Think of any person behind any hockey team and it’s likely they started their career as a scout. The art of identifying talent is a necessary skill to have for anyone who wants to be a part of the game. It’s arguably the best way to break into the hockey world.
Doug Hollinsky is the head scout for the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team and has been with the team for almost a decade. Before that, he temped for four years with Lakehead when he noticed current Rams head coach, Graham Wise, needed someone to help him out with York University’s team.
“Obviously it helps that you know the right people,” Hollinsky says. “But at the same time, if you play the game – or even if you didn’t play the game – if you have the right ability to identify student athletes or potential OHL players, they’re going to find you.”
An extra set of eyes is a commodity that’s welcome to almost any team, and it’s the first step to bigger things. Hollinsky says volunteering for teams is a great way to start and if they don’t find you, like Wise found him, then it’s up to you to find them.
“Reach out to any major junior, club or tier-two club or any local club in the area – just ask,” Hollinsky says. “Start from there, there’s nothing wrong with volunteering. Maybe start out in the grassroots and get into minor hockey and work your way up.”
That’s how Mike Gibbs began scouting for the Rams almost two years ago. He’s been playing and watching hockey in the Windsor area for a while, and through his relationship with Hollinsky, he was able to start volunteering with the Rams.
Their job as scouts is two-fold: evaluation and recruitment. Gibbs watches a lot of Windsor Lancers games to identify strengths and weaknesses of Windsor – the top team this season and the teams they play. On top of that, the two will watch OHL and other junior games to find any players that could fit on the Rams. The recruitment season opens up around Dec. 1, at which point they’ll begin contacting players they’re interested in to gauge their interest in CIS hockey.
Basically, both men are watching a lot of hockey and have a lot of experience watching the game from growing up and playing it. They also share similar sentiments with regards to what they look for in players.
“The first thing I’ll look at is a player’s heart and determine if they’re going to be a right fit for our program,” Hollinsky said. “Even though that individual might have superior stats in the major junior ranks or tier two, they just might not be a fit for our program that we’re looking for.”
Gibbs added that a player’s work ethic and attitude are crucial thing to consider in player evaluations.
“It can’t be stressed enough the nucleus, the heart and soul of your team. You want to be able to develop that and have the right character guys come in and work as one,” Gibbs said. “That’s the goal that you’re looking for in terms of character; someone who’s going to buy in to the team’s system and work together.”
Outside of the intangibles, Gibbs says he makes sure players are doing the little things well. Things like skating and defensive positioning, the first pass out of the zone for a defenceman, or shoot-pass tendencies for forwards.
“You want to look for the entire package; someone who’s going to be a team guy and have sound fundamentals more than anything else,” Gibbs said.
Neither dismisses a player’s stats or skill completely, but the content of his character and how he fits into the program Ryerson is developing is paramount to their recruitment.
“It’s easy to look at the guys who put up 30 goals a year or 90 points, but everybody is going to look at those,” Gibbs said. “You got to look at every single person and all of their attributes and just because he puts up 30 goals, he may not be a right fit for the team.”