Thursday, June 21, 2007

One more sleep for the class of 2007

The suits are all pressed and the hair style of the day is as good as it's going to get, Mom and Dad stand ready for the big day and their potential tv moment as well. Assorted siblings and girlfriends and former team mates have probably tagged along, ready for the rite of initiation for junior hockey players in Canada and across the world. The NHL amateur draft is set for that hockey hotbed of Columbus, Ohio on Friday night. A cattle call of talent, which can make a General Manager a genius or scupper a career in a short matter of years.

There’s a new format for one of those uniquely Canadian of television events, this year covering two days instead of the normal one. The draft, like the trade deadline madness of the end of the regular season has become the equivalent of a block buster television series for the Canadian sports networks. Like the final episode of the Soprano’s everyone will gather around their sets and wonder what is going to happen when Gary Bettman announces: “The Chicago Black hawks have the first pick”.

In years past, the draft was a late June Saturday morning fixture for the likes of TSN, Sportsnet and The Score, three or four hours of anxious young people looking around the rink of whatever city was hosting the event, hoping that they hear their name, praying that they aren’t the lost looking hockey player at the end of the day sitting way up in the blues wondering where it all went wrong. The drama of the draft comes with a price as Don Cherry has regularly preached from his sermon podium at Coach’s corner, urging those youngsters that won’t be a first rounder to not make the trip, better to insulate them from disappointment rather than become the very unfortunate face of it.

The NHL however, knows that the drama of the draft, while probably a curiosity in Columbus and the rest of America is a marketing gold mine in Canada, so much anticipated that this year it goes Prime Time. When the proceedings get underway Friday, at 7 pm in the east, 4 pm on the coast where the Stanley Cups rests (sorry Vancouver it’s a little further south this year), the sports networks will unleash teams of reporters, analysts and advisors all prepared to provide details on any backstage wrangling for picks or who is the most likely candidate to go high in the draft.

They sit ready to break the blockbuster trades or analyze the intentions of each and every General Manager, computer hard drives clogged with every imaginable fact and statistic of the young players who aren’t too far removed from those early days of Timbits hockey.

Rumours tend to overwhelm the facts in the days leading up to the draft; teasing little tidbits are dropped to the salivating press corps anxious to be the first with the big story of the week. It’s all rather mad, especially when you consider that many of the young men chosen on Friday and Saturday may never live up to the expectations that breathlessly get throw around about them this week. But, there’s always that one franchise player that will stand out and change a franchise, or the player chosen in the second, third or later rounds that develops into a teams rock, the most important asset that they ever chose.

It’s why the draft takes on so much importance; it’s a glimpse of the future and for long suffering fans of the local side a whisper that the times may get better sooner than they think.

Below we’ll list some of the stories we’ve discovered over the last few days about the draft.

Globe and Mail-Rumours overshadow big event
Globe and Mail-Blackhawk up?
Globe and Mail-Draft's darkhorses
Montreal Gazette-Search for Canadien idol
Vancouver Sun-Thirst for success
Toronto Star-Lucky 13's
USA Today-U.S. forward Pat Kane could go No. 1 in NHL draft
The Hockey News-The Hockey News Draft Rankings

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