2011 NHL Entry Draft

June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Boston Bruins are the 2011 Stanley Cup champions.

The smiles, the suits, the cell phones.  The last minute trade announcements from the floor.  The camera flashes, the baby-faces, baseball hats, jersey pull-over move.  Bustling excitement, brisk business attitudes, Gary Bettman’s eyes (oh wait NO MAKE IT STOP).   I love the NHL Entry Draft.  I’ve watched it almost every year for 10 years.  I’ve seen marquee players get chosen high, watched no-name low rounders earn a spot in the big league, and gasped at blockbuster trades and horrible signings.  Draft Day has been my summer highlight every year in a decade with only one Stanley Cup and no Calder Cups.  It’s a panacea for summertime blues, when I’d pay a Zamboni driver off just to bring me a chunk of ice.  Or when I’m so hockey desperate I find the news that the Nashville Predators filed for arbitration with Shea Weber incredibly interesting.  I compulsively click on this third entry, and have time to be irrationally irritated at the second:

Draft Day takes care of my anger that Google automatically assumes I’d care about such things.  Draft Day holds memories for me.

At 15 years old,  Jaci and I were sitting in her basement, drinking Barq’s and orange soda (respectively), watching a (very) young Colby Armstrong tugging a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey over his head and grinning at the cameras.  In the 4th round, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Slovakian named Tomas Surovy also pulled on the Penguins sweater.  At 16, I fell in love with goaltending.  In soccer, hockey, when I played, or when I was at a game, goaltending was my position and I was delighted to see a goalie (Kari Lehtonen) go 2nd overall to Atlanta.  I followed Lehtonen throughout the years and was really disappointed when injuries put him on the sidelines.  He seems to be improving with the Stars now, though, and I’ll have my eye on him next season.  Maybe the guys who read my blog will think I’m being too sentimental over athletes and I should just care how many goals they score for me in a fantasy league, but I’m a normal girl.  I am sentimental.

In 2003’s draft, Marc-Andre Fleury went 1st overall to my Pittsburgh Penguins.  I still can’t decide what was more fun: trying to decipher and imitate Fleury’s heavily-accented English, or the way ‘Cape Breton Screaming Eagles’ just rolled off the tongue.  2004 was the year of Ovechkin/Malkin, as incendiary debates raged far and wide between Penguins and Capitals fans.  Stats were invoked as if they were crystal balls, fists were shaken in faces, and many juvenile nicknames were created.  Ah yes, 2004 was a fun draft.

Do we even need to return to the 2005 NHL Entry Draft?  The horrific numbness in your nerves after an entire season without hockey.  The involuntary clenching of your hands that remains with you to this day whenever anyone mentions the intials CBA.  And the agony of the Draft Lottery: snakes in your belly, muttered prayers to any deity you’d ever heard of, the offer of your firstborn child.  Just let us have it, please.  Take our jersey card collection, take our cushioned seats at the arena and our VIP parking pass and our wonderful huggable mascot, take it all.  Just give us Crosby.*  

Then:

 Handel’s Messiah on Easter morning.
The final notes of your national anthem during the Olympics.
That moment in The Return of the King when Aragorn and all of Gondor bow to the hobbits.

        Lest I become overwrought with emotion, let us not forget that good ol’ US of A had 4 players taken in the top ten in the 2005 draft.  Yay for America!  In 2006’s draft, my mother and I ate dinner at the Cafe and watched Jordan Staal pull the Penguins jersey on.  I had a chicken sandwich.  That’s about all I remember, sorry, Jordy.

Speaking of America, we made history in 2007 when the top two players taken were both from the USA.  Patrick Kane and James Van Riemsdyk went 1 and 2 respectively that year.  Pittsburgh didn’t pick until the 4th round in 2008 and I’m afraid to say I skipped it.  In 2009, I had a small mental crisis as boys who looked young enough to be my baby brothers paraded onscreen.  Who were these youngsters, with their broad shoulders and incongruous lack of facial hair?  Just how old were they??  How old was I??  I drank a few beers at a bar during that draft class, just to reassure myself that I could.  What was up with the names in 2010’s draft?  You could tell a new decade had begun somewhere and I missed it.  Pittsburgh drafted a Beau.  Taylor and Tyler went 1 and 2.  There was a Connor, a Cam, and of course Brandon and Brock.  Dalton, Jarred, Evante, Cody.  There was even a Jaden in that class!  Children of the 90s, all present and accounted for, sir.

Now here on June 24th of 2011, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, and Gabriel Landeskog are suited up and practicing their manly hugs.  Zdeno Chara is still trying to convince people that Foxwoods Casino comped his team that $100,000 bottle of champagne.  The Winnipeg Jets become a reality once again.  Dan Bylsma is all “NBD, folks” with his Jack Adams award, but the whole world is aware of what a BD he really is.  And the Flyers are quickly becoming hockey’s version of that crazy ex-boyfriend you have who updates his Facebook status all the time about his new plans for the future and how great he will do without you, but you know the truth.  And he knows you know.

Bring on the Draft!
*Admit it already: You were thinking it, if you were a smart hockey follower, and not suckered into that fake, sneering attitude of disdain worn by all the Capitals fans.  As if they have ANYTHING to be disdainful about when photos like this are floating around the internet:

Are there WORDS written on the inside thighs of those jeans!?? I don't want to know who gets to read them...

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