General view from the upper decks of the ice and seats at Rexall Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Tim Smith/Getty Images)
“I like to get back home and spend time with the people I haven’t seen enough of over the past few months. Because before you know it, it’s hockey season all over again.” – Western Conference scout.
It’s been a long, grueling season spent in damp arenas, new arenas and everything in between. The odometer in the car has been given a workout that would put Billy Blanks to shame and a year’s worth of scouting amateur talent for the draft – or pro talent for trade options – is finally complete.
For an NHL scout, however, the season still has some loose ends to tie up. Though you might get a couple days off after the draft, it’s not long before you’re beckoned back to the boardroom to discuss your team’s options for the off-season.
“From the draft on, the pro scouts and management get together and get prepared for free agency and they work for a few days on that,” explained one head scout. “But the guys on the amateur side mostly won’t be involved unless a question pops up about a potential free agent or if the team may be involved in some sort of trade where younger players are involved.”
It’s a common misconception that once the winter hockey season ends and free agency takes hold scouts go their own way and re-convene in the fall to head out on another prospect hunt across the continent and around the globe. In fact, while you do get approximately one month off and away from it all, there is always hockey going on somewhere and a scouting staff has to keep tabs on it all.
“Our scouting team starts basically about six days after July 1 with the U.S. Select Team in Rochester,” the scout said, referring to the Select 17s, a camp of 17-year-old prospects eligible for the next draft.
For European scouts, July is actually the time to get back in the saddle and prepare for another season. Most teams over there have started or are close to starting training camps and some will be taking part in mini-series that scouting staffs keep a close eye on.
In North America, junior kids will be taking to the ice in preparation for various international events. Canada will hold its under-18 camp in Calgary Aug. 2-5 to get ready for the Ivan Hlinka Cup; the U.S. will have its under-20 camp in Lake Placid in early August, which will include a three-game matchup against a visiting Russian squad; and Canada’s world junior camp takes place in Saskatoon starting in mid-August.
And then, before you know it, it’s September all over again, when rookie and pro camps kick into high gear.
Not every scout will go to these summer events – a team will send a few to cover them off and get enough eyes on all the players – so the off-season does provide ample time to go home, travel, spend time with your family, or get a few odd jobs done.
“I always like to relax and catch up on all those duties I was supposed to do around the house, but didn’t get to all winter,” said one scout.
And after the countless hours spent on the road and in the air, and all the time invested in scouting hockey’s future during the winter, it’s always nice to get back to your roots, get away from it all and spend time with those important and close to you.
“Where I live in Kamloops there’s a lot of fly-fishing and all kinds of water sports,” explained one scout. “It’s a good area for going to the lake and camping and that sort of thing. My son, my wife and I all like baseball, too, so we’ll get into Seattle and see a few Mariners games as well.”
The summer isn’t all down time for scouts, but there is certainly time to escape.
It’s a time to enjoy the finer points of life, because in the blink of an eye it’ll be time to hit the road and get to work on next year’s prospects, take note of the pro options and dig for the hidden gems that give the job its romanticism, from a fan’s point of view.
That’s a scout’s life.
A Scout's Life was a look at the world of minor and pro scouting throughout North America. We talked 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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