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> Monday, August 27th, 2012 > Sports > My journey to the NHL Entry Draft
My journey to the NHL Entry Draft
Click here to read more Interrobang articles written by Stuart Gooden
Published: Monday, August 27th, 2012
This past summer, I had the luxury of attending the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The event took place at the CONSOL Energy Center where the Penguins play, and the experience was definitely worth the five-hour drive into Yankee country.
The NHL Draft is something that hockey fans impatiently wait for as soon as the season ends and a Stanley Cup champion has been determined. The two-day event showcases 300 of the best, most talented 18-year-old hockey players in the world. Audiences watch as these young players take one step closer to playing in the world’s most renowned hockey league by being drafted by one of 30 NHL teams. As hockey fans, we care to watch because a) for some teams, it is a face-of-the-franchisemaking day as those making their picks closer to the top are getting game-changing talent, and b) it’s just fun.
When I tell people that I scored four tickets for myself and three other friends to the draft, everyone had the same question: how? Well, it was simple. The Pittsburgh Penguins made available 3,500 tickets for the first round, and 5,000 for rounds two to seven open to the public. Because only a handful of tickets were available, and the fact that Penguins season ticket- holders had first dibs, it made getting a hold of them that much harder. The tickets were available through Ticketmaster three weeks prior to the draft, and given that demand greatly exceeded supply, getting my hands on four required the ever-invaluable skill of quick mouse clicking. After about a half an hour of abusing the refresh button and clicking fervently, I managed to proceed to the checkout window that would secure four tickets that sent myself and three buddies to the biggest, most highly anticipated event in the NHL offseason (apart from free agency day).
I will spare you the details of the boring segment of us leaving Ontario and landing in Pennsylvania and skip straight to my favourite part of being at the event: the red carpet. About 45 minutes before the actual draft took place, 30 of the best prospects that were slated to go that evening in the first round were literally given the red-carpet treatment. They rolled out of a coach bus one by one and walked the long red carpet leading to the arena doors, being called at by hundreds of fans, tediously signing autographs, getting their pictures taken by random people and being interviewed by media. It amazed me to see how being drafted instantly made you a celebrity, even at the tender age of 18. It made me feel very old – and a little bit jealous – and it forced me to wonder what I was doing with my life. And then I remembered that I’m a writer for the Interrobang newspaper and well on my way to superstardom myself. I digress. It was a cool experience seeing these soon-to-be star athletes walk right in front of me, including first overall pick Nail Yakupov, who went to the Edmonton Oilers, and Cody Ceci, who got drafted by my Ottawa Senators.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have tickets for the first round, but rather for the next day, which featured rounds two to seven. While we weren’t that disappointed, it’s definitely worth trying to get into the first round. The first round features the more highly touted players and therefore had a much better buzz surrounding that day. Still, it was nice seeing and meeting the players, including the London Knights’ Olli Määttä, who went to the hometown team in Pittsburgh with the 22nd pick.
Bottom line: if you’re a sports fan, do some research and try to attend a draft. There’s something surreal about experiencing these kids’ induction into a professional sport, years before they turn into the untouchable superstars and high-profile celebrities that they eventually become.