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Roger Neilson Coaches’ Clinic makes room for EJ McGuire tribute

Touching stuff (seriously) from the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff:

Marshall Starkman still gets choked up when he thinks about the e-mail. After years of E.J. McGuire spit balling it at the podium, Starkman, director for the annual Roger Neilson’s coaches’ clinic at the University of Windsor, finally was certain he had a topic that would intrigue McGuire. But when he contacted McGuire, vice-president of the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau with the news, McGuire’s response left Starkman in shock. McGuire wrote to Starkman that he wouldn’t be attending this year’s clinic, that he’d be helping Roger oversee it from above. A couple of weeks later in early April, McGuire died, a victim of cancer, the same disease that claimed Neilson’s life in 2003.

“At first, I was confused, I didn’t really understand E.J.‘s e-mail,” Starkman admitted. “After I read it again a few times, it hit home.” McGuire had spoken at 23 consecutive clinics and this year, the clinic is honouring his memory with tributes throughout the weekend, as well as a Sunday auction of hockey memorabilia to contribute to a trust fund established for McGuire’s children.

Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and Toronto Maple Leafs broadcaster Jim Ralph reminisced about their time playing together in the Chicago Blackhawks system while speaking Friday at the clinic. “We spent a long weekend together in Chicago,” Boudreau remembered. “That’s how long it took them to cut us.”

Among those attending this year’s clinic is former Windsor Spitfires forward Jeff Zehr. The Windsor-born Zehr, 32, who played in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, today runs a landscaping business out of his home base in Tavistock, Ont. and coaches the Huron-Perth minor midget AAA club, whose roster includes his son Adam, a forward eligible for the 2012 Ontario Hockey League priority selection draft. “The crop of (1996-born players) available in that draft is going to be really deep,” Zehr said.

This year marks the first time since Neilson’s passing that that the clinic entirely sold out its 264 available spots . . . For the first time, the clinic is also being recognized as an OMHA-sanctioned specialty conference, enabling coaches in that organization to meet their three-year requirement of 20 credits to maintain their standing as accredited coaches . . . One of the features at the clinic is a posting of available coaching jobs. Friday, at the top of the list it read: “head coach, Winnipeg NHL franchise.”

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.