I get around. I hear stories. I have heard of a one-legged skier and a midget baseball player. I have heard of a boxing promoter with electric hair. I have heard of The Chicken. I have never heard of a hockey player whose career almost ended because his agent died.
His agent died?
“What happened?” I ask.
“Normie was pretty old,” the player says.
“Normie,” I repeat.
I am hearing some strange things. I am hearing stories too weird to be lies. I am sitting with Jim Leavins, age 25, and he is telling me how he came to be a Detroit Red Wings defenseman.
I am nodding my head. But I’m not sure why.
“After Normie passed away there was nobody to contact the teams about me,” he says, “so I just went home. To Dinsmore.”
“Dinsmore?” I ask.
“Saskatchewan,” he says.
“Saskatchewan,” I repeat.
I have seen a few places. I have seen Texas. I have seen Yugoslavia. I have seen New Jersey from every exit on its turnpike. I have seen Green Bay. I have never seen Dinsmore, Saskatchewan. No. I would have remembered that one.
“A big town?” I ask.
“Only 450 people,” he says. “We have a cafe. The Dinsmore Cafe. And a hotel. The Dinsmore Hotel. And a credit union.”
“The Dinsmore Credit Union?” I say.
“That’s right,” he says. “I applied for a job there last September.”
“A job,” I repeat. Got the call at YMCA
We are talking about Jim Leavins, aren’t we? The hockey player? The guy who set up a beautiful goal by Reed Larson Tuesday night against Edmonton? The guy Red Wings coach Brad Park calls “the best puck-handling defenseman on the team” ? That’s he, right? That Jim Leavins?
“What kind of job?” I ask.
“Loan officer,” he says.
“Loan officer,” I repeat.
I have heard of a pitcher who plays the saxophone. I have heard of a football player selling flowers. I have heard of a heavyweight champion who is now a priest. I have never heard of a hockey player as a loan officer. I am hearing it now.
“Did you take the job?” I ask.
“No, that’s when I got the phone call,” he says.
“The phone call,” I repeat.
The phone call was from Bill Dineen, who coaches the Adirondack Red Wings in the American Hockey League. They needed a defenseman. Dineen remembered Leavins from the latter’s college days at the University of Denver.
Leavins — who still lacked an agent outside the spiritual world — signed for a 15-game tryout.
“I wasn’t doing anything anyhow,” he says.
“Right,” I say.
He stayed with Adirondack a few months. He got $225 a game. The players traveled by bus. Played in Hershey and Glens Falls. He was happy. Then the Red Wings called. They wanted to bring him up. It was a big moment. A thrill of a lifetime.
“Where were you when they called?” I ask.
“In the YMCA,” he says.
“The YMCA,” I repeat. Found a healthy agent
I have heard of schoolyards. I have heard of street corners. I have heard of Hollywood and Vine, where they discover the actors. The YMCA?
“We were playing basketball,” he says.
“Basketball,” I repeat.
He took the call in the gym. Four hours later he was on a plane to Detroit. The next night he started for the Red Wings against New Jersey.
That was a month ago. He has been here since.
He has played well. He has found an agent. A younger agent. In good health. The Red Wings are negotiating a new contract for him.
“How are the negotiations going?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he says. “I hope OK.”
“You hope OK,” I repeat.
I have heard of quarterbacks in panty hose. I have heard of Dinka tribesmen playing basketball. I have heard of a boxer named Willie the Worm. I have heard of Refrigerators and Spuds. I have heard of The Iron Sheik.
I have never heard of a would-be loan officer from Dinsmore, Saskatchewan, who went from his living room to the best puck-handling defenseman on the Detroit Red Wings in less than six months. That is, until now.
“This is quite a story,” I say.
“Thank you,” he says.
“A real Horatio Alger tale,” I say.
“Never heard of him,” he says. CUTLINE
olumn; Jim Leavins; DRedWings; biography; hockey