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A Scout's Life: Tech boom

Colin Wilson was taken seventh overall by the Predators in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

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Colin Wilson was taken seventh overall by the Predators in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

“I’ve been around since before RinkNet, but I still can’t imagine doing this job without it.” – Western Conference scout.

Like any other job nowadays, the scouting world has had its efficiency improved by the digital age.

Ten years ago, scouts jotted notes on paper reports to store away in binders and file folders, then revisit them later for an update or final inspection. Today, they use a program called RinkNet, created by the Guelph, Ont.-based company of the same name.

“I worked for the (OHL) team that’s now in Erie when they were in Hamilton/Niagara Falls and was assistant GM, so I did some scouting there as well,” said RinkNet president Jim Price. “Then for the CHL I did public relations and marketing”

After leaving the Canadian Hockey League, Price got involved in the computer business, an area he studied in school. Through his knowledge and research of how scouts keep organized and function, Price developed RinkNet, used today by 28 NHL teams, 33 major junior teams and a few national programs in Europe.

RinkNet is just more than a decade old and its reach is still extending into the hockey world. The program was first employed in the late 1990s, when NHL expansion teams were looking to get off on the right foot. The first customer was the Nashville Predators during their inaugural season in 1998. A few months later, the Atlanta Thrashers followed suit and the Columbus Blue Jackets got on board in the spring.

“I had some contacts through Craig Channel, who was head scout of Nashville at the time, and Stu Judge, who was working in the office as a scouting coordinator,” Price said.

The beauty of the RinkNet program, from a scout’s point of view, is how easy it makes organizing an always busy and changing schedule and how simple it is to keep track of hundreds or even thousands of players.

“They do all their scheduling in the program so we’ve entered in all the schedules of all the leagues they could possibly go to,” Price explained. “Then I have a number of tools to help them design a schedule to help maximize the efficiency of their travel and see as many teams and players as they can.”

Not only are all the schedules a click away, but every player profile is in the database so a scout doesn’t have to worry about entering in a new name, or wonder about birth date, height, weight, etc. They just click on a player and enter any notes on his style and tendencies or assign a grade to various areas of his game.

For pro scouts, depth charts are available to re-organize and analyze a player in case a trade or free agent option is brought to the table. For amateur scouts the program can be used to order and re-order draft lists throughout the season. They can also keep track of their expenses and submit them electronically.

“Everything they do, basically, we have in the program,” Price said. “When they’re doing up their schedules we’ve got hotels in the area, directions on how to get to the arena, we’ve got restaurants in the area and so on.”

At the end of the day, RinkNet is a helpful tool for management to track players and get a sense of what their employees think about various talents. While upper management can take a peak at the differing opinions of their scouting staff, most clubs prohibit scouts themselves from being able to view an opinion of another in the organization to risk swaying an opinion.

RinkNet is a welcome addition to the scouting circle. It makes it easier to stay on top of who needs to be watched and what the most logical schedule is, while saving time by providing a scout with all the information they need about any unfamiliar town they travel to.

The program helps give order to a demanding, hectic and pressure-packed job.

A Scout's Life is a weekly look at the world of minor and pro scouting throughout North America. Each week we'll talk to different scouts from all levels of the game, getting a first-hand perspective of the different aspects of talent evaluation.

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