Taking the high Rhode
Catching up with Brian Lawton
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - In 1983, the Minnesota North Stars drafted Rhode Island native Brian Lawton first overall in the National Hockey League draft. What was significant about that, was the left winger became the first American-born hockey player to be the first overall pick.
"It was a great feeling and a great honor," said Lawton. "It was a long time ago, but it was something you never ask for and never expect to happen and it just happened. There's a lot more pressure when you are drafted No. 1 as opposed to two or three."
It has been an interesting transition for Lawton who has gone from being a player represented to representing players.
Today, Lawton resides in Minnesota with his wife, Angelina and their two children Jack, 7 and Nicholas, 4 and works for Octagon, a sports marketing firm, as the director of the hockey division, representing the same high-profiled hockey players he once that he once was.
"When I was a player, I was a player rep and always had a very strong interest in the business side of hockey, even more than playing," said Lawton. "It truly is a love of mine and I am extremely thrilled to have been able to work in this business for the past ten years.
Lawton actually started up his own company the day after he retired. He picked up twelve clients immediately in his former teammates. Lawton built up his company over five years, then sold the company to Octagon. Since then, Lawton has helped Octagon grow to the second largest in hockey. They represent one in 10 NHL players.
"I really feel fortunate. I enjoyed playing and always had a lot of anxiety about what I would do afterwards and to roll into this career, which is a natural fit, has been nice. I really consider myself fortunate to work with these elite people like a Steve Yzerman or a Sean Burke. We feel fortunate to be working with these guys."
Lawton was drafted straight out of Mount St. Charles in Woonsocket, R.I.; a school most noted for having won 26 straight state championships dating back to Lawton's junior season in 1982.
"Mount St. Charles will always be a special place in my heart," said Lawton. "Some of the players from Mount St. Charles like Jeff Jillson and Keith Carney are an example of the close knit group that comes out of that school. I am extremely happy to be a part of that."
Lawton played nine seasons in the NHL, five of them in Minnesota. He also played for the New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, San Jose Sharks and had a brief eight-game stint with the Bruins in 1989-90.
"I wish I would have played more with the Bruins," said Lawton. "I played over 500 games in the NHL and it's a big thrill. It is just a dream come true when you finally get there. There's nothing like it. Any time you get paid to do something you love is just a bonus."
Even though Lawton lives in Minnesota, New England, a place he returned to in March, remains special.
"I saw college games, high school games and it was just great to back there," said Lawton. "I saw Andover play Avon in the finals of their league up in New Hampshire. It's fun to be back and to see so many people when I'm in the area like this for an extended period of time. I really enjoy it and must have run into 50 people from high school and growing up here."
The anxiety is gone from wondering what he will be doing after his playing days are over. Lawton can rest easy and enjoy his new successful life in the sports business world.
(If you would like to hear where a former New England Sports Star is these days, please e-mail Jon Goode at email@example.com)