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Barzee brought wit and wisdom to scouting job

by Mike G. Morreale
Long-time NHL scout Jack Barzee never will be confused with the philosopher Confucius, but the man certainly has a way with words.

Just ask any of his colleagues at NHL Central Scouting.

"Jack is one of the funniest human beings on the planet," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told "The only guy who could out-talk him was (the late) EJ McGuire. EJ would joke about his phone calls with Jack lasting the entire morning. It was always unclear if either guy was listening to the other, though."

The 71-year-old Barzee always has been confident enough to express himself when it came to evaluating an NHL prospect. His passion was evident; whether he approved or disapproved of a group decision made by Central Scouting, everyone usually knew about it by the time the meeting had adjourned.

Barzee's top all-time prospects

Jack Barzee has scouted many high-end players during his time as a scout, with the Washington Capitals, and for the last 23 years with NHL Central Scouting.

While he's decided to retire from his post, the veteran has many lasting memories to share.

Here are five players he remembers as solid prospects. Also listed is the school or team the player competed with during Barzee's evaluation.

Joe Sakic, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Keith Tkachuk, Malden High School (Mass.)
Zach Parise, Shattuck-St. Mary's (Minn.)
Mike Modano, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Tony Amonte, Thayer Academy (Mass.)

-- Mike Morreale
His honesty was refreshing and, at times, downright hilarious.

That's one of the reasons he'll be sorely missed following this season. Barzee, who has spent 27 years as a professional scout, including 23 with NHL Central Scouting, announced his retirement following the current season, which concludes with the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, June 22-23.

"Jack will really be missed in his area because few have the depth of knowledge of not only the player, but that player's cousin, uncle, aunt, girlfriend, grandparents, brothers , sisters," quipped Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald.

Barzee has done it all in hockey, from star player to accomplished executive.

"I went to West Haven (Conn.) High School and played center and wing, and also defense my senior year," Barzee told "When I was a sophomore, I had a chance to play with a senior team in Massachusetts and I was the youngest player on the ice. I remember playing a team from Springfield and going up against Lou Lamoriello -- I still have the newspaper clipping.

"I had to play under a different name on that senior team so that I would not lose my high school eligibility, though," he said. "I remember one of the three names I used was Ralph Edwards."
He went on to play in the United States Hockey League, and then served as a coach, general manager and ultimately owner of the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks in the early 1970s. He's been that league's Executive of the Year (1976-77 with Waterloo), Coach of the Year (1978 with Waterloo; 1981 and '83 with Dubuque) and GM of the Year (1983, Dubuque).

He was instrumental in bringing junior hockey to Dubuque for the first time in 1980. Barzee's teams found immediate success, winning the Clark Cup as champions of the league three times in their first five years (1981, 1983, 1985).

He also was on the USA Hockey Board of Directors and coached and managed festival and a few national teams.

Barzee also spent four seasons as the chief U.S. scout for the Washington Capitals, from 1989-90 through 1992-93.

"During my time with Washington, I scouted some great players, like Paul Kariya, Chris Pronger, Mike Rathje and Sergei Gonchar," Barzee said. "It was an exciting period, for sure."

Barzee has a sound scouting philosophy. He generally has a list of established players he will be viewing when he attends a game, but he'll always watch warm-ups with a keen eye to make certain he doesn't miss a possible diamond in the rough.

Jack Barzee has done it all in hockey, from star player to accomplished executive. (Photo: Steve Hoffner)
"There are many ways to show scouts what you are as a player," Barzee said. "Sometimes the most talented players do not always work the hardest but can step up and win a game for their team. Hockey is a fast game and speed is very important whether it's in your feet, hands or head. If you are a top athlete and have all three of these characteristics, chances are you are one excellent prospect."

In addition to that, Barzee always has enjoyed assessing a player's ability to engage physically and with confidence.

"The competitiveness displayed by his aggressiveness, be it physically or just by his hard work and aggressive puck pursuit, was very important to me as an evaluator," Barzee said. "Scoring, setting up other players and being an unselfish team player are also very important."

Barzee, who scouted much of the U.S. Midwest states, including the USHL, during his term with Central Scouting, usually would join Edwards, who primarily scouts Ontario prospects, for a week-long trip each season.

"Jack is the hardest-working guy in hockey," said Edwards. "I have never met a more conscientious guy in my life. I always looked forward to traveling with him because he had the trip laid out from start to finish. He would give you every detail as soon as he picked me up from the hotel. 

"He's a guy who is full of life and who always had a good story to tell. He knew all the good restaurants. There's going to be a big hole in our department, and it will be tough for one guy to fill. Jack also deserves to spend more time with (his wife) Kathy and his (five) grandchildren, who he loves so much and is always talking about."

Barzee told that he's looking forward to retirement.

"Everyone is worried about me, but I'm embracing this," Barzee said. "In September, Kathy and I are taking a trip to Paris, London and Scotland. I'm using every Marriott point I have under my name and I'll probably save about $5,000. I told her, let's do it now while we can still walk and do not need the aide of a wheelchair."

Confucius he's not. Delightfully outspoken? You bet.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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