Scouting Junior Hockey

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Scouting Junior Hockey in various leagues

This morning I had a great phone conversation with one Commissioner from from a Canadian based Tier II junior hockey league. One topic of conversation centered around scouting, what makes scouts watch certain teams or leagues over another team or league. Eventually the comparison was made to the North American Hockey League.

The NAHL, and the various Tier II leagues throughout Canada can be compared on many levels, and there are many reasons why some scouts choose the BCHL over the OPJHL or the NAHL. The most important thing to remember is that most scouts that work for Universities are regional scouts. They have a specific territory and a very limited budget to spend on their activity.

Some teams have said that they feel they do not get scouted enough and because of that they have a hard time recruiting the higher end players to their team and the league. I wont name specific teams here, but since I know they read this publication I will cite some examples of what makes scouts want to come to games.

First and foremost, organizations that do not actively invite scouts to come to games and give them first class treatment go directly to the bottom of the list of teams to watch. In other words, start doing the job you promise players you will do. If you dont have time, get an intern for this specific purpose alone, it is critical.

Second, return emails and phone calls to every person that contacts you. You’re a junior hockey team, you are not in the NHL. You never know who may be calling or emailing to set up a scouting opportunity. When you do not make this effort you are seen as being arrogant, and hey, if you were that special you would be coaching in a higher level league.

Third. Kill the rumor mill. When you complain about things publicly or privately to the wrong people, the rest of the hockey world hears it. Stop whining about the league youre in, stop blaming other teams and the league. Just do your job, put in the work, and every scout will come to watch when you ask them to.

Scouts, independent and official university scouts want to feel welcome. When you ignore one, the rest of the scouting world will hear about it. If you feel one school may be beneath your efforts, forget how you feel and go out of your way to make them feel wanted. If you prefer Major Junior over the USHL, keep your preference to yourself. It is about the players and not about you.

Remember the press. They will influence how scouts view the program if you do not interact with the scout directly. When the press prints rumor or speculation based on your action or inaction, you are allowing every scouting opportunity you may have to be influenced. If a scout hears your team may be sold, or you may be looking at other options, they question the organizations current operation. When these rumors and speculation continue without you directly answering yes or no to questions, you damage your opportunity. Why? If you cant be up front with the local press, you sure cant be trusted to be up front about players.

Scouts have priority lists that they either make themselves or are provided to them. Sometimes those lists can be altered in your favor. Reaching out to scouts to make them feel welcome, going the extra mile when they get to your arena, and providing them with every bit of information they ask for in a timely manner will go a long way. Making your team reputation one that scouts will talk about as being a great scouting experience will often help your team gain a scouting opportunity over another team that does not go the extra mile.

Finaly, remember the scouts have influence on players and their opinions matter. You never know who you are talking to, what midget or bantam players they may know and have influence over. If you do not respect their place in the game, by doing the things already described, your team will forever be at the bottom of the list.

Given choices, scouts want to go where they feel appreciated. It is no different from any other line of work in that respect. Go out of your way, and scouts will go out of their way for you. A scouts job is to help recruit for other programs, your job is to make the scout want to recruit your players. Remembering that the scout plays a critical role in the success of your program, and ultimately your success will help you go further.

Joseph Kolodziej

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