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Earning a hockey scouting job requires a vast knowledge the game and of hockey player skills, as well as how those two things relate to each other. It also requires a strong love of the game, because the life of a hockey scout is rarely a glamorous life. Night after night of hotels, eating takeout, and driving rental cars to watch hockey may sound like a dream job. But doing it day in and day out can make one fantasize about working in an office cubicle with normal hours.
This is how most hockey scouts get into professional scouting. To reach the big time, you'll need a combination of knowledge about hockey player skills, a good intuition, some detective skills, a strong passion for the game, and the willingness to live life on the road. Drive, determination, and the ability to outwork other scouts will help improve your odds of success. Being willing to make a long drive to a remote barn on a nasty winter evening is what it will take for a person to stick with it over the long haul and develop the skills to find the gems among the stones consistently. It's a matter of paying your dues.
Very few people apply for a job as a hockey scout and get hired. Most start out watching a local league and sending in scout reports without compensation. Maybe a coach at a small college will notice you and ask your opinion on a player who pans out. Perhaps your name will get passed along to a pro scout looking for someone to take a look at a player to see if it's worth his making a trip, and he'll reward you by giving you a recommendation. By continuing to provide accurate information on players who become successful, your reputation will grow, and with a little luck someone you meet along the way will pass your name along to a small league who is looking for a person with a track record for spotting talent. Many steps on the ladder to success require your own time, and without compensation, before you land a job as a hockey scout.
Of course, you can skip a few steps if you happen to have been a superior hockey player yourself, and retain a few connections in the game. Who better than a player to know what it takes to succeed at higher levels of the game? Some former players who were loyal to a team and popular with the front office end up being rewarded with a scouting job after their playing days are finished. But more often a scout might be a player with brains but whose talent fell just short of making it, or who was forced out of the game by injuries. The best candidates will have a strong drive to remain in the game and their tenacity on the ice will carry over outside the rink, leading to a position as a hockey scout.
The chances that a player will take his youthful dreams to the NHL ice as a professional hockey player are slimmer than winning the lottery. One study held that even among elite level players, only about 0.5 percent will make it to the NHL. Another study showed that only 0.25 percent of minor hockey players would enjoy an NHL career. Even among players in the World Junior Championships, only about half of them will end up with a career in the world's top league. But that doesn't deter a good hockey scout from looking for those players who have the skills and potential to be one of the few.
Loving the game of hockey isn't enough. You also must possess professional skills, like the ability to communicate effectively verbally and in writing; interpersonal skills, because you'll be talking to a lot of coaches, parents, and players; and you must be able to evaluate hockey talent adequately.
Some of the hockey skills and attributes for which you'll be evaluating players include:
Like most things these days, when there is a demand, businesses crop up to answer it. Because becoming a hockey scout has wide appeal, there are a number of opportunities to learn the skills you need to do it—if you pay for it. Be careful of offers from courses, schools, and mentorships that overpromise. Some offers are legitimate and may be able to give you a head start on becoming a scout. They can teach you the skills and methods that teams want, and they may have some contacts in the game to help you get your foot in the door. But others are simply looking to separate you from your money. Check up on any opportunities carefully before handing over your payment information.
Becoming a hockey scout is a dream for many die-hard hockey players and fans. The idea of spotting that kid who will go on to become the next Gretzky or Crosby is a strong motivator. It doesn't happen very often, but hockey scouts continue the quest to find that one player who makes it—and whom everybody else missed.