How Acquired: Trade from Pittsburgh, September 24, 1997
Buffalo stats (1997-2002): 365 games; 40-125-165, 258 PIMs
Career NHL stats (1991-2006): 718 games; 68-246-314, 430 PIMs
Even during a phone conversation, it was easy to envision the smile breaking out on Jason Woolley’s face. It’s midway through a 20-minute interview, and Woolley was asked about the favorite memory of his NHL career. After a brief pause, he starts recounting his five seasons as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
“It was a great five years. It was the pinnacle of my career, and I was in my prime. Everything you dream of as a hockey player was coming to life for me in Buffalo,” said Woolley. “The people that I met along the way I still keep in touch with. Some of my best friends are from Buffalo. I have nothing but admiration for the fans of Buffalo and how they supported me.”
Acquired from Pittsburgh for a fifth-round draft choice (that turned out to be Rob Scuderi) in September 1997, the high point of Woolley’s time in Western New York was the team’s improbable run to the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. This came on the heels of a regular season that saw Woolley post career highs in goals (10), assists (33) and points (43). Since that 1998-99 season, only three other Sabres defenseman have posted seasons of 43 points or more: Brian Campbell (twice), Jaroslav Spacek and Tyler Myers.
Woolley followed up that stellar regular season with a springtime run in 1999 that saw him collect 15 points (4+11) in 21 playoff games. Woolley would etch his name in Sabres lore during the Finals with his Game 1 overtime winner in Dallas that Rick Jeanneret famously called “the shot heard round the world.”
“It’s something very special to me. RJ and I, we make a good team,” Woolley said with a laugh. “There’s nothing wrong with playing alongside RJ. He’s one of the greatest play-by-play men of all-time and that is still a special goal for me in my career. I felt like Michael Jordan when I scored that goal.
“It’s still amazing to me when I run into Buffalonians all over the country who remember where they were that night when I scored in Dallas.”
These days, Woolley is using the wisdom of his 14-year pro career to guide the future of the NHL as a player agent. An unexpected call from a friend in 2008 led to Woolley forming TPG (The Players Group) Hockey in Birmingham, Michigan. The agency’s stable of clients includes NHL’ers Drew Miller, Corey Potter and Chad LaRose, along with junior stars Brendan Perlini and Vince Dunn, both from the OHL's Niagara Ice Dogs.
(Woolley is hoping to be in Buffalo next Wednesday when the Ice Dogs face Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters at First Niagara Center.)
However, life hasn’t been without a few bumps for the now 45-year-old Woolley in recent years.
Woolley was among several former NHL players (including Michael Peca and Bryan Berard) who got caught up in an investment scam that eventually saw two men charged by a federal grand jury in 2013 for bilking the players out of more than $15 million over a 10-year period.
Being a successful agent requires more than just hockey knowledge, and Woolley says he’s already using his difficult life experience to his advantage with his young clients.
“I think you’re crazy not to learn from things you go through in your life. When you go through those experiences, you gain knowledge and are a lot more aware of what lies ahead,” Woolley explains. “I don’t want these guys to step into the same holes that I stepped in. One of the challenging parts is identifying who these people are. Typically these people become someone that you really trust and like to be around, and that’s when they know they’re in a position to take advantage of you.
“I’m very protective of my players. I know that there are a lot of bad people out there, and I want to try to keep them away from these people as much as possible.”