When I first joined the Tier 3 community as a regional scout, I had visions of grandeur. That players would be ecstatic to talk with you and hear your spiel about your club. I mean come on, you are a scout interest in them playing for your program, what more would a player want?
That “more” was a Tier 2 scout talking to them (we can save that discussion for another day).
But I wasn’t a Tier 2 scout, I was working for a Tier 3 pay to play program and wearing my non-logoed Bauer warm up jacket (I had only been on the job for about a few weeks) and with a handful of previous season programs and official business cards (though my name had to be written in pen as again due to lack of timing) I was out trying to sell a program to kids I had previously just watched on the ice skate for roughly 45-50 minutes.
I showed up an hour early and checked myself in, got the coveted showcase list, or list of players, their previous team and contact information. Then I took up shop in one of the corners of the rink and waited for what felt like an eternity for things to start moving along. I don't think I saw any other coach or scout show up until 5 minutes before the first game. Rookie move TDC.
The process showed itself to be pretty simple. If you showed any sign of ability or skill, especially high end, there would be a line of coaches, scouts or recruiters waiting to talk with you after you got off the ice. Typically, the rule was to let the player know you wanted to talk with them and wait until the player had gotten undressed and changed before giving them your pitch. That rule was usually thrown out the window immediately after they got off the ice, so watching players carry packets of info and business cards as well as their water bottles and sticks WITH their gloves on back to the locker room became kind of a comical part of the adventure.
For the most part I would ask the player if we could talk when they were done and changed, or if I had missed them when they got off the ice I would knock politely on the locker room door and ask if they could meet me when they were done (because if I didn’t see them immediately I wouldn’t know who they were unless they had some obvious attribute such as being a really small or tall since the cages pretty much blend the faces).
But that first showcase, boy it was somewhat nerve-racking. Trying to maneuver and get to players in tight quarters, let them know you wanted to talk afterwards, giving them the pitch, waiting for someone else to finish rambling on while in your head you just want to get your job done so you can watch the next game all just kept the adrenaline going. I think I talked to five skaters that day, and I was lucky as the programs captain from the previous season was also on hand as he lived in the area and he was able to answer questions that someone who had never even seen the team play or know some of the answers to the more detailed questions such as myself didn’t have. Each player through out the evening got easier and easier to talk to and I dealt with some pretty mature and polite kids that night which made the whole process more welcoming. I think the worst part as someone who has a soul was watching players who just busted their ass leave the locker room hoping someone would come talk to them, and as a scout you just nod at them as they walk bye, but we aren't in the business of just talking to anyone, we all are looking to lock up talented players and some players are not that.
Overall it was an intimidating first experience, but each showcase and game I went and watched after got easier and easier. It still was and is a crazy and hectic atmosphere out there after games or skates. Over the years some of the less popular things I've seen is some scouts and recruiters blatantly ignoring showcase rules or others using “negative recruiting” and bashing every other program within earshot (my favorite was a scout telling a skater that the Midwest, such as Minnesota was a terrible place to get exposure with college scouts, but his team in one of the southernmost points in the US was much better) all going after the top talent, especially with Tier 3 being so over-saturated with teams in the past 5 years.
I can shamelessly say though, one of the top players everyone wanted and talked to at the showcase ended up signing a tender with us, so my first showcase netted the program a top 6 forward. Not a bad haul for someone new to the whole process.