RODE: Hockey is in former RDC King Erin Ginnell’s blood

Hockey was in Erin Ginnell’s blood since he was born.

His dad Pat built a reputation as a player and a coach in Western Canada before turning to scouting with the St. Louis Blues. Erin’s brother, Danny, played briefly and scouts for St. Louis, so seeing Erin step into the scouting ranks after his playing days were over was no surprise.

Erin came up playing junior hockey in the SJHL and the Western Hockey League and in 1986 was drafted in the fourth round, 82nd overall, by the Washington Capitals.

But he never ventured into the pro ranks as a player and in 1990 joined the RDC Kings after spending two years with the Minot Americans of the SJHL.

Erin was a dominant player in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, finishing a four-year career with 67 goals and 90 assists for 157 points, which is still fifth in ACAC scoring history and first for the Kings. His totals would have been that much higher if he hadn’t missed half a season with an injury.

“I still look back at those days with a lot of enjoyment,” he said. “I keep in touch with several of the guys and every time we get together we look back and laugh and realize how much fun we had.

“I’m fortunate to still be up there in scoring as I think it’s harder to score these days.”

After graduating Erin moved to Vancouver and got into Parks and Recreation and played five years with the Powell River Regals, helping them win the Allan Cup in 1997 and 2000, which earned the Regals a spot in the BC Hall of Fame.

Following his final season with the Regals, Erin was contacted by the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets about joining their scouting ranks.

“They were an expansion team and one of their main guys was Sam McMaster, who was with Washington when they drafted me,” explained Ginnell. “So there was a connection along with Donny Boyd who knew my dad with the Blues. So really it’s not always what you know it’s who you know to get in and then hopefully you have the knowledge to stay.”

Erin definitely has that knowledge. He spent two years with Columbus, a year with the Colorado Avalanche before joining the Florida Panthers for 14 years, the last five of which he was their director of amateur scouting.

“I started there as an amateur scout then moved up to a cross-over scout who travels throughout North America and Europe and putting together a final list for the draft,” he explained.

It’s that position he now holds with the Vegas Golden Knights, who he joined during their expansion year.

“Florida was great but I got caught up in the regime change but I was fortunate to get on with Vegas, so everything worked out.”

He enjoys the role he has with Vegas.

“I’m comfortable in that I’ve been in the cross-over role for several years so the travel and everything is second nature,” he said.

While teams change the game also changes and so does how a scout looks at the game.

“Athletes have changed,” said Ginnell. “Today it’s all about the speed. If you can’t skate you can’t play.

“Thank goodness that wasn’t the case in my days,” he said with a laugh.

“Speed and being about to think the game is huge, but of course kids still have to have the drive and willingness to work hard for 12 months a year and be a good teammate.”

The way scouts watch and record the game also changed.

“A lot over the last 30 to 40 years. Computers just started coming in when I got into it but I was used to them unlike some of the older scouts who were grumbling about them.

“I remember going to the Viking Cup (in Camrose) and handwriting information about 100 kids. Now I punch everything into my laptop on the plane going home.”

“Nowadays analytics is huge in the game but I figure if the tool is in the toolbox you should use it.”

Erin lives in Calgary and makes the trip to Vegas at least four times a year.

Both his boys — Brad and Riley — are involved in the game.

Brad played with the Moose Jaw Warriors and is now with the University of Calgary while Riley is with the Brandon Wheat Kings and will attend the Panthers’ camp this year after attending the Blues’ camp last season.

As for how long he’ll stay in the game, the 53-year-old, indicated “as long as it’s fun coming to the rink … there’s no time line.

“My wife says I should never retire,” he said laughing.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at

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