BY:Tony Healey Jr. - @T_Loc11
On Sunday June 30th, I crossed the NHL Draft off my bucket list. After attending the event, I can honestly say that I would love to attended every NHL Draft from here on out. I know that it was an unusually deep draft and it was all in one day, but your access to everything is unparalleled. I have attended many sporting events in my lifetime, but nothing where I was able to get so close to the action.
After winning general admission tickets, my buddy Brian and I drove down on Sunday and got there early enough to have a few brews outside before the festivities started. We walked around the concourse and saw the Conn Smythe and other trophies, as well as the Stanley Cup. We then grabbed a couple of more beers and took a bathroom break, where we ran into Sean Monahan.
The future NHL stars were all over the place, and happy to talk and sign anything you had. We also decided to upgrade our seats after the 10th pick by sneaking into the bottom bowl of seats. We got two rows from the draft floor right by the Habs' draft table. They could hear me very well and I even was able to meet and say hello to a few people you might know. Marc Bergevin, Michel Therrien, and Trevor Timmons all said hello and I even got them to smile a few times when I cracked a few jokes.
Brian (thanks to my interference with the security guard) was even able to sneak his way into the media area, and, being a Buffalo Sabres fan, was able to spend almost 20 minutes speaking with the Buffalo T.V. media. He was also able to make it to where the draft picks give their press conferences and snappedsnap a picture using his iPhone of Montreal's first round pick Michael McCarron talking with the media. Brian even said that guys with the professional cameras and microphones even got out of his way without asking so he could snap the picture.
We ran into Paul "The Fat Walrus" MacLean while we were sneaking into the VIP lounge. While I walked by, I turned to Brian and said "there goes the Fat Walrus". I said it loud enough for mClean to hear and as he turned around my buddy congratulated him on his coach of the year honours.
Later that day, Pierre LeBrun walked by and I asked for a picture. He was more than happy to take a picture with me, but Brian couldn't get the camera to work and faked the picture because he didn't want to keep him any longer. Thanks Brian.
We were able to watch Hall of Famer Joe Sakic get asked to see his badge by the same security guard that I ran interference on. The guard would not let him pass until Sakic found his badge which allowed all the Devils fans to continue the "Marty's better" chants for an extra two minutes. Bill Guerin, Brendan Shanahan, Dan Bylsma, and many of the more famous media members walked by. Most of them even stopped to talk or at least exchange hellos.
When Devils' General Manager Lou Lamoriello walked by, I was able to stop him and congratulate him on the Schneider deal. He shook my hand and took the time to speak with me for about three minutes. I know the Devils' assistant equipment manager because he worked in Albany for the former River Rats. I worked at their practice facility at the time. I was able to parley that into Lamoriello speaking with me for a bit longer.
With all the scouts, former and future players, team management, and media personalities walking around your access to information is really an anomaly for any fan. There is no other sport or event that allows you this much access as an average fan to the backstage of sports.
"Bon travail" NHL and the New Jersey Devils for putting on a great event that I look forward to attending again.