STEVE’S DRAFT WEEK JOURNAL
Day: Wednesday June 19th, 2002
Time: 3:31 EST
I find myself way too excited. I have no idea what I am about to
embark on. I have arrived at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. As I walked
towards the Galleria doors I soaked up the atmosphere
through the Galleria to the Bay Street exit, and arrived at 50 Bay
Upon entering the revolving doors (ironies abound), I got in line to
sign in. As I was awaiting, I notice that in front of me in line were
a veritable whos who of NHL Scouts, Coaches and General Managers. I
watched as Doug Maclean and Craig Button checked in. I got to the front
of the line and was asked what team I belonged to. After agonizing
seconds, I told the truth… ‘just a volunteer’.
I sadly looked back as I was sent away from the NHL team
representatives to the photo room on the 6th floor for Volunteers.
After having my photo id made up, and admiring it longer than I should,
I returned to the lobby and vacated the building.
With so much time left until the mandatory meeting at Seven p.m. I just
stood outside, watching as Bob Mackenzie, Petr Svoboda and Al Jensen
amongst others passed by hurriedly being chased by a crowd of autograph
Day: Wednesday June 19th, 2002
Time: 6:48 EST
After signing in again for the meeting, we were rushed through the
ACC to the floor of the draft room. After being seated in the first
row platinums (for the first time and likely only time) in my life…
the NHL Event Staff co-ordinators led by Jan Ciolick. After running
through the duties of a family draft guide volunteer (where to take
the family, when to take the family… what to say) we were issued
parking passes and told to come back Saturday for 11am.
I stayed in the arena for a little while, just taking it all in.
Day: Saturday June 22nd, 2002
Time: 11:00 EST
The actual job begins…
After receiving my free t-shirt and being put into a group of family
guides we sat anxiously awaiting the start of the draft. As the
minutes ticked by, the NHL teams and representitives started to check
in. This is where my hero worship kicked in. I watched as numerous
icons of the NHL walked by… Bobby Clarke, Ken Dryden, Mike Keenan,
Pat Burns, Scotty Bowman, Alexei Yashin, Todd Bertuzzi, Scott Stevens,
Wendel Clark, Wayne Gretzky, Kevin Lowe, Guy Carbonneau, Darryl
Sittler, Larry Robinson, Pat Quinn, Serge Savard, Jacques Lemaire,
and Glen Sather to name but a few.
Jim Gregory who is the Senior Vice President of the NHL,
and also my cousin, offered to bring me to the stage minutes before the
draft for a photo opportunity. I was walking the carpeted podium that
only minutes later the very best draft picks would stride over. Jim
introduced me to Gary Bettman, Frank Bonello (director of Central
Scouting Services) and numerous other NHL execs.
The draft began and I found my first family to guide, the Pitkanen
family. As I guided the family who had only the vaguest knowledge of
english, I passed by Rich Nash now fully dressed in his Columbus jersey
and heading for the Platinum Lounge to meet with his family. I
congratulated the Pitkanen family and signed them in at the Lounge
desk. After only a seconds hesitation, I rushed over and congratulated
Nash and Gordon Kirke (agent) before rushing back to my post.
The day speed by, picks were taken, families guided by me or others…
I ended the day guiding the DesLauriers, the Pitkanens, the Globkes,
The Klepis family, the Stajans (a personal joy as he was a Leaf
selection) and a bunch of European families with names I won’t even
attempt to spell.
All in all the first day was a blur. I met so many people I never
dreamt I would meet, guided so many families that it just seemed like
I was in a dream.
After the first day ended… I had the pleasure of spending the night
with Rosalie Gregory (my cousin’s wife). The night was pleasant and
Day: Sunday June 23rd, 2002
Time: 7:43 EST
Day Two of the NHL Draft…
With most of the big name prospects selected, and the television
coverage much lower than the previous days… the second day of
drafting had a very early start.
At 8 am we were signed in and at 9 am the draft began again.
My role was diminished greatly this day… of all the fourth round
picks (the first selections of the day), only about four were in
attendance. With so much more free time, I found myself talking alot
with Frank Bonello, the head of the CSS. He seemed to be impressed
with my knowledge of the prospects, and at one point mentioned to my
cousin that I should be working for him. After telling him I was more
than available, I spent most of the rest of the day dreaming about
working full time for the Central Scouting Services.
Frank and I continued to talk, and as most of the draft selections
were gone, no one needed guiding. As the 8th round was winding down,
we noticed a kid who had been in the stands the whole time with a big
family group. Most of the bare handful of remaining prospects were by
themselves or at most with one person. Several had left in anger or
sorrow. Many had never came. To see this kid who had stuck it out
so far, and still not been selected… was sad and touching at the
same time. Frank and I looked through the guide and found his name,
Francois Caron. We saw he was ranked fairly high, and felt for him.
As we were talking about how strong his will must be to remain so late
and how strong his passion and heart must be to stay when so many had
left, an Edmonton scout and an Anaheim scout passed by. Overhearing
our conversation, and knowing the director of the CSS, they came over
and talked with us. The two scouts seemed impressed by the kid, and
went so far as to go up and meet the kid. Sure enough, the next pick
for either team was the first overall pick in the last round (9th
round) and belonged to Anaheim. They used the selection to pick
Francois Caron. Well, it may not have been the biggest cheer of the
two day event, but in the near empty building it resonated like no
other. The kid lept up pumping his hand in the air, the family already
in tears were hugging and smiling and congratulating the kid. Frank
looked at me and said “we called that one…”
That to me was the real eye opener. The real story is not the first
round pick who knew he was to go high and did so, nor the big icons
strolling around. It was the kids who gutted out heartbreaking round
after round to face either a devestating blow to a NHL dream, or their
greatest moment. This kid was in heaven. He did not care he had
not been selected as high as expected, he did not care it took the
last round. He did not care the team that took him was a weaker NHL
team and one where hockey was far from top billing. He had been the
choice announed over the crowd and he had his chance to walk down,
throw on a NHL jersey, walk the Anaheim table and most importantly,
make his family proud.
Not every family was so lucky, but on this day the Anaheim Mighty Ducks
won a fan over. Maybe Anaheim is not the first city you think of when
you think hockey… but now for me, it is an organization I am more
than proud of. They showed the heart the kid did that day. It was not
a draft in Anaheim. They were under no obligation to select the kid…
but they chose him on this day, and whatever their reason… I
admire the Anaheim staff for their heart.
The day ended with that lesson. I walked away from the draft a happy,
and much luckier person than I ever thought I could be.
That was my NHL Draft experience… I encourage anyone in Nashville
area to give volunteering a shot next year…
HF Leafs Prospect Reporter
NHL Draft Guide Volunteer
One Lucky Human Being