2007 Draft: A recap (part one)June 25, 2007
The long anticipated draft weekend has come and gone. I’ve taken a moment to relax and reflect. In the aftermath, I felt exhausted but I’m not really sure why. I didn’t work all that hard, stay up too late, or party too hard. Still, it was a whirlwind twenty-four hours for me.
It’s very unlike the NFL Draft (which I have not been to) for me. For one, I’ve heard of maybe 25% of the players expected to go in the first couple of rounds. Also, NFL draftees will very likely be seen in the league within four to six months. I could probably count on one hand the names of the kids I’d heard of in the NHL Draft, and I would guess it’s safe to say that no more than one or two of these kids will play in the NHL during the upcoming season.
For me, the weekend was about the experience of being there.
We (Mrs. EOB and I) parked in our usual spot about a half-mile from the Arena, and got to Battelle Plaza at about 4:00. We entered a few forms to win something (we love filling out forms for free stuff), collected our complimentary NHL Draft towels (what’s with everybody giving away towels, these days?), and headed into the arena for the blogger meet-up at the Bud Light Arena Pub (BLAP).
The line to get Rick Nash’s autograph stretched down one side of the arena. I have to wonder if the people we saw at the end of the line even got to see him. We meandered past the static line, and headed into the BLAP. For all the people crowding Battelle Plaza, the trophies on display, and the autograph session, the bar was remarkably uncrowded.
Mrs. EOB and I filed toward the back of the pub to the area Mike had said he would stake out. There was a local sports talk radio show broadcasting from the back room, so I was initially concerned I wouldn’t be able to hear the conversation. This turned out to not be an issue. As we walked into the room, I saw Truth Serum sitting with his wife so I went over and said hello and made the appropriate introductions before strolling to the back table to formally meet Mike (since I’d already stalked him while he was working one day).
In addition to Mike of Army of the Ohio and Truth Serum from right here at End of the Bench, I also enjoyed meeting with the following folks:
- The Acid Queen of Sweet Tea, Barbecue, and Bodychecks
- Sarah from The Neutral Zone Trap
- Eric McErlain from Off Wing Opinion (or NBCSports.com or the NHL Fanhouse at AOL… your pick)
- Greg Wyshynski of The Fourth Period (and the NHL Fanhouse as well)
- Tapeleg (and his girlfriend Meg) from Jerseys and Hockey Love
- Paul Kukla of Kukla’s Korner (and NHL.com)
- Tyler of The Jacket Times
- Keith of instones.org
It was great to meet with you all, and thanks for coming. (And Mike, thanks for organizing just about everything!)
For me, it was great to have the diverse mix of folks together in one room. You had people like me who write for relatively small sites that very likely generate team specific traffic, and some of the heavy hitters like Eric, Paul, and Greg who had the chops and experience to get themselves credentialed for this international event. But when you look past the appearances, we were all normal people and hockey fans.
The conversation was plentiful, and the topics diverse. I’m sure that if a draft hadn’t been slated to begin in a short while, we could have sat there all night talking hockey. But the crowd began to thin, and a few of my non-blog-reading friends had showed up and were ready to grab a seat.
One of the things Eric asked us was what we expected the attendance to be. I’d read in the Dispatch that they expected a standing room only crowd. I read this as wishful thinking, and told Eric that I expected about nine or ten thousand people. As we took the escalator to the upper bowl to find seating, I still hadn’t seen the inside of the arena to gauge my prediction. We stepped through an entry tunnel to view our options, and I was stunned to find that there were almost no seats empty. The sections behind the stage were shut down, but all open sections were looking very full. The usher told us that Club Level seating was opening to accept the overflow, so we hit the stairs and found four seats.
We got settled just in time for the beginning of the festivities and the unveiling of the new jerseys. The crowd was much louder (and bigger) than I’d thought it would be. Jody Shelley and Dan Fritsche came out and modeled the new home and away jerseys. I’ll have a little more of my thoughts on this in my next post, but I will say now that I like the new duds.
Owner John McConnell spoke before the draft officially began, and was introduced to the usual standing ovation. People in Columbus are very grateful that he helped to bring the NHL to our town, and every time he speaks at Nationwide those in attendance show their appreciation.
I’ll have a slightly more detailed recap of Friday night up later (as the picks wore on, my commentary dried up considerably, so don’t start expecting five-star reporting, please), but the evening wore on in an interesting mesh of cheers and boos. Mrs. EOB and I booed Gary Bettman with most of the crowd when he started talking. We booed when other teams were announced, especially Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Nashville, Toronto…. oh who am I kidding, we booed just about every team to varying degrees. The crowd was especially derisive when Detroit was put on the clock, starting chants of “Red Wings suck” combined with vociferous booing and catcalling. The gentleman (I’ll take the high road for a brief moment) behind me did his best to personally try and make more noise than the assembled throng of Blue Jacket fans by creating an extremely loud whistle right in my ear, while yelling “NO CLASS!” at the chanting fans. What I really wanted to turn around to him and say (among other things) was a hearty, “so I guess Red Wing fans save all their class for cheering on Sergei Fedorov, eh?” But I sat tight, plugged my ears to save my hearing, and booed with the rest of the crowd. But when Steve Yzerman stepped to the podium, almost all of the bad blood simmered and the crowd clapped and cheered, myself included. Stevie Y is an important hockey figure, even to those of us who never were or are no longer fans of the winged wheel, and we’re not afraid to show a little respect.
New Jackets GM Scott Howson stepped to the stage to announce the seventh pick, and was met with thunderous applause, cheering, and chants of “Let’s Go Jackets!” I’m sure he couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the hockey fans in Columbus. The Jackets selected Jakub Voracek with their first-round selection. I’ll be the first to admit I had no idea who he was, but upon reading the reviews and scouting reports later that night and this weekend it sounds like he is a pretty good prospect.
After the Jackets picked, a considerable number of people went home. But the crowd was still a good one, and there were still 22 more picks in the opening round. Things that stuck out to me from the rest of Friday night:
- The aforementioned Red Wings episode
- The cheers awarded to Phoenix Coyotes owner Wayne Gretzky
- The big roar Pittsburgh received when they were announced (it’s only three hours from Pittsburgh to Columbus, so I guess a lot of fans made the trip or already live here)
- The chorus of boos heard when both the Leafs and Rangers were announced. I knew I didn’t like those guys, but I didn’t know I was part of such a large movement.
The first round wrapped up, and we headed home tired from a long day at the arena. I’ll have more later regarding Saturday, and my notes from Friday’s action. If I’m feeling spry, I’ll also upload some pictures from the blogger meetup.
Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench. Come back soon.