First of all, I have to give a huge thanks to Sports Management Worldwide. They did everything first-class and I had a great time attending their hockey conference and the draft. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great hockey people and network with them. At downtown Sheraton, there were a ton of people from the NHL, like Mark Recchi who just signed a one year deal with the Boston Bruins to continue a great career, several Nashville Predators scouts, Joel Quennville and David Poile.
During the hockey conference, there was a great panel of speakers like Mike Johnston, ex-assistant coach of the Canucks and current head coach and GM of the Portland Winterhawks, Dino Caputo, full-time scout for the Tri-City Americans, Mike Oke, director of player personnel for the Peterborough Petes, and Wade Klippenstein, assistant GM of the Prince George Cougars. After listening to about 20 different scouts, player agents, GMs, and business executives, it’s clear that everyone has a different and unique path to working in hockey, but one thing is clear, I have to work hard wherever I go and meet a lot of people and maintain a good relationship with them, because you never know when they can get you a job on a hockey team. I’m excited to start on my path to the NHL front office, wherever that takes me.
Now at the draft, it was great to see so many LA hockey fans out there. The area around Staples Center was buzzing with fans wearing LA Kings merchandise, and it was even better inside. In the concourse of Staples, I saw a lot of nervous, but excited prospects. I couldn’t recognize them at first, but when they got their names called and their faces were on the jumbotron, I kept telling myself, “Oh I saw him earlier with his family.” I saw Erik Gudbranson, Brandon Gormley and a few others whose names I don’t remember at this time. My seats were so close to the draft tables, and the closest team to me was the Vancouver Canucks, my favorite NHL team. I had my eye on their table, and the couple things I noticed were that Canucks GM Mike Gillis is a much more relaxed person than he seems on TV and radio interviews, and Sharks GM Doug Wilson went up to talk to Gillis repeatedly, and the more they talked, the more Gillis shook his head and smiled and at times looked frustrated, which makes me think that they were talking about a trade, but things got sour as time went on. The Florida-Vancouver trade caught me off guard because I did not see a meeting between a Panther and Canuck personnel, but later I learned that the deal was in place earlier. My favourite moments of the draft was when the LA fans would boo relentlessly whenever the Canucks, Sharks or Ducks were mentioned. It was great to see the passion in a non-traditional hockey market. There were a lot of Oilers fans and Ducks fans, and the place was nearly packed, even to the upper bowl which really surprised me. I sat a couple of seats away from Emerson Etem’s family, and it was some nervous times for the fourth ranked forward by Central Scouting. The native of SoCal sat nervously, and when his name was called by the Ducks, extremely loud boos turned to extremely loud cheers by the fans. They realized the importance of the growth of hockey in the California area, and it seems like California is going to produce some more great hockey players in the future.
When I got back to the Sheraton after the draft, there were some disappointed prospects who did not get drafted. Their whole family was there with them, and some of them were getting comforted by their parents, being told that tomorrow will be the day for them. It really put things into perspective for me, that they are just 18 year olds, no matter how incredibly talented they are.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures because I didn’t have a camera, but the experience was just amazing. For me to see the draft in person, it only made me want to fulfill my goal to become an NHL GM even more.
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