Interview with the Avs scout Joni LehtoEurolanche did an exclusive interview with the scout of the Colorado Avalanche.
Joni Lehto, born in 1970 in Finland, works for the Colorado
Avalanche as a scout since 1999. He spent his junior years in the OHL, then
played next 3 seasons in the AHL, ECHL and IHL, and finally came back to Europe
where he spent his last 4 seasons of a career playing in Finland, Sweden and
Germany. Joni, a defensive player, was drafted of the 111th place on the NHL
Entry Draft 1990 by New York Islanders,
but has never played in the NHL. His professional hockey career lasted “only” 7
seasons. The major success of his hockey-related jobs came after 1999. And
When did you become the Avalanche
I stopped playing pro-hockey after the season 1997-98. I had two
operations of my shoulder and after that I made my mind that "it is over
now ". So in 1999 spring I had an interview in Helsinki with Brian McDonald (ex-Avs head scout was
in Helsinki at that time). He called me and wanted to meet with me. Brian had
called to my brother Petteri Lehto
(who lives in Ottawa and is a hockey agent) that Avalanche is looking for
someone in Europe. My brother told him that “Yeah, I have somebody – my brother
just had to stop playing hockey”. So after two days with Brian, he offered me a
job with Colorado. Since 1999, I have been with the team.
What did you do before joining
I played professional hockey with Islanders´ farm team for 3 years and
then pro-hockey for other 4 years in Europe (Finland, Sweden, Germany). After I
was done with the hockey as a player, I worked for my brother for a year.
How a man could become a scout?
To be a scout, first you have to love the game and you must be willing
to travel a lot and to be lot of time far away from your family! Usually,
scouts are ex-hockey players or coaches. You developed friendships and contacts
while you were a player and when you are done you keep in a touch and sometimes
you are able to hook up a deal to become a scout. Or if somebody is interested
in scouting you can try to contact Mr.
Stubb at European scouting bureau.
What is your typical day like a
I am an European scout and my job is to travel all over in Europe from
country to country and from hockey games to hockey games and make reports off
draft age kids and also make reports from other NHL teams drafted kids for
future trades or free agency. My typical day? It depends where I am. If I am at
home in Tampere on a game day, I usually go through both teams rosters that are
playing that night – who is drafted, who is not, age, free agents and so on.
Then I go to the game at least one hour before to see the warm up and make
notes (line ups). Then after the game I drive home and put all the things I saw
at the game to the computer (our scouting system). If I go to other countries,
then I usually get early 6 a.m.-flight, example to Sweden. After landing, I get
a rental car and if I have a time then I go to check in to the hotel. If there
is not enough time, I drive directly to the rink. After the game or games
(sometimes 3 a day), I drive back to hotel and same process follows next day if
games are in same town. If not, I check out at the hotel and start driving to
the next place and do same again. I travel to Denver maybe 2-4 times in year.
Are there specific countries in
the world that you monitor as a scout?
It changes a bit every year where I go. Usually it is Finland, Sweden,
Slovakia and Czech Republic. Pretty much I need to monitor whole Europe.
What is a different between
"scout" and "pro scout"?
In North America, an amateur scout mainly goes to the games in the CHL,
college, university, high schools, 2-tier leagues and so on. I am a bit
different. I also need to go to pro games, because the best prospects play in
pro-leagues in Europe. Pro scout scouts the NHL, AHL or other lower pro-leagues
or semi pro-leagues. But also if they have a time, like our pro scouts Brad
"Motor City Smitty" Smith and Garth Joy, they also try to help us and
scout some amateur games too.
How did you enjoy the NHL
Combine? Did surprise you something at this event?
I really enjoyed the Combine. Those were tough days for players and also
for scouts. We had over 70 interviews. Nothing really surprised me a lot, just
that the North American players are nowadays so well prepared for this event
that they look already like young athletes. This Combine is a bit tougher for
European players, because they just flew over (jet lag) and sometimes we need
to use translator to do interviews, which is not great at times.
If you remember on some funny or
very interesting story related to your job for the Avalanche, please, share it
There are quite few stories in my 15 years of scouting but this one was
something that I will always remember. In 1999, I drove from Prague to Ceske
Budejovice in Czech Republic to watch a pro game. After the game I stayed there
and next day I started to drive from Ceske Budejovice to Litvinov. I wanted to
take some "back roads" since I had a lot of time.
I was around town of Sedlec when a dog ran across the road and I had to
dodge the dog. It was snowing and also a bit slippery, so my car started to
spin and I went off the road to the some farmer´s field. I was lucky that I was
not injured there. I got up from my rented car and walked to the road and
waited till somebody to show up. First car did not stop, second car did and I
communicated with the driver with my English and German. He called the police
that was good because I needed some documents what happened for my rental
Police came and I went to sit in their car and we communicated in German
language. My car was still on the field. Some farmer came and started to pull
my car out of the field with his tractor, while I was in a police car looking
out of the back window. Then I saw local bus coming and looked like bus driver
was looking out from his window to the field at my car and a tractor and he did
not pay any attention to the police van where I was sitting. I saw bus coming
and coming then I just yelled to the policeman "watch out". Same time
bus hit us in the back of the police van. Me and the cop were inside and were
bouncing like lottery balls inside the lotto machine. I hit my head and
shoulder and also my leg and I had window glass all over me.
Now we were on the field too inside the police van. We got out from the
side door and bus was in the ditch too. Police did an alcohol-test to the bus
driver. Bus was stuck now and all the passengers had to get out of the bus and
also their luggage too. After a farmer pulled my car out of the ditch with his
tractor, then was bus turn. My car was almost in 100% condition so I wanted to
catch the game in Litvinov. Police let me go even they wanted to me to go to
the hospital to just make sure everything was ok.
I made it to the Litvinov, watched the whole game and drove back to
Ceske Budejovice and took some aspirin when I got to the hotel. Next morning I
could barely walk and went to the local hospital. I had sprained my left knee I
was a bit in pain. Next time I will not go to the game. That is what I learned.
Source of the photos: Joni Lehto´s archive, www.ts.fi and http://kauppa.se
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11/06/2013 - 15:30