The 66-year-old is Director of Amateur Scouting at Tampa Bay Lightning, the NHL club from Tampa in the US state of Florida. In this role, in addition to watching games himself, he also co-ordinates all the scouts who work for Tampa Bay Lightning: five in Europe and seven in North America. Murray explains, "We visit three important tournaments during the season – these are the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in summer, the World Juniors over Christmas and New Year and, at the end of the season, the U18 World Championships.
A lot of the best players are in these three tournaments." And this is where the eyes of the scouts are focused keenly on every movement, every pass and every goal. "It's important for us to know what type of player the club management is looking for", explains the experienced scout, "so we can go to the stadium and keep an eye out for players who have the characteristics we need." Different capabilities, or skills, are required depending on the structure of the team. It's then his job to find the specific player who best meets those requirements.
"Scouts should be able to concentrate on their job"There are around 280 other scouts just like Al Murray travelling around Basel and Porrentruy, looking for talent and hoping to discover the next Josi, Hischier or Meier. All scout activity at the U18 World Championship in Switzerland is co-ordinated by Peggy Fitzpatrick.
She has years of experience in this field and she has looked after the talent scouts at several world championships. "We take care of everything for the scouts", says Fitzpatrick, "which means they don't need to worry about anything - they can just concentrate on their job, looking out for the next young ice hockey talent." The U18 World Championship is the most important world championship in junior ice hockey.
Fitzpatrick continues, "Scouts observe and analyse the performance of individual players. In the ideal scenario, the best players will be taken on in the annual NHL draft by a team in the best ice hockey league in the world." Since the next NHL drafts are currently being scouted for in Basel and Porrentruy, many a player is hoping to be discovered.
Praise from all quartersPeggy Fitzpatrick values the collaboration with the scouts very highly. "They are actually all really nice and easy to look after. They hardly ever have any special requests", she says from experience, "but the most important thing is to print out the line-ups for them in good time before each game, as that's where they make their notes on the players.
" And the Internet in the Scouts Lounge is very important. "So the Scouts can communicate with their club." When several pairs of eyes are on the same talent, sometimes things have to move fast. Al Murray also had nothing but praise for the World Championship in Switzerland.
"I am very happy. I have been scouting for more than thirty years now and I think the way we're treated here is excellent. Both stadiums are inviting and very easy to work in. I couldn't imagine a better location for this world championship. Basel is a beautiful city and Porrentruy is a pretty little town - a great mix for us to come and watch ice hockey in."