Justin Shemie Opens up About Scouting for the Stingers
Concordia Scout Keeps the Difficulties Out of Sight and Out of Mind
When Justin Shemie started to talk about work, a smile stretched across his face. Not the reaction you’d get from most university students in their early 20s.
Most students aren’t Justin Shemie.
While pursuing his education at the John Molson School of Business, he is working as the head scout of the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team as well as a scout for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Moncton Wildcats.
“I really love who I work with. I love to come and watch hockey, and evaluate players. I just overall love the job,” said Shemie.
According to Stingers head coach Marc-André Element, that kind of passion is just what you get with Shemie.
“He’s passionate, and when you want to build a program you’ve got to build the program with people that are passionate about the game,” said Element who has seen the results of his head scout’s work first hand. “He’s that guy.”
Element’s Stingers had a strong season, aided along by many new players, like Anthony De Luca and Alex Gosselin—all of whom Shemie helped bring on.
What’s surprising is that he’s been scouting since he was in the 10th grade. Five years ago, he was just a high school student attending a conference at the 2012 NHL entry draft.
“I was only 15 then, so I didn’t expect to get an opportunity there,” remembered Shemie.
That’s where he began turning heads and impressing the right people with just how much he could do. Shemie ended up earning a position doing work with sports analytics company Power Scout Hockey. After doing data entry and spreadsheets for the company, Shemie started going out to scout more tournaments and events, building connections as he went.
“Whenever I went scouting, I would ask questions, ask scouts and build contacts,” he said.
This was how he met then head scout for the Moncton Wildcats Gilles Tassé, who was fascinated by Shemie’s eye for evaluating players, especially considering he was just 16 years old at the time. To this day, Tassé continues to be impressed, calling Shemie “resilient, passionate and dedicated” while stating that all the young scout needs is a touch more confidence in his skills.
Shemie sent Tassé reports from games in Montreal and he eventually impressed him enough to be brought on as a scout for Moncton, where’s he’s finishing his fourth year on the job after grinding his way up the scouting ladder.
Shemie continued to impress those he encountered, including Element. Well before the pair worked together, the Stingers head coach knew that Shemie had real talent.
“I knew right away that he had good potential,” recalled Element.
Element recognized that scouting is not an easy job, and that not everyone is right for it. “It’s really important for a head coach to have a guy that’s passionate and wants to put time in,” said Element while discussing what makes Shemie so successfull.
The head scout has to evaluate players all over the greater Montreal area. Through different leagues and levels, Shemie is the one who has to go out and spot who can help his teams.
In cities like Montreal, there is no shortage of talent to assess. To Shemie, what makes a good scout is simple. “At the end of the day you have to be able to evaluate players. It’s something I’ve gotten with mileage,” he said. “I’ve asked questions [and] learned a lot.”
Tassé said that it came quickly. “His progression has been incredible within a short period of time!”
Regardless of how good a scout is, their job is time consuming. But as Tassé said, “[Shemie] will not back down in front of a tough task.”
Element hasn’t seen anything to suggest Shemie is struggling with juggling his academics and his work. “He’s well structured, he’s punctual. He’s so well organized,” praised Element, who feels that Shemie is capable enough that he need not worry.
Shemie admitted that it can be difficult at time but stressed that his passion for what he does makes it worth it. “It can definitely be difficult. You have to sacrifice on both sides of the scale. But if you really want to do it, you can.”
“It helps that I really love what I do,” he continued. Shemie maintained that while it can be unfortunate to miss out on social activities, having a job he loves outweighs the difficulties.
“Sometimes the guys who are more behind the scenes don’t get the trophies,” said Element, talking about how scouts aren’t always in the spotlight. He made sure to emphasize that Shemie is a major part of the success the Stingers have had.
Though his work is in the background, Shemie said that’s just fine. He knows how important it is.
“Drafting and recruiting are the building blocks of a program,” he said. Thirteen new players who he scouted contributed to the Stingers going from winning 35 per cent of their games last year to 67 per cent this year. He’s happy with the job and he plans to stick with it.
“He’s going to go far,” said Element. “He has the drive. I think he’s someone that’s going to be up there with better guys.”
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