NHL draft has been transformed
By Bob Cohn
Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
In 1963, the Montreal Canadiens took Garry Monahan with the first pick in the first NHL Amateur Draft, a choice that surprised many in the hockey world. But none were caught more off-guard than Monahan, who had never even heard of the draft until the Canadiens called to deliver the news.
“I was 16, and I don't remember any talk of any draft,” he said. ‘When they phoned me and said they had drafted me, I didn't know what the hell they were talking about. It had to be explained to me.”
Monahan, who sells real estate in Vancouver, B.C., quickly caught on. He went on to play 12 seasons with five NHL teams and later starred in Japan. Meanwhile, as the league expanded from six to its current 30 clubs, the draft grew in importance and scope. Once an intimate gathering of a few team executives in Montreal at a hotel or the league office, the NHL Entry Draft, as it is known now, has become a well-hyped, franchise-building staple, a nationally televised (in two countries), traveling hockey carnival.
“I've seen the transformation from this closed-door, meeting-like atmosphere of 21 teams to the point where I think our draft is unique,” said NHL vice president of communications Gary Meagher, who has attended every draft since 1981. “We took it from a hotel ballroom and made it a public event.”
After five years at the Montreal Forum starting in 1980, the draft morphed into a moveable hockey feast held at various NHL arenas. In 1984, the draft was televised for the first time, in Canada, and the league invited draft-eligible players and their families. Also, the Penguins got Mario Lemieux. Five years later, U.S. television covered the draft for the first time.
The draft in 1997 came to the Civic Arena, which was recently demolished. The Penguins' new home, Consol Energy Center, hosts the 2012 draft on Friday and Saturday. Consol will be filled with key executives from the 30 clubs — conducting their business right on the floor — plus 140 draft-eligible players, about 2,400 family members and several thousand fans. The Penguins estimate a crowd of about 10,000.
Outside the arena, the club will stage a draft party in the old Civic Arena parking lot and set up a skating rink with synthetic ice on the plaza outside Consol's American Eagle gate.
“It's a celebration on so many different levels, but the most important level is these 17-year-old kids and their families being able to come to one place,” said Meagher.
The draft itself also has undergone changes after it was first designed to create a more equitable system than the old one, that is, teams signing bushels of amateur players and assigning them to their junior teams,
With the NHL now selecting players uncommitted to any club, Monahan was the first of just 21 picks taken over four rounds in the first draft. But as junior sponsorships ended, the number of draftees grew. In 1969, 84 players were selected, nearly as many as in the first six drafts.
In the old days, teams would draft until they were tired of it and the number of rounds fluctuated year to year. Now the rounds are fixed at seven. Eligibility ages have changed, albeit slightly. A significant change was in 1979 when the “amateur” draft became the “entry” draft after the World Hockey Association folded and the NHL for the first time signed professional players. The influx of Americans and Russians and other Europeans has deepened the talent pool. The lottery was introduced in 1993.
Only once since the draft became a road show has the script deviated, caused by a lockout that wiped out the season. Instead of an arena, the draft took place at an Ottawa hotel. A bizarre and complicated lottery determined the draft order, and the draft order itself was changed. Instead of starting over in the second round as usual, it snaked up from the bottom of the first round, meaning the team with the first pick would not pick again until No. 60.
That team was the Penguins. But neither they nor their fans seemed to mind having to wait, because with the first pick of the 2005 NHL Draft, the Penguins selected Sidney Crosby.
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Panthers free agent safety headed to Steelers
- Printing delinquent tax list pays off for Highlands
- Orpik rises to occasion as Penguins take down Capitals once again
- Rural Ridge residents question NRG’s plans for landfill
- Penguins notebook: Letang skating, but no return set
- Chamber event targets small business, health care
- Obama budget puts more money into nuclear cleanup, not locks and dams
- Memo confirms VA Pittsburgh officials knew of Legionella threat early on
- Forward supervisors OK park funding proposal
- Review: ‘Once’ charms as it breaks rules of musical theater
- Minorities crucial to filling Marcellus shale gas drilling jobs