Day Two of our epic journey to the center of the Draft started in the wee hours, pretty much as a continuation of the evening of Day One. We returned from our dinner, discovered we’d missed alix’s arrival by about ten minutes, wrote our blog post, and then got to greet Heather, Patty, and Meg when they checked into the room adjoining ours. It’s a good thing all the other people on our floor were draftees, and therefore 18-year-old boys with no sense of etiquette, because we were raucously loud until close to two in the morning. Since we’ve met her before, Heather is totally ho-hum, old-hat for us, but this was the first time we’ve met Meg and Patty face-to-face. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads their blogs or hangs out regularly around here that they are both awesomely kick-ass and wonderful. We finally broke up the party when we realized morning was fast approaching, and with it would be all manner of new, Drafty adventures.
We got a nice, restful lie-in on Day Two, then met up in the hotel lobby with alix and Hockeygirl. After about ten seconds of conversation, we realized that they, like Patty and Meg, were well worth driving eight hours to hang out with. Of all the fantastic things about the interwebs, making new friends is the very best.
Our first day of hot Draft action wasn’t going to start until the evening, so we had a leisurely afternoon to rattle around Byward Market, eating tasty food and acting like tourists (except for Ottawa-local Hockeygirl, who did a great job of pretending not to be embarrassed by us yokels). First we took an outdoor lunch in the midst of intermittent rain showers…
…And then, when the sun came out for good, we tackled the local delicacies.
Of all the regionally-specific fried-dough specialties we’ve had, beavertails are definitely the ones that most resemble beaver tails.
Other than that, they’re pretty much just fried dough with cinnamon and sugar on them. Whatevs. Maybe the chocolate-smeared ones with Reese’s Pieces on them are more impressive. We’re not sure we’re going to find out. Although we did appreciate the beavertail stand’s dedication to fine beaver-related art:
Before we knew it, the time for fun was over, and we had to buckle down and get about the business of attending the Draft (without HG, who was otherwise engaged during the Draft itself – she’ll just have to make a better effort next year). We piled into two cars and began what turned out to be a merciless, grueling journey from downtown Ottawa to rural Kanata. The traffic was abominable…
…And the scenery while sitting in said traffic didn’t make things any more bearable.
After what felt like six or seven lifetimes, Kanata’s welcoming arms finally took us in…
…And Scotiabank Place itself loomed on the horizon.
It is only because we have attended a Stanley Cup parade in the parking lot of the Meadowlands that we feel we have the right to point out that the Sens’ arena is no less stupidly located than CAA was. When we parked, in a lot directly across the street from the arena, this was what our car was facing.
So anyway, the FanFest was laid out in all its giant, inflatable glory directly in front of the arena, with its creepy, headless NHL Network torso…
… To its row of Sparty bouncy entertainments…
… To the perennial favorite giant, blow-up hockey guy who looks disconcertingly like John Madden.
If you’re over the age of seven, FanFest is not really the place for you, so we made our way quickly into the arena, where fans of teams across the league were mingling with be-suited front-office types from across the league and be-suited prospective draftees from all over the hockey-playing world. The 300-level seating wasn’t open to us plebes yet, so we gawked at the trophies on display, then hunted down some more hockey cards to provide some improved variety in the Project Bicycle Spoke dispenser. There was a promotion going on that if you buy five packs of cards and then open them in front of one of the card show employees, you would get a free pack of some special Draft cards. Since free is our favorite attribute, we overcame our initial disinclination to look at the cards before dropping them into the PBS box, and divvied up the packs.
Our free Draft cards contained a Daniel Alfredsson card, and, well, you all know what a classless beeyotch Heather is. She couldn’t control herself. There was mustache drawing, and tearing, and stomping.
It was an ugly scene. We guess that’s just proof that there’s no such thing as a free pack of hockey cards.
Perhaps spurred on by the obvious rancor growing in the Sabres fans in the crowd, the 300-level seats were quickly opened, and we ascended to our perch in the rafters. It’s fair to say that the Draft floor set-up where we would normally be expecting to see hockey is one of the strangest things we’ve ever seen.
We were given programs to let us know where each team’s table was, and we settled in to pick out own teams, tried to figure out what it looked like they were thinking, and cursed ourselves for not bothering to study up ahead of time on the other teams’ GMs. Frankly, of all the tables, we think the one headed up by Lou Lamoriello is the one that looks most intimidating.
We were sitting far along the side of the arena bowl, right next to the stage:
And we were able to just peek behind the backdrop to see the placards for the later rounds.
There was a fair-sized crowd, and everyone from the fans to the suits on the floor was milling around noisily. Suddenly someone took the stage and said into a microphone, “May I have your attention please?” The fans all stilled and took their seats, but then we realized the announcer was not speaking to us – he was talking to the men on the Draft floor. Everyone was told to take their seats, and then, like in summer camp, role was taken. Seriously! Each of the teams’ GMs had to pipe up to report that they were, in fact, present and ready to get a-draftin’. We have no idea what the crowd sounded like on the floor, but up where we were sitting there was a ton of energy. Fans cheered for their teams when they checked in, and the Sens fans gave a loud report in support of their guys, then a lusty chorus of booing for the Leafs. (The booing was maintained all night, every time the Leafs were mentioned, and whenever Cliff Fletcher was shown on the jumbotron.) When roll call wrapped up, Eugene Melnyk blathered on at length to kick the proceedings off (the sound design was terrible, and we could only make out one of about every five words spoken over the loudspeakers or jumbotron), and then the 2008 Entry Draft was under way.
There was little thrill when Stamkos was picked first overall, but we documented it for all posterity in case he ends up being awesome. We’re pretty sure this is the only picture of him being drafted on the interwebs:
Now, it should be noted that we went into this trip fully expecting the Draft to be excruciatingly boring. We’ve watched it on TV from time to time, and really, it’s got to be the most dreadfully dull thing ever put across the airwaves. We also don’t really care about the Draft – we don’t follow the Devils’ picks in the minors, Juniors or college, and we don’t pay attention to prospects in any of those places either. We limit our attention to the big club, and when kids come up and do well, that’s good for them. We are the last people on earth who should be attending a Draft in person, because we don’t know the first thing about any of the players involved. So color us amazed that the Draft in person is actually, well… fun. Every time Gary Bettman announced from the podium that there was a trade to report, the entire crowd would come to attention, half of them shushing everyone, the other half “ooooh!”ing. The picks themselves are made at a snail’s pace, but there was still this strange, buzzing excitement in the crowd. Maybe it was just that everyone thought it was as ridiculous as we did. Who knows? Whatever the case, we had a blast. Sure, it felt like the whole first round lasted a month, but it was a fun kind of boring.
As for the Devils, we cheered on the tops of our lungs when the 21st pick was announced, and then tried to maintain our composure when Lou traded down to 23rd. This is what a trade looks like in person at the Draft:
First the paperwork is filed…
… And then Gary announces it for the world to hear.
We did the same when Lou traded down again to the 24th pick, but our patience was finally rewarded when the Brain Trust took the stage.
Because we attended this Draft in person, as bloggers, it’s safe to say that we are experts. And so it’s our expert opinion that Matthias Tedenby is by far the best player selected in this Draft. From the back of the upper deck, he just seems better than all the other guys, so we’re delighted that Lou picked him. (Would we have said the same thing about any other guy if the Devils had picked him instead? Ummm… Look at that hobo!) Heather had done a little advance scouting on him (read: “had read his name come up in a pre-Draft article about the players the Sabres might be considering”) and gave us this quote from Kevin Devine, the Sabres Director of Amateur Scouting:
“Surprisingly the interviews are a lot like the way they play on the ice. There is a kid in Sweden, named Mattias Tedenby. He is just a little guy that can fly around the room. When he came into the interview that’s exactly what he did. He grabbed a handful of candy, ate all our candy and left. That’s the same type of player he is on the ice.”
Dude. Does it get better than that? He’s like a cracked-out hummingbird, hopped up on sugary treats!
He was moving too fast for our camera’s weak zoom capabilities to capture him on film!
We love Tedenby, and spent much of the rest of the first round trying to come up with nicknames for him. So far we’ve got him at “Herschel-Bird Puddin’head” (don’t ask), but we’ve got some time yet before the season starts and he becomes the Calder Trophy frontrunner to come up with something better.
Now, there were reports last week that people were selling the free tickets to the Draft for $125 a piece, and even more ridiculous reports in support of spending that kind of money on them that all the free tickets to the first round had been snatched up by noon on the first day they were available. We were wildly lazy about mailing away for our tickets, and we were given tons of them. And there were plenty of good seats still available when the festivities started. More than that, there were zillions of good seats available after the Senators finished with their pick, and the top prospects had all been doled out.
We stayed until the bitter end, amongst a crowd of die-hards so modest in number that it made us feel like we were at a reasonably well-attended mid-season Devils game back in the ’03-’04 season. Yeah, we’re wheaty Draft fans, bitches.
Traffic was considerably better on the way back to the hotel, and the group of us made a candy-and-chips run at the front desk for a midnight snack in lieu of dinner. We had a short night of sleep ahead of us, as the second round would be getting underway early the next morning. Draft blogging is hard work, yo.