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"P.E.I, is where I learned the game and learned to love it," Sutherland, a former goalie, reflects.
But he never played professional hockey. Recently he had been a traveling salesman for an engineering firm, selling cutting tools to the aircraft industry. When he was laid off in 1970, he moved to Amherst, got another sales job and became a bird dog, a man who has a deal with a regular scout to look at games the scout is too busy to see.
Amherst is geographically central for coverage of New England hockey and a hotbed of education. Working from there, Sutherland got his break. "It was 1972 and I happened to see this kid, Larry Patey, playing for the Braintree Hawks, a semipro club. He was going to Boston University, but he couldn't play there because when he played Junior A in Canada he, of course, got paid. Now Larry is with our Salt Lake City farm team and he is getting a lot of goals."
Because Sutherland impressed the Seals with his ability to find talent in the woodwork, he was hired as a full-time scout. Before the NHL expansion of 1967 the six established teams had few scouts. The talent had to come to those six. Next season there will be 18 clubs in the NHL and 14 in the WHA. With 32 teams competing for talent that once was split only six ways, scouting life is jumping.
"It's hard on the OHA these days," says Sutherland. "It simply can't supply all the needs of the teams, so we are turning more and more to American college hockey." The major league teams have an average of five full-time scouts each. Some 300 to 400 players are eligible to be drafted every year. This makes a ratio of about one scout to every three players. And the cost is zooming. The 150-odd scouts spend in the neighborhood of $500,000 a season just on expenses: travel, food and motels. Including salaries and other costs, the pros spend perhaps $2 million on scouting.
The lobby of Toronto's Royal York hotel is filled with giant farmers in old blue suits. The Ontario Plowman's Association is meeting, and standing in the middle of the milling farmers, like a patch of flowers in a pasture, are beauty queens from Ontario fairs and the association's own Queen of the Furrow.
Hockey scouts drift into the lobby, waiting for lunch. They look more worn than usual, probably because last night a local TV station showed an X-rated movie at midnight. They nod knowingly to similarly exhausted salesmen who are checking out.
Sutherland mentions that he is writing a book on the history of scouting with the former Episcopal bishop of Montana, Chandler Sterling, author of The Icehouse Gang, an account of a season with the Chicago Black Hawks. "The good reverend really dug into scouting," says Sutherland. "He found that the Romans got things going. They sent talent scouts to the provinces looking for new gladiators among the slaves. They also had regular training camps to sort them out and decide which went to Rome and which went to the smaller arenas.
"By the Middle Ages talent scouts were out looking for good soldier material for the Crusades, and this kept up in France for a long time. That still goes on, you know; sergeants are always looking at recruits, checking if any are good enough for officer's school. Captains are looking at sergeants, and so on.
"And now in sports all teams have scouts. The college teams call them 'assistant coaches,' but they're really out in the high schools scouting almost full time. Even college bands have scouts. When I'm on a campus, I see football scouts, even an early baseball scout once in a while. And I always see the recruiters from business—IBM, Peace Corps, whatever. They're scouting, too.