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Pronovost autobiography details 65-year career in pro hockey

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Homegrown talent has long been a staple of the Devils' championship success. Good drafting starts with good scouting, something Marcel Pronovost has been a major part of in New Jersey for the last 22 years.

In his new autobiography, "Marcel Pronovost: A Life in Hockey," the Hall of Famer and longtime Devils scout chronicles his 65-year career in the game – the longest tenure as a player, coach, general manager or scout in professional hockey.

Pronovost displays some of his Stanley Cup hardware.

Pronovost, 82, hoisted the Stanley Cup five times with Detroit and Toronto. After a 20-year career patrolling the blue line, the 11-time All-Star was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.

After five years with Central Scouting, he landed a scouting role with the Devils in 1990.

"It was one of the best decisions of my hockey career," Pronovost writes. "The best years, really, have been since I've joined the Devils."

With Windsor Star columnist Bob Duff, Pronovost describes the "unselfish and methodical" approach of Devils scouts, offering a rare look into the club's draft day strategies.

Here's an excerpt of the book, which is available now on

With New Jersey, our success story starts at the top, where Lamoriello has been GM since 1987. There’s a lot of stability. Our scouting 183 staff has been together as long as I’ve been there. David Conte has been with the team for 27 years and Claude Carrier, Conte’s assistant, has worked for the franchise since 1984. In fact, all of the scouts with the team when New Jersey won its first Stanley Cup in 1995 — Conte, Carrier, Dan Labraaten, Milt Fisher and me — are still part of the staff.

I was very much a team player when I played, and I enjoy my job as a scout with the Devils for much the same reason as I enjoyed playing. We’re as much a team as the guys on the ice. It’s a team game and you have to play as a team, and it’s the same thing with scouting, you have to scout as a team. We have good cooperation between all the scouts.

Our draft strategy is similar to the Devils’ on-ice game plan—unselfish and methodical. Teamwork is emphasized. The scouting staff meets with Conte and Carrier before the draft. Each scout lobbies for players in his area he feels are must-haves. When we meet before the draft, we go around the table and each scout makes the case for the players he likes. There are never any arguments between us, just statements of facts. This straightforward approach continues once the proceedings commence on draft day. We draft kids that we know are going to fit our system. You get to figure out the players that you like, and then you can identify with them.

We don’t work the same way as other teams. We collectively agree on a list of players and stay to it. We draw up that list of names and stick to that list religiously, placing stock in character. The player at the top of that list when it’s our turn to make a selection is the player that will be selected. We take the best hockey player. If we need a right-winger, but we feel the best player there is a centre, we take the centre. The first three rounds, we take the best player. After that, we try to fill our holes.

When I’m scouting — let’s say I’m going to Quebec to check out some draft-eligible players — here’s how our system works. The Quebec scout has pulled out what he thinks are prospects, so he wants to see if I can do the same. The way we work, we have five different scouts go there to watch different hockey games, five sets of eyes to check things out. The more games you have by different people, the truer the picture you get. We put all that in the computer, and our chief scout goes through the computer and tabulates it. We don’t exchange names amongst ourselves.

We like to rate all the players each and every game they play. We take note of the importance of the game and who players are playing against and who is checking them. I like to look at all the players, including the players who have already been drafted by other teams. You never know if your general manager is going to make a deal for another team’s prospect and if he comes to you before making the deal, you’d better have a good read on that player.

Pronovost's Cup rings with the Devils.

While picking out players I like, I have my own set of guidelines. I evaluate all players differently depending on the style of game they play, looking at each players’ skating, hands, courage, physical play and hockey sense. I base it on past experience, people I played with and played against. I ask who a player reminds me of. Then I ask another question — if I was to play in the same league, would I like to have a guy to play with or for me, or would I love to play against him? If I’d love to play against him, I don’t want him.

I have a mini Stanley Cup for each of my eight championships. For a while, after we’d moved into our new home, I only had the 2000 Cup on display because most of my stuff was packed away until I built my little museum downstairs. Now it’s all set up and I have a mini Cup for every day of the week and two on Sunday. There’s something different about each Cup. Each one is special in its own way.

The 2003 Cup win over Anaheim, for example, was a record-setter for me. It came 53 years after my first Stanley Cup win as a player with Detroit in 1950, and that 53-year difference from my first to most recent inscription on the trophy is a Stanley Cup record.

Winning the Cup as a scout, it’s a different form of pride than when you achieve something with a team as a player, but it’s a prideful feeling just the same. You’re the one who found those guys. Some you recommended and some you didn’t. It’s gratifying, but I never forget that I wasn’t the only one who made a contribution to the team.

I’ve always enjoyed winning a title because it was a group effort that made the achievement possible. I’m not really the type of person who focuses on individual recognition, but I have had my fair share of that sort of thing come my way and I have felt honoured by every instance.

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