When Scott Harris joined the Devils this summer as the team's new manager of player information/video, it marked a homecoming for the 31-year-old who had spent his entire professional life working for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Not because Harris is from New Jersey - he's still getting settled in with his wife and two kids - but because in April, the Devils were picked to play against the Ottawa Senators in the annual Kraft Hockeyville game. The preseason tilt this Sunday is in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, where Harris' love for the sport took root.
"I grew up going to games and watching the Summerside Capitals," Harris says. "It was a Junior 'A' team, and the atmosphere was awesome. For me, it's really exciting. I didn't think it would happen this quick, but to be able to go back with a team that I'm affiliated with and be part of an event back home on the island is really special. I know back home they get very excited about stuff like this. To me, it's more about the hockey community back home. We're bringing up a tremendous roster, and it's great for a province like PEI because they don't get exposed to National Hockey League-type hockey. … For me, personally, it's been 10 years - well, really 13 or 14 since I lived at home, so it's cool to bring work back with me so family and friends can see what I'm involved with on a daily basis, which I'm excited about."
What Harris is involved with on a daily basis is building an extensive library of files on players. Every type of information is part of the picture. The idea, Harris says, is to be a "one-stop shop" for every player the Devils discuss, so that general manager Ray Shero is always making decisions in as informed a fashion as possible.
"That's what I want to build on with the position I had in mind for two years," Shero says. "I had to find the right guy for it. I finally did."
The position is one that requires a lot of hard work, as well as dedication to the task at hand. If Harris had a file on himself, those things would be duly noted. He wound up with the Blue Jackets in the first place because, as a college student, he noticed that some members of the Columbus front office were from PEI, so he decided to contact them about his goals of pursuing a career in professional sports. After a series of weekly emails and bi-weekly phone calls, Harris landed a summer job.
After his four-month stint was up, the Blue Jackets asked Harris to stay on as an intern for the season, which he did. That turned into a job as an assistant on pro video, then amateur video scouting, then a role as scouting coordinator, before moving on to college free agent scouting. After last season, Harris decided it was time to move on.
"A colleague who I worked with in Columbus, one of the things he said - they all touched base with me in Columbus and congratulated me on the position - he said, 'Scott, you're going to gain so much value working with different guys,'" Harris says. "When I worked for Scott Howson and his group, I learned about how they did it. I learned so much about Jarmo (Kekalainen) and how they approached it. They're all really good at what they do. There's only 31 NHL GM jobs, so I'm excited now, too, to learn how Ray approaches his daily business as GM."
Someday, that's what Harris hopes his job will be. Becoming the general manager of an NHL team is a destination Harris has had in mind for a long time, and at this point it can be classified as less of a dream and more of a goal. Coming to New Jersey is part of the journey toward that goal.
"I believe it's important not to cheat the process," Harris says. "I'm about taking as much time as it takes. I think it's important to go through the proper stages. So, I think this next position is great, because I felt like this was the next step, and I'll continue to learn over a number of years. So, my end goal is to be a GM, but I'll continue to work over a number of years, do it properly, be patient. I don't want to overstep anything, and do it the right way. I'm going to push for it. There's no reason not to."
That's how Harris' career started. There was no reason for him not to do everything he could to break into the league, and now this weekend he gets to head home with his new team, a decade further down the line in the career he's always wanted.