TORONTO -- While still saddened by the fact their inspirational leader won't be a part of this year's Scouting Combine, the folks at NHL Central Scouting went about their usual business this week in Toronto.
It's what EJ McGuire would have expected.
It wasn't too long ago several of the scouts spoke exclusively with NHL.com via a conference call to reflect on the life of the man who always will hold a special place in their hearts. McGuire, the long-time director and Vice President of Central Scouting, died of cancer April 7.
McGuire was known as one of the most dedicated and respected individuals you'd ever want to meet. But did you know this avid runner once challenged former NHL forward Al Secord
in a race?
Al Jensen, Central Scouting's goalie scout, recalled the day McGuire challenged the veteran Secord, who spent 12 seasons in the League.
"E.J. was always in phenomenal shape and was a great runner; he had a passion for running," Jensen said. "I remember E.J. telling me one time he would race Secord up to the CN Tower (Toronto), and he beat him up there. No matter what he did, he always did it with everything he had. I'll always remember E.J. for that."
NHL senior director Jack Gerien, who aides the scouts in the technological aspects of the Scouting Combine, remembered the day McGuire even was too fast for a computer.
"E.J. was not a good typist and so we thought we'd get a computer dictation program for him to use, and he tried it, but no computer in the world could keep up with him," Gerien said. "It was an admirable effort, but even computers failed him. He took the steps to make sure technology played a role in Central Scouting so that the guys would be able to spend more time doing the things they needed to do … which was scouting."
The McGuire family, including wife Terry and daughters Jacqueline and Erin, has been overwhelmed with the support they've received at a time of tremendous sorrow.
"E.J. had a great wit and I admired his intelligence," said Central Scouting's Hockey-East scout and the longest-tenured member of McGuire's scouting group, Gary Eggleston. "I think, probably as much as anything, I admired E.J.'s humanity. He was a great person and a great influence on me, even at my age."
Chris Edwards, Central Scouting's Ontario Hockey League scout, remembers E.J.'s lighter side.
"I never once in my life seen him wear a jacket in minus-35 degree weather in Saskatchewan," Edwards said, laughing. "He was in dress shoes and dress clothes and his suit jacket. He used to call that thing his horse blanket and he carried that bag that must have weighed 80 pounds. He had everything he owned in that thing, but he never would leave without it."
, one of Central Scouting's Western Hockey League scouts, said running Central Scouting was like coaching for McGuire, saying he "got to coach our team." Fellow WHL scout B.J. MacDonald said McGuire turned the entire group on to the computer age.
"He'd come in every morning and talk about every kicked puck and high stick in the war room the previous night," Luke McGoey, the coordinator at Central Scouting, said. "He just really had a passion for it and it came through in everything he did. When he sent an e-mail, you always knew it was well thought out and he made sure to include all the information you would need."
"I'd always ask him if he had a minute and he'd say, 'Yeah, one minute, go ahead,'" Jack Barzee the group's Hockey-West scout, said. "I would let him talk for five minutes and I'd get one. But when he made a point, he did it with tact and professionalism."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale