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Friday, March 20, 2009
What happened to former No. 1 pick Patrik Stefan? He's starting another chapter


Whatever happened to Patrik Stefan? A few puckheads have asked us, so we went digging.

We found out the former first overall pick in the 1999 NHL draft is doing just fine, thank you, as an NHL player agent in Laguna Beach, Calif. The 28-year-old Czech native retired a year ago because of a serious hip problem, but instead of agonizing over a career gone wrong and cut prematurely short, he picked himself up and launched himself into the competitive world of player agency.

"Obviously I wasn't too happy that I had to retire. I was hoping to play for another 10 years or so," Stefan told ESPN.com in an interview Thursday. "To retire that early, that wasn't a fun time for me. But I always knew I would stay around hockey after I retired. I had thought about that for a long time and I always was intrigued about the possibility of being an agent.

"I was always interested in what they did and how they worked. I knew what I wanted to do, something where I'm helping younger players."

So, he took the plunge and was officially certified by the NHL Players' Association to be a player agent in July 2008. Patrik Stefan International already has a group of young players, including Florida Panthers forward prospect Michal Repik and Washington Capitals goalie prospect Michal Neuvirth, both of whom have seen some NHL duty this season. He also represents prospects Tomas Vincour of the Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings and Czech League prospect Roman Horak; both are eligible for this June's NHL draft.

"Most of my clients are Czech because obviously I spent my summers there and I speak the language and that's nice to have," said Stefan, who lives with his wife and two sons, ages 5 and 3, in Laguna Beach. "I'm really involved with my players. I see them a lot and I'm on the phone all the time with them. I really enjoy it. Sure, there's ups and downs, it's a tough business. But so far, it's been good and I really like it.

"I have a real passion for this now. I want to do it well."

We obviously can't have this interview with Stefan without asking him about a career that never lived up to his first overall status (he was taken ahead of the Sedin twins). Stefan ended up with 188 points (64-124) in 455 NHL games with Atlanta and Dallas, putting up a career-high 40 points (14-26) with the Thrashers in 2003-04.

"Obviously, when I look back at my career, am I happy with it? No, I'm not," said Stefan. "Being a No. 1 draft pick certainly doesn't happen to everybody. And as a No. 1 overall pick, you should show that you are one of the best and you try to become one of the best players in the NHL. I was trying to do that, but some things happened. I had a couple of injuries. I didn't live up to the potential of where I wanted to be. But that's life.

"I can look back and wonder about all the bad things, but for me, it happened and I have to move on. I'm 28 years old and I'm still young. I don't want to look back every day and think about how bad a career it was or whether I should have done this or done that. It's over. I wish I could change what happened, but I can't. I just have to move on and live my life."

His career ended early last season after a few games with SC Bern in the Swiss League. His hip acted up again and a Swiss hip specialist didn't sugarcoat his evaluation.

"When I saw the doctor there, he said there was no question about it, I shouldn't even be thinking about playing hockey," said Stefan. "I should be worried about having a normal life and walking normally. That's how bad it was. And, obviously, I had another surgery and I knew I was done with my career.''

Explaining to his 5-year-old son why he was no longer playing hockey was the hardest thing of all.

"I can care less about what other people say about my career," said Stefan. "The worst thing for me was that my son wanted to see me play and he couldn't. So now, at least, I'm still involved with hockey. I take him with me when I meet some of my clients, I take him to games, so a lot of what I'm doing now in my new career is also for my kids because they love the sport."

Patrik Stefan, Chapter 2, is well under way.