SUNRISE, Fla. -- The late E.J. McGuire, who served as NHL director of Central Scouting for seven years before dying of cancer in April 2011, has always remained in the hearts and minds of those attending the NHL Scouting Combine and NHL Draft each season.
In honor of its beloved friend and dedicated colleague, Central Scouting this year will present the first E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence to a 2015 Draft prospect. The award will be presented Saturday prior to the start of the second day of the draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
"Excellence is what E.J. personified," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "It was imperative that the winner have strength of character and competitiveness because these traits exemplify what E.J. brought to the hockey community every day."
The Central Scouting award will be presented annually by the NHL to the draft prospect who best exemplifies the commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.
"This strength of character revolves around E.J.'s qualities of integrity, professionalism and humility, and the competitiveness and athleticism is based on Central Scouting's body of knowledge of the player," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "We identified those main characteristics for this award."
McGuire waged a brave five-month battle after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Leiomyosarcoma, before he died at the age of 58 on April 7, 2011. He left behind his wife, Terry, and their two children, Jacqueline and Erin.
"We are so honored that E.J. is being remembered in this manner," the McGuire family wrote in a statement. "His whole career was spent reaching for excellence in the sport he loved and this is quite a tribute. E.J. always showed such a passion in encouraging the future of hockey, so it's fitting that the recipient is a young man exhibiting excellence at the beginning of his professional hockey career."
A head coach at the collegiate, junior and American Hockey League levels, an assistant coach for three NHL teams over 12 seasons, and a scout for two teams, McGuire began serving as director of Central Scouting in 2005.
"It is very important for our team to know that Terry, his wife, and their daughters will know that their husband and father will always be recognized in this deserving way," Gregory said.
The Buffalo native, who held undergraduate and Master's degrees from the State University of New York at Brockport, touched and educated thousands of players, coaches and fans. He was the architect of many of the innovations Central Scouting pioneered in the past decade to achieve its mandate of providing the League's teams with the most comprehensive list of draft-eligible prospects each season.
"I consider myself the most fortunate guy in the world that I had the opportunity to not only work with E.J., but become friends with him and his beautiful family," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "He was a great boss, but a better friend. He was a true leader and his fingerprints are all over the League, especially this department."
McGuire began his career at Central Scouting shortly after his last coaching position as an assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2001-02.
He was an assistant in the NHL with the Flyers from 1984-88 and the Chicago Blackhawks from 1988-91. He was head coach of the Maine Mariners of the AHL in 1991-92. He'd return to the NHL with the Ottawa Senators in 1992-93 before taking his second head coaching position with the Ontario Hockey League's Guelph Storm in 1995-96.
McGuire moved back into professional hockey in 1997 to coach the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack and, after two playoff appearances in two years, returned to Philadelphia for one more season before moving on to scouting.
It was scouting that proved to be the best fit for McGuire, who had the perfect demeanor and skill set for the demanding job of evaluating young players and projecting their hockey development several years down the road.
"The biggest challenge for Central Scouting is trying to place a star player in a commonly acknowledged lower league where his skills have made him a star and project him to a tougher League," McGuire told NHL.com in 2010. "But we need to project three years down the line in the best League in the world, so the discussions get pretty heated, but that's all part of the fun."
NHL Central Scouting, which is in its 40th season, was established prior to 1975-76. The department consists of staff at NHL offices in Toronto, along with eight full time scouts, and 15 part-time scouts throughout North America. To report on prospects playing in Europe, the NHL employs the services of Goran Stubb and his staff of six scouts at European Scouting Services based in Finland. Together, all 29 scouts reporting to Central Scouting combine to witness more than 4,000 games each season.