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NHL Draft 2007 ... Part 1 of 2.

Sunday, June 24, 2007
Since it's now been at least a full day since the very last pick of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft was announced, I guess I've had enough time to rest, relax, and otherwise shirk my blogging duties. Not that I wasn't going to post sooner or later, or anything ... I just would prefer to post later, after what amounted to a wild/crazy/tedious/fun/interesting weekend.

That, and I got a little too into Resident Evil: Dead Aim while just unwinding today, since I hadn't used my light gun on my PS2 in forever. Don't tell Jack Thompson or any morally righteous politicians that, though ... they might try to arrest me for playing an ultraviolent videogame. Oh no!

So, yeah. The 2007 NHL Entry Draft from Columbus, Ohio is officially over. The dust's only now starting to settle in and around Columbus, and more specifically the Arena District and its surrounding radius, because for those who didn't know, at least three other major events were happening near Nationwide Arena.

-Comfest, the Columbus community festival. Come for the beer ... stay because you're too blazed and/or hammered to get off the ground.

-The Columbus Ohio Pride Festival, which drew members of the LGBT community from far and wide in a show of gay pride.

-The Yu-Gi-Oh! playing-card national championship, where it was time to D-D-D-D ... D-D-D-D-D-D-D-DUEL!!

Talk about an eclectic gathering of people at an eclectic combination of events. Also, if you happen to read the Columbus Dispatch article that is linked to, you might even notice a quotation from our own Bethany at Bethany's Hockey Rants.

Today, I'm going to be covering the more personal aspects of the draft. So let's kick things off ...

June 22, morning: After a rather sporadic sleep schedule all night long, unable to shake that feeling that I was like a kid trying to go to sleep before Christmas, I headed down to the Arena District in the morning to take care of some responsibilities prior to the draft. Sometimes, you just have to do some things before you kick back and relax, and this was no exception. Still, being in and around the Arena District, I was able to see quite the rogue's gallery of NHL members and media members throughout the area. For example, I believe I saw members of the Edmonton Oilers chatting at Starbucks in the morning, including Craig MacTavish.

It was easy enough to tell who was a member of the media and/or a member of a team or the league, even without the lanyards around their necks with their credentials. Prospects were also easy to distinguish from for the most part, based off of their attire and also some of their builds. Seriously, Alexi Cherepanov looks like he could tear a phonebook in two with his bare hands if he really wanted to; then again, his shirt was also two times too small, so he might've looked more ripped than he really is ... aren't prospects usually told they need to bulk up, anyway?

Even in the morning, the entire place seemed to be buzzing with activity and life. As has already been reported on by several different people in the media, Columbus was as receptive to the NHL draft as could ever be hoped for, and then some. This much was apparent by the rush of people moving around the area even before the doors in to Nationwide Arena were supposed to open up to admission at 4 pm in the afternoon.

June 22, afternoon: Now we get to the blogger gathering.

After finishing up all the errands and things I had to take care of downtown, it was time to prep for the blogger gathering. Fortunately for me, I was able to get in to the Bud Light Arena Pub a good bit of time in advance. After speaking with whom appeared to be the manager at the BLAP -- or at least the head of operations that particular day -- it became apparent that no relocating would be required. The back booth was open, the place wasn't all that busy, and I had time to sit back and relax as the clock ticked towards 4:30.

As I watched a technician crew from 103.9 FM set up the booth at the front of the room for the 4:00 pm start of their radio show, I found out that some of the guests were going to be Gord Murphy, Gary Agnew, Ken Hitchcock, Rick Nash, Manny Malhotra, and Pascal Leclaire. All in all a pretty awesome cast of interviewees, although I was only able to catch some of Murphy's interview before the bloggers began to roll in.

In no particular order, here is who was able to come around ...

And I can't help but feel as though I am forgetting someone. And if I am, please don't kill me.

In all, that makes 11 people that came around. And honestly, I'd say that's impressive. After what had happened with the linkage from both Paul and Spector, I thought there was the off chance that some people could very well wander up and scope things out, if not stay long, though that wasn't the case. In retrospect and some analyzing of my Google Analytics statistics, a lot of the traffic stayed on the draft guide I'd drawn up, but that's cool.

Conversation definitely wasn't at a premium, especially when we found out that Tomas Vokoun had been traded to Florida, at which point I was thankful that the technical folks with the NHL apparently don't know how to encrypt their wi-fi, since I was able to get on their Internet right there with my laptop to get the specifics of the trade.

The gathering lasted for about all of an hour, with people coming and going. Hearing about Eric's trials and tribulations when it came to getting press credentials for the draft was certainly very sobering, coming from someone who would like to apply for them some time during a Blue Jackets' game in the future.

To everyone who came to the gathering? Thank you very much for helping to make it successful.

After we dispersed, I gave Christy from Behind the Jersey a ring on her phone, after Paul had relayed that he'd received a note from her saying she'd not be able to make it to the gathering. Fortunately, I was right outside of Section 114, where both she and her friend were sitting down; and that's despite the fact that apparently that section was supposed to be closed off to everyone except officials and draft prospects and their families. I also didn't have a bit of trouble getting past the ushers there, who simply saw I had a ticket and let me on my merry way to meet up with the woman behind BtJ.

The seats, as luck would have it, were prime ... positioned just several yards away from the draft floor, with a perfect view of the Canucks', Red Wings', and Devils' tables. As an added bonus, we'd soon find out that sitting in the row of seats right ahead of us was quite the important people ... but I'll get to that soon.

June 22, evening (the draft begins!): Nationwide Arena was as packed as it could possibly be. Despite the fact that a section of the arena had to be closed down because of where the draft stage was, there must have at least been 12,000 filling the rest of the arena to a loud and enthusiastic capacity crowd. Like I said earlier when I said many media outlets were reporting the city's receptivity and excitement at the draft, this was the proof of such a claim right here. Cheers were erupting all over at all times as majority owner John H. McConnell spoke from his seat in a luxury box, thanking the Jackets' fans for their patience, and for sticking with the team through thick and thin -- "mostly thin," he was quick to joke.

Then came the unveiling of the Blue Jackets' new jerseys, made due to the league-wide introduction of the RBK Edge jerseys which will be implemented as of next season. After watching on the jumbotron something of a homage to Columbus, to Ohio, and to the state's and city's history in helping so much during the American Civil War, "Machinehead" was qued and Dan Fritsche and Jody Shelley came on stage a minute or so later, sporting both a dark and a white jersey. Lacking in a picture of the event, here's the image being used on the Jackets' website:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

My opinion? It took a day or two to grow on me, but in the end ... I can dig it. I can dig it because I like the use of the kepi and Civil War-esque patches on each shoulder instead of just one. And also because I prefer this emblem to the CBJ emblem ... and while I understand that the CBJ logo will always be a part of the teams' history, I think this is the right move to make. If there's one thing I'm still a little let down about, it's the lack of any kind of ties at the top of the jersey. For a while I had heard from a person or two that using ties like on the (now defunct) third jersey would not be possible with the RBK Edge ... however I've now seen them on the jerseys for the Bruins, which seems to prove contrary.

Anyway, back to the draft itself ... after all of this is when the draft officially began!

Boos came pouring down from all areas of the arena as each of the other NHL teams choosing before the Jackets were told they were on the clock by Gary Bettman, only turning to cheers once or twice before Columbus picked, in particular when Phoenix Coyotes' coach Wayne Gretzky came up to announce his team's pick. Like Bob Hunter said in his commentary, "Think these fans don't know hockey?"

Then came the announcement that it was the Jackets' turn to choose, at which point the arena again grew loud with cheers and chants of "Let's go Jackets!" Even as Scott Howson and the rest of the Blue Jackets' members at their draft table took their time, the cheering never completely stopped.

Once Howson made his way to the podium, he had to patiently wait as the crowd cheered, and cheered, and cheered. Talk about an enthusiastic and electrically powerful reception from the fans, right? Although many of them may not have understood the impact that picking a player like Jakuk Vorachek 7th overall will hopefully have on the future of the franchise in a few years, they were still as happy as ever when they announced his name, welcoming him with proverbial open arms.

Throughout the rest of the draft, the crowd dispersed little by little, but a fair amount of people stayed from start to finish. Me and Christy spent much of the time chatting and talking about the prospects, peeking at her printed out list of top prospects from TSN, and pointing out familiar faces on the draft floor. We saw such things as Bob Hartley and Lindy Ruff chatting for at least a good five minutes, and Charles Wang chumming it up with Lou Lamoriello. Christy also was able to hop on down the seats and speak with Red Wings' assistant GM Jim Nill for a minute, which was cool to watch.

Now remember when I said that there were some important people sitting in front of us? At some point during the middle of the first round, we got to talking about how the Red Wings hadn't had all that many 1st round picks as of late, having traded them away more often than not. Teasingly, I said to her that we'd give the Wings Sergei Fedorov for their 27th overall pick, which she chortled at in response and declined.

"Did you say Sergei Fedorov?"

One of the two men in front of us had turned around to face us, his thick Russian accent quite obvious. I responded, albeit surprised, that I did. At this point, he then began to direct our attention to the man next to him.

"He's Fedorov's agent."

(Update: Turns out he was also his father ... which, when I think about the fact his ID tag said "Fedorov" on it, I should have remembered last night. But I was tired when I wrote this! Bah!)

At this point, I'm stumbling over myself to explain that I was kidding (... I think I was kidding, at least), which Christy was able to convey better than I was. But the guy was friendly enough, and soon enough he turned more towards us to show us his hand, on which was a Stanley Cup Ring! The guy was also an agent ... and damned if I can't remember the name of the player whom he said he is/was representing. Was it Viktor Kozlov (it was Pavel Datsyuk's agent)? I'm sure it'll come back to me at some point.

The rest of the draft, I'll admit, I spent in a semi-state of interest and fatigue. The week had been long, my energy was sapped, and I was ruing the day after, where I'd have to be up as early as 6 am ... on a Saturday, no less! I parted with Christy and her friend outside the arena afterwards, and grabbed a cab home.

Man ... this post turned out to be epic in length, didn't it? Well, don't let the time stamp at the bottom fool you; I'm putting this up at 9:14 pm, meaning it's taken a while to write this today.

I'm going to turn in for the night, and then I'll continue with Saturday's ongoings sometime either tomorrow morning, or tomorrow evening.


  • At 2:36 AM, Blogger Mike Chen said…

    Hey man, it sounds like a blast. Wish I could have flown out from Cali...

  • At 11:53 AM, Blogger ColBerdan said…

    The inclusion of the kepi on the shoulders of the new jerseys is really cool. A lot of the teams symbols don't point to the Civil War aspect enough and I know several people that thought a blue jacket was some kind of bee or hornet when the first heard it (by the way, is there a reason the British were the
    red coats but Union troops are blue jackets?)

    Christy from Behind the Jersey has a picture of the autograph signing that Rick Nash did. The new jersey that he's wearing has ties, so maybe they haven't finalized it yet?

  • At 10:53 PM, Blogger hoopsjunky said…

    Man, I wish I could come out for the festivities. I'm glad y'all had a great time.

    I don't know where the draft is next year but maybe this could be annual hockey blogger event.

  • At 11:11 PM, Blogger Bethany said…

    Oh gosh I may need to make a stand about my quote...I have no issues with dad is gay...that makes me seem like an awful person :(

  • At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Sarah said…

    The jersey Nash is wearing in Christy's picture is the pre-2007-08 third jersey. It has the same logo as the new jerseys, but has the ties, and also has black sleeves and three stars on each sleeve.

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About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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