In addition to being a fly on the wall for the intriguing discussions within the conference room for NHL Central Scouting, the highlight of the weekend, without question, occurred Saturday night.
After being told a table for seven at a local steak establishment would take approximately 45 minutes, Hall of Famer Jim Gregory, 77, took out his cell phone and began punching in numbers while sitting in the driver's seat of his white Cadillac.
I'm thinking to myself, "This is going to be good."
The cook on the other end answers and the conversation went something like this:
"Yeah … Sal. You know who this is, right? [5 second pause]. That's right!"
"Can you accommodate a party of seven?"
"Ok, we'll be there."
Gregory to group: "Ok gang, let's go. You're going to love this place."
It had to be the greatest 20-second conversation I had ever heard in my life.
I mean, it isn't as if Gregory is in Vaughan, Ont., every day. Anyway, 'San Antonio Foods' was absolutely fantastic. A small Italian eatery where every dish is homemade, the only television in the place was tuned to a hockey game and the cooks even came out to talk hockey. Two great murals of Italy surround the customers.
The respect and admiration for Gregory, wherever he goes, is so palpable, you cannot help but feel the love for this man each time he strolls into a room ... or restaurant. He always entered the scouting conference room with a wide grin, and always provided encouragement for a job well done.
"All of you do such a great job and we are proud," Gregory told the group on Saturday, Day 1 of the meetings.
On Sunday, I again thanked Gregory for a great time and asked him for some of the most influential people in his life. He smiled at me and said, "we could be here for hours."
But he did tell offer one story that was so telling, I wanted to share …
"I tell this story and I think it sums up my situation," Gregory said in eager anticipation.
"When my son [David] was going to public school, the teacher asked him, 'Does your dad work?' He said 'No, he's in hockey.' And he had it right."
Gregory was the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1969 to 1979, leading the club to eight playoff appearances. After 1979, he became the director of the NHL Central Scouting Bureau and, in 1986, the Executive Director of Hockey Operations.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007 and is also the current chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale