As a young player approaches and enters his draft year, describe the process of being scouted and/or recruited (since T.J. was both scouted by the Blues and recruited by North Dakota) and how it affects the family, as well as what it does to the young athlete's daily schedule, training regimen, etc.
As a father, I didn't really recognize the whole process. Cary Eades, T.J.'s head coach at Warroad H.S. and then assistant coach at North Dakota, was a guiding light for both of us. He protected T.J. both at Warroad and North Dakota to make sure his focus was purely on hockey.
Looking back, I wouldn't do it any different. As the letters and packages came rolling in from a majority of Division 1 college programs, I read them then bundled the packages up until hockey was over for the season. I didn't want any distractions for him as the task at hand was Warroad Warriors hockey and nothing else. T.J. led Warroad to three consecutive Minnesota State High School Tournaments from 2003-05, winning titles his sophomore and senior seasons. I stressed to him to only concentrate on our next opponent, as I was Warroad's assistant hockey coach. Being in the system of the coaching fraternity was a huge benefit for me during the whole process.
As a parent, the experience was surreal. Talk of the 2005 NHL Draft was never in our conversations. T.J. let his hockey abilities and successes earn his recognition of being a NHL draft prospect. But, obviously, he was training intensely to enhance his body to play for the University of North Dakota. The day after his graduation in June of 2005, he flew east from Winnipeg (130 miles from Warroad) to Toronto to participate in the NHL Combine Camp. It was there I realized his stock was gaining as they invite the Top 100-120 prospects in the world.
I received many calls that month of July from NHL scouts and front office personnel. Once again, I didn't tell T.J. as he was training at the Minnesota Hockey Camp in Nisswa, MN. The most important thing was to be humble and have humility that summer of 2005. On Saturday, July 30, 2005, I really didn't know what to think. I was living alone in Warroad teaching and coaching at Warroad Schools in the Indian Education Department. Never in my mind did I think Osh would get picked in the first round. It was an impromptu draft so they only invited the top 20-25 prospects to attend the event in Ottawa, Canada. No pomp and circumstance at a NHL venue, just a hotel ballroom with the teams' front office and print and broadcast media personnel.
I had received a call from a close friend telling me there could be a surprise on Draft Day on July 29. Not really understanding the significance of it all, I decided to listen on the Internet via NHL.com. Most of the teams that I had spoken with drafted other young prospects. So obviously, I figured T.J. was a 2nd or 3rd round pick as he was listed as number 43 for North American skaters and number 111 in the International Scouting Service (ISS) charts.
When Jarmo Kekalainen announced the St. Louis Blues picks from Warroad High School, T.J. Oshie, our family's world was turned upside down.
I would tell young hockey prospects and parents to only focus on playing hockey, your academics and playing other sports. Don't worry about all the gentlemen with black coats on in the arena's concourse (the scouts). Don't be looking around the rink during warm-ups and games for them. The focal point is to play the game you love the very best you can. If you do that, the phone calls and letters start coming.
To the parents, simply enjoy the process.
Timothy W. Oshie
Oshie Sports & Media