By Kirk Luedeke
Longtime NHL Central Scouting Service scout Gary Eggleston announced his retirement this year and was honored at the NHL draft in Pittsburgh after more than 30 years of identifying talent for the league.
|Gary Eggleston (Wakefield, Mass.), seen here at the 2012 NHL Draft, started out with Central Scouting back in 1981. (Getty Images)|
The Wakefield, Mass., native began his tenure with the CSS in 1981 as a part-time scout before working into a full-time position eight years later. Prior to that, he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings’ scouting staff from the early 1960s through 1980.
Before scouting, Eggleston served a few years in the U.S. Army from 1957 to 1959, spending time in Germany and Texas before returning to his native New England, eager to get back into hockey in the region where he played at the prep and college levels before being drafted into the military.
Eggleston attracted the notice of Detroit GM Sid Abel by writing him a letter and was hired to scout part-time in the region in an era when Tommy Williams was the lone American skating in the NHL.
“Even though there was just one American in the NHL at the time, I saw the potential for more,” Eggleston told New England Hockey Journal before his Central Scouting curtain call in Pittsburgh.
Scouts never have been in the game for the money and that holds true especially when he was starting out in the business. Eggleston’s passion for the game and uncovering talent that would one day tip the balance of power away from Canada and give the NHL a more American (and international flavor) convinced him of his life’s calling.
“Back then, you would get a hundred dollars for anyone who went to (junior team) Hamilton,” Eggleston told NEHJ. “You got $500 for anyone who turned pro, so you certainly had some incentive to find players who had a shot to reach the league in a time when there were only six teams.”
Although things have changed a great deal since Eggleston’s early days, the longtime scout remained a fixture in northeastern rinks for more than five decades with the Wings and CSS before calling it a career. Some of the young players he saw as standout high school players — such as Larry Pleau (Lynn English High Sschool) — have gone on to have playing and senior management careers in the NHL.
Eggleston’s impact and influence in hockey circles led him to be recognized as one of New England Hockey Journal’s 50 Most Influential People in January 2009.
In a March interview with Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com, Eggleston cited New England hockey NHL pioneers such as Bobby Carpenter (Peabody, Mass.), Tom Barrasso (Stow, Mass.), Brian Leetch (Cheshire, Conn.) Jeremy Roenick (Marshfield, Mass.), Bill Guerin (Wilbraham, Mass.) and Keith Tkachuk (Medford, Mass.) as some of the most memorable players he had the privilege of scouting during his 31-year tenure with Central.
Although Eggleston will enjoy more time to be with his wife of 54 years, Judi, and his two sons, he acknowledged that he’ll never completely leave the game he devoted so much of his life to.
“I think you’ll see me around,” he said with a laugh. “Things will be a little different for me, but I’ve always been around hockey and that won’t change.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.
Kirk Luedeke covers the NHL draft and New England’s draft prospects for New England Hockey Journal. Read his blog, Kirk’s Call, at hockeyjournal.com.