TORONTO -- It's a bittersweet day here at the NHL office on the third day of meetings for NHL Central Scouting.
The group is into the fourth round of projections on its master list of the top draft eligible North American skaters, but are doing so with heavy hearts.
That's because two years ago to the day, a dedicated friend, father and the former director of NHL Central Scouting, EJ McGuire, died from an incurable, rare form of cancer, Leiomyoscarcoma.
McGuire waged a brave five-month battle with the disease before passing in the early morning of April 7, 2011. Every scout in the board room no doubt will reminisce about their friend at some point, or recall a moment in time when he made a profound impact on their lives in some fashion.
Chris Edwards actually began Sunday's meeting informing the scouts what McGuire's wife and teenage children have been up to; he provided a few laughs and smiles.
"I think about EJ every day," Edwards told NHL.com. "I consider myself the most fortunate guy in the world that I had the opportunity to not only work with EJ, but become friends with him and his beautiful family. 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."
Edwards also said that a few framed photos of McGuire soon will be hung in the video room here at the NHL office.
"I think EJ had four important things in his life -- his wife Terry, the girls [daughters Jacqueline and Erin] and hockey. But as important as hockey was, I know his family always came first," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement at the time of McGuire's death. "Everybody liked EJ. He was so respected and so admired. He was a great people-person and I don't think anybody had a bad word to say about him. People always talk about the game of hockey and how different hockey people are. Well, I think EJ was emblematic of how good hockey people really are."
Mike Keenan, the longtime NHL coach nicknamed "Iron Mike", broke into tears when offering a eulogy during a reception of 400-plus guests at Le Dome Banquet Hall in Oakville, Ont., five days after McGuire died.
"When I was 1 1/2, I lost my young brother … and then the Lord brought a guy around … named EJ," Keenan told those guests at the reception. "I'm honored to have had the opportunity in my life to have had a friend like EJ. He loved his family.
"He's in good company now. I'm sure he's up there, with our good friend Roger Neilsen and some of the other gang. Peter Zezel is probably asking, 'Why did you bench me,' and Pelle Lindbergh is saying, 'Do you realize the number of times you pulled me?' But he impacted my career … he had a great part of my responsibility of being a head coach. He was a young brother that I really relied on. I'll be indebted to him for the rest of my life and I'll cherish my moments and memories with him.
"Terry [McGuire] was asking me earlier what she could do for me … Can you imagine that? I don't know how you carry the strength and courage you have, Terry. EJ … I'm going to miss you. Thank you."
Jim Gregory, who served as Director of Central Scouting for many years before becoming Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, always respected the way McGuire went about his business.
"He did his job and allowed others to do theirs and was inconspicuous," Gregory said. "He was a great person and he turned Central Scouting into something special."