The message on Tom McVie’s answering machine says it all:
“The Boston Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup Finals! I think I just died and am on my way to heaven.”
The resident of America’s Vancouver will be in British Columbia’s Vancouver today for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. McVie is the west coast scout for the Bruins, so his reports about the Vancouver Canucks will help form the Boston game plan.
“All I can say is the matchup is a real good one,” McVie said. “They’ve got a really good team, and so do we.”
McVie, who turns 76 on Monday, has spent more than 50 years in the hockey business as a player, a coach, and a scout. This is the first time he has been involved with the Stanley Cup Finals.
A native of Trail, B.C., McVie does have a championship on his résumé. He was the head coach for the Winnipeg Jets team that won the 1979 World Hockey Association championship. His head coaching stints include guiding the Washington Capitals and the New Jersey Devils.
He has been with the Bruins’ organization for 17 seasons, the last 11 in a scouting capacity.
McVie played for the Portland Buckaroos in the old Western Hockey League from 1961-66. Like many of those Buckaroos players, he maintained a home in the Portland-Vancouver area even when his career took him to jobs around North America. He has lived in Vancouver for two decades.
During the NHL season, McVie’s job is to scout Western Conference teams ahead of games against Boston. He also scouts individual NHL players who the Bruins might have interest in acquiring.
McVie said on Tuesday that he would be assigned a specific aspect of the Canucks team to watch during the Finals games, perhaps focusing on Vancouver’s centers. He and other Boston scouts will then present their reports at a meeting on the morning following each game.
One thing McVie knows from scouting the Canucks’ series against the San Jose Sharks: The Bruins don’t want to get into a special teams contest with Vancouver. The Cunucks buried the Sharks with three quick power-play goals to clinch their spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.
“That’s like smoking in a dynamite warehouse,” McVie said with a laugh.
McVie admitted he was on edge on Friday while watching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but he called the 1-0 win perhaps the best game Boston has played in these playoffs.
“I was really impressed with how the coaching staff had the team prepared for that game,” McVie said, explaining that the Bruins were strong positionally and thus stayed out of the penalty box. McVie described the up-ice rush that produced Boston’s goal, scored by Nathan Horton, as “almost like walking through a minefield.”
That goal gave Boston a chance to win its first Stanley Cup since 1972 if the Bruins better the Canucks. And it gave McVie a chance to play a role in the Stanley Cup Finals.
“It’s a tough thing to do,” he said. “I’ve been in pro hockey for 55 years, and this is my first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.”
McVie isn’t the only Portland-area connection to this series.
Cam Neeley, the Bruins team president, played his junior hockey with the Portland Winterhawks. So did current Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, and Canucks forward Jannik Hansen.