Oh, young blogging grasshopper, you have officially hit the big leagues. Your application for credentials has been stamped, your room at the Red Roof Inn is booked, and your ass is heading to the NHL Entry Draft for the very first time.
Excited? Of course you are. But keep it in your pants, kiddo … you have a lot to learn … and I'm here to help. Here are a few tips and tricks to make your experience worthy of tales at the pub when you get home.
Tip #1: STFU and don't act like a jackass (Degree of Difficulty: Mild to moderate)
So you're finally here, and you want to network like an emeffer. I get it. The Entry Draft is the biggest media event of the season, and it's a great place to finally meet some of the players in the business. That said, your anonymity is one of the most powerful tools you have. One of my favourite things to do at Drafts is to flip over my credentials so no one could see who I was (assuming they didn't know me) and just casually wander around, eavesdropping on conversations. There are a million different places to do this: The lobby of the media hotel, luncheons, interview rooms … you never know what you might overhear. Don't try and add your two cents, and at least try to be inconspicuous (this would involve not hovering and/or sporting any kind of fanboy team gear like a tool).
Tip #2: Go to the media luncheon (Degree of Difficulty: Easy)
This is always my favourite event, even moreso than the Draft itself. All the elements are there: Media, insane amounts of food (and the subsequent observation of watching previously mentioned media scarf down said food) and the players projected to go in the top 20. Watch in amusement as Pat Hickey demolishes the poutine station!* Wait for a break in the action to ask Gabriel Landeskog if IKEA allen keys could potentially double as mini-sticks! (In all seriousness, it's one of the best times to network, and get in some one-on-one time with the prospects. Go.)
Tip #3: Work the fence (Degree of difficulty: Moderate to difficult)
Day 2 can get a bit restless, and it usually begins to hit around the fourth round. Nearly everyone's a little hungover/bored, and this includes the team representatives. Eventually they will begin wandering around, and will venture up towards the fence that separates the team tables from the media risers. This is one of the greatest opportunities you will ever get to have some one-on-one casual conversations with team GM's. I worked one Draft alongside my dear friend and AHL savant Patrick Williams when we noticed Brian Burke hovering along the fence. Patrick engaged Burke in a conversation about his days with the Maine Mariners (while I invoked Tip #1). Burke's typically gruff demeanour fell away like a mask; it was amazing to watch him recall the old days, as if he were just having a conversation with a buddy in a bar. This isn't the time to ask, "What do you think about _______ trade?" Use this rare chance to ask someone a really offbeat question; don't fawn or provoke … just talk. You never know where the discussion may lead.
The Entry Draft is an overwhelming and amazing event to attend. Above all, have fun, be yourself, try not to drink too much and for the love of God, dress properly. Your Vikingstad T-shirt does not belong on-air during the first round. Good luck, sweet neophytes. I look forward to your posts.
* This may or may not have occurred during the Draft held in Montreal in 2009. Ahem.
Erin Nicks is a writer for Puck Daddy and blogs at The Universal Cynic.