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Scouts always are on the road to somewhere

Friday, 11.20.2009 / 5:00 PM / Off the Wall

By Evan Weiner - NHL.com Correspondent

"The great thing about the scouting industry and different cities, towns, you end up finding the little local places, the little local eateries that people never hear about and people will go there and the guys (fellow scouts) will go there because there is more of that family relationship." -- Pete Mahovlich

One of the most overlooked front office jobs in hockey is that of a scout. The scout provides preliminary information on players, and his reports are the first to be analyzed by the personnel people.
 
There are different types of scouts. One might specialize in watching junior players and try to project what a 16- or 17-year old might become by the time he is 22, 23 or 24 years old. Other scouts, like Pete Mahovlich, ride around sections of North America looking at minor-league talent or taking in NHL games to evaluate players.
 
Mahovlich, now a pro scout for the Atlanta Thrashers, has been scouting talent for a long time after a very successful NHL career.

Mahovlich was a minor-league coach after his playing days and has spent the last two decades watching hockey games. He won Stanley Cups in the 1970s as one of Montreal's top centers and was coached by Scotty Bowman. He played with Gordie Howe, and Mahovlich's brother, Frank, is a Hall of Famer.

So Pete Mahovlich knows players and hockey. But there is a lot more to scouting than looking at players and turning reports into the player personnel department. Scouts live a totally different life and do so mostly out of a car.
 
Mahovlich lives in Glens Falls, N.Y., and that is the base of his operation. The good part about living in Glens Falls is that Mahovlich can take advantage of the U.S. interstate system and get to games pretty quickly. Glens Falls is centrally located for scouting NHL and AHL games, with an occasional junior game thrown in. Mahovlich knows the Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate Highway System in the northeastern United States as well as anybody.
 
"It is a great job if you like watching lots of hockey games and a lot of travel," he said. "The good thing is, you go to places where you meet so many of your old friends, you get to see a lot of great hockey. It is time consuming, of course, and there is a lot of travel and some days it gets to be a little bit monotonous, so you treasure your home time. Most of my travel is by car and I take care of the northeast and of course the American Hockey League in the northeast is very accessible.
 
"So when you go out on the road, you are out on the road for five, six or seven days."
 
When Mahovlich sees the number 87, Sidney Crosby's image does not come to mind. Instead, he sees the big blue shield of the Interstate Highway System with the number 87 as he drives to his next appointment.
 
"Yeah, Route 90, 87, 93, and then the short cuts through the mountains and so forth," he said.
 
Short cuts? When U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation June 29, 1956 to create a super highway system, the roads were built for speed and ease and to make driving between areas quicker than the old system, which had drivers going through cities, towns and villages, and stopping at red lights.
 
Why would Mahovlich use those types of roads, which still exist throughout the northeast, instead of the highway? Some of those old roads are faster and more interesting.
 
"Well, the one I take if I am, say, in Manchester (N.H.) or Portland (Maine), I take Highway 4 across Vermont through Rutland," Mahovlich said. "It is a wonderful drive; it is great especially in the fall (with the turning leaves). But it cuts off an awful lot of time rather than coming down through the Mass Pike (Massachusetts Turnpike, Interstate 90).
 
"The great thing about the scouting industry and different cities, towns, you end up finding the little local places, the little local eateries that people never hear about and people will go there and the guys (fellow scouts) will go there because there is more of that family relationship."
 
Mahovlich easily could work for a company like the American Automobile Association. He probably could give Johnny Cash's song, "I've Been Everywhere Man," some new lyrics.
 
Wilkes-Barre, Binghamton … 
"It is a great job if you like watching lots of hockey games and a lot of travel. The good thing is, you go to places where you meet so many of your old friends, you get to see a lot of great hockey. It is time consuming, of course, and there is a lot of travel and some days it gets to be a little bit monotonous, so you treasure your home time." -- Pete Mahovlich
"Syracuse, yeah, Rochester, my teams go to Toronto and Hamilton, Ottawa is part of my teams, I got Columbus because of Syracuse (the Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate), then all the way down to New Jersey and the teams in between."
 
Mahovlich's favorite road seems to be the New York State Thruway, although he lives about 40 miles away from the nearest Thruway exit. The New York State Thruway, which starts in Westchester County just north of New York City, is I-87 going north and south until Albany, N.Y., where it veers west and becomes I-90. I-87 runs from Albany to the New York-Quebec border; there are two Glens Falls exits on I-87.
 
"You know what is great about the (New York State) Thruway? You can set it on cruise control and away you go," he said. "The speed limit is the same (65 mph except in urban areas, where it is 55), it is consistent, which is good."
 
Mahovlich likes the consistency of the Thruway, but would he like a player who is always on cruise control?
 
Probably not.
 
"You know the Mass Pike is the same way, but as you get closer to Boston it becomes a raceway," he said. "They (Massachusetts drivers) get a little excited at times."
 
Excited at times?
 
Sounds like a player any team could use.
 
The New Jersey Turnpike is the fifth-busiest toll road in the United States, according to a 2007 report by the International, Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. It is the main interstate between New York City and Philadelphia, America's No. 1 and No. 4 population centers, respectively, and the 80-mile stretch of turnpike between the two cities often is clogged.
 
"You know we (scouts) know the times to travel, it is awful," said Mahovlich of the N.J. Turnpike. "Awful."
 
Sounds like a player to avoid.
 
Because of overtime and shootouts, scouts' jobs have changed over the years. The old-timers, like longtime Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins scout Marcel Pelletier, would leave with five minutes to go to beat the traffic unless it was a tie score. Now overtime and shootouts are heavily scouted, according to Mahovlich.
 
"Actually, you get to see some of the best hockey now (in the last five minutes), and especially with overtime the way it is and with the shootouts, our team wants us to stay for shootouts just to see what goaltenders are doing, what shooters are doing, just to get an edge," Mahovlich said. "They didn't have shootouts back then. Marcel, you know, he was around a long time, he always said if they don't show me something in the first 50 (minutes), they won't show me anything in the last 10."


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