This past weekend, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Entry Draft in Montreal. While I do not have anything to compare this to, seeing as I had never been to an Entry Draft prior to this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience.
First off, the City of Montreal was a tremendous choice by the NHL. Regardless of the team’s centennial hockey season, the city is hockey, hockey, hockey all the time. The streets were packed with people excited about the game of hockey near the end of June, so it made for an exciting weekend.
One thing that stood out to me was the amount of hockey people who came into town for the Entry Draft. People from the CHL, USHL, AHL, NHL, NCAA were all there in attendance. Some seemed to be there for a specific draft-related reason, others just seemed to be there for the camaraderie. Either way, you were hard-pressed to walk within three blocks of the Bell Centre and not see somebody involved in the game roaming around the streets of Montreal.
Speaking of the streets of Montreal, there probably aren’t many better streets to roam in North America. Distractions abound, so good thing Eugene Robinson wasn’t in attendance–as Kyle and I were offered to see a Lesbian Show about seven times by the same guy on Rue St. Catherine. But I digress.
Maybe the most interesting part of the draft experience was watching the draft floor. When you watch the Entry Draft on television (which I had always done prior to this year), you don’t get the full extent of the team discussions and the dynamics on the floor at all times. When you are in attendance, you can see teams attempting to negotiate trades, teams laboring over which player to draft and teams sitting laid back waiting until they can hit Rue Crescent.
Considering the lack of action, in terms of trades, for most of the year, it was exciting to see teams attempting to consummate multiple deals on the draft floor. Unfortunately, aside from the Chris Pronger deal on Friday and the Jay Bouwmeester trade on Saturday, a lot less trade activity took place than anticipated.
That said, it does not mean that draft weekend was not without its highlights. So, without further ado, here are my highlights from draft weekend:
Funniest moments of the weekend:
- Gary Bettman announcing the Chris Pronger trade and calling Joffrey Lupul, Jeffrey Lupul.
- E.J. McGuire skipping over an Islanders pick on the second day and then forgetting the Islanders had a pick in the next round as well.
- The Habs fans mercilessly booing the Maple Leafs and Brian Burke, only to see Burke react with a smirk on the jumbotron, which resulted in the entire crowd cracking up.
Most unnecessary part of the weekend:
- Every team congratulting the Pittsburgh Penguins on winning the Stanley Cup.
- Every team attempting to send out a French speaking member of their scouting/management team to get a cheer from the crown.
- The first round taking over four hours.
Most disappointing part of the weekend:
- The Habs fans immediately hitting the exits after the team made their first round selection.
- The lack of trades on the draft floor.
- The waitress at Le Cage (a restaurant in the Bell Centre) trying to charge Kyle and I $16 for soft drinks.
Most impressive part of draft weekend:
- How loud the Montreal crowd was. With the stage set up, the Bell Centre could only squeeze in just under 13,000 fans, but boy were they loud. Even though I have been to the Bell Centre on two other occassions, I was still pleasantly surprised by just how loud the fans were.
- How quickly Day 2 went. Yes, the second day (six rounds) of the Entry Draft took less time to complete than the first day (one round).
- How quickly the restaurants had food on the table. I’m telling you, I don’t think I ever waited over 15 minutes for food to come to the table after I ordered it.
Funniest sightings of the weekend:
- Fans coming up to shake Darryl Sutter’s hand after the Draft was complete and him respectfully shaking their hands with less interest than I’ve ever seen. It was hilarious. That guy has one thing on his mind, and that’s the Flames. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t even remember meeting those people.
- Seeing Len Barrie carrying an Avalanche bag in the corridor before remembering that his son was drafted by Colorado. For a second there, I thought Oren Koules had traded his right to Denver for another season of Two and a Half Men.
- Georges Laraque negotiating a business deal and arguing with the guy about the cost of shipping.
What stood out most after seeing them in person:
- How tall Victor Hedman really is. When that guy fills out, he is going to be (with an apology to Pierre McGuire) an absolute monster.
- How short Ryan Ellis is. I don’t doubt his skill for a second; in fact, I thought Nashville made a great selection at 11, but boy is he small.
- How young Ulf Samuelsson looks. I am pretty sure he looks younger than his kid. No, I’m serious. He looks like he is 25 years old.
In summation, the NHL Entry Draft was a great experience that I recommend every NHL hockey fan attend at one point or another. While I’m not sure if other cities are capable of replicating the job done by the City of Montreal, just the action that surrounds the NHL Entry Draft makes it a worthwhile experience.