaels, not yet a household name, uttered the words, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

"Miracle" turned out to be the name of the 2004 Disney-produced movie about the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, with Kurt Russell playing Brooks. When the credits roll at the end, look for Kaminsky's name as a consultant.

He never forgot his roots, either, staying true to Cornell until his final days. He joined Dryden and Hughes at Madison Square Garden last Saturday night, watching Cornell play Boston University in hockey. The next day, he and Dryden did several media interviews to promote Dryden's book - all arranged by old-school Kaminsky, who wouldn't take no when publishers said such a tour wasn't necessary.

He also loved Manhasset High School sports, particularly lacrosse, where he regularly attended big games and often traveled with the team to the state championship. For years he tried to get Jim Brown, a Manhasset High School star, to return for induction into the school's Hall of Fame - another Kaminsky brainchild. For years Brown couldn't make it.

Then last spring, Brown agreed to come and Kaminsky, in a wheelchair, his health failing, proudly sat in the first row of the school's gymnasium, taking photos of the proceedings and calling it, "The fulfillment of a dream for me. This man is at the pinnacle of American sport."

Kaminsky - oh by the way, a long-time friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton from his Yale Law School days - reached a pinnacle of his own. He had a huge circle of friends, a vast sphere of influence and leaves behind a large footprint.

"Every time you met him there was something that stayed with you," Hughes said. "It's a real loss for those he advocated for. He was a remarkable guy; extraordinary and unique. We won't see the likes of him again."

Added Dryden, making one more verbal save, "He was never not interesting."

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