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Thursday, April 7, 2011

In Memoriam: Edward John "E.J." McGuire 1952-2011

The NHL's Vice President of Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire, passed away early Thursday after battling an aggressive form of cancer for the past five months after being diagnosed in December.

The former NHL assistant coach, who left this world at age 58, was a head coach in the AHL with Boston's affiliate Maine Mariners in 1991-92, and the Hartford Wolf Pack from 1997-99. He coached the OHL's Guelph Storm during the 1995-96 season. He was an NHL assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers (two stints from 1984-88 and again in the early 2000s, leaving the team to join Central Scouting in 2002. He was also an assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks from 1988-91, and the Ottawa Senators during their inaugural season through 1995, when he was hired by Guelph.

McGuire is survived by his wife, Terry, and daughters Jacqueline and Erin.

The Central Scouting chief was affable, approachable and accessible, working diligently to sell the NHL draft to hockey fans of all types, but always pointing out that his 29-member staff's most important duty was to the 30 NHL teams in identifying players and helping the clubs to narrow their search. While every team does its own scouting and employs a unique process in itself, the work McGuire and Central Scouting does is helpful in allowing those teams to better frame their scope and strategy going into a season, where so many regions and leagues must be covered.

Additionally, the CSS, in existence since 1975, publishes public rankings each season which help fans in following the top NHL draft candidates, as NHL teams' draft lists are highly secret and remain that way even after the conclusion of each draft year.

E.J. was one of the most respected men in hockey. His passion and knowledge for the game knew no bounds and he often went out of his way to help people, this writer included. I still remember fondly my first time with him in Montreal during the 2009 draft, talking in detail about Bruins first-rounder Jordan Caron, and concurring with my own assessment of Massachusetts standout Chris Kreider as one of the draft's top skaters and a potential homerun pick. A year later, he patiently stopped what he was doing to speak at length with me about Tyler Seguin and the second overall prospect's journey to near the top of the draft during the 2009-10 season.

He made time for everyone; you never got the sense that he was put out, and he undoubtedly had many demands on his time. He was so knowledgeable, but earnest. Instead of contradicting an opinion or making people feel like their own views on players didn't matter, McGuire always took the high road and added to a conversation instead of insisting his or that of his staff's were correct.

In short, the man was a class act who balanced the many demands on his time and brought so much knowledge and understanding of the process with him to any interaction.

While coaching Boston's mariners affiliate, McGuire metored two current NHL head coaches: Columbus Blue Jackets bench boss Scott Arniel (14 games) and the Islanders' Jack Capuano (74 games) He also coached former Bruins and current NESN analysts Andy Brickley and Barry Pederson, both of whom saw time on that club as well, along with WBZ radio color man Bob Beers. He had a hand in the development of NHLers Wes Walz, Ken Hodge, Jim Vesey, Jeff Lazaro, Nevin Markwart, Peter Douris, Dave Reid and Lyndon Byers, all of whom played for McGuire on that Maine team.

Current NHL player Manny Malhotra played on McGuire's 1996-97 Guelph Storm team.

It seems that everywhere you turn, McGuire touched someone in the professional hockey community and his legacy will endure for a long time.

We're all going to miss him.

NHL.com's Mike Morreale has a moving tribute to him that you should see.

Another excellent piece at NHL.com from MM, might want to keep a tissue handy- E.J.'s final guidance to the scouts he loved so much.

Here is another tremendous tribute on McGuire by SI.com veteran Stu Hackel

And another by Gary Meagher at NHL.com

After reading these pieces, even if you never met him, or knew much about him before the news of his passing, you can now appreciate why so many have taken the time to pay homage. He was one of those people who do so much behind the scenes and made an impact on the game that his loss will keenly feel.

Godspeed, E.J.- Our prayers and thoughts are with you and your family. The hockey world has lost one of its shining stars on this day.

UPDATE: I was notified that E.J. McGuire will be laid to rest in the Toronto area on April 12th. The true measure of the respect he commanded from the game and league will be seen by the myriad people who will be there for him and his family. RIP. Goodbye, great friend.

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