By: Don White

Well, as usual I found time to take a few days and head off to the 2007 NHL Draft. So, the wife and I left Thursday morning to get there for the NHL Draft Prospect Clinic where they would be signings autos afterwards (WOHOOO)!!

As I drove up there, all I could think about was all the radio announcers, TV analysts, etc. talking throughout the Stanley Cup Finals that the NHL has nothing to offer the fans. This is the third NHL Draft that I will be attending, and how many other fans do I know from other sports that attend anything where they can meet all the stars of tomorrow plus a hearty mix of old and current stars? I can’t think of one; of course, I guess the radio talk show host and such have never taken the time to check out the NHL Draft to see that it does offer something no other sport does.

So upon arriving, we found the Ice Dispatch Haus which is the place that the Columbus Blue Jackets practice when not in the Nationwide Arena. This is where the clinic was to be held, so now I was going alright only a few more hours. Now here again I am thinking back to all those comments on the TV and radio by the various professoinals. So I thought to myself, where do current NHL stars and future stars give a clinic for the kids of the community in another sport? The clinic was to include Rick Nash, Dan Fritsche, Manny Maholtra, and Pascal Leclerc from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Draft Prospects included James VanRiemsdyk, Keaton Ellerby, Patrick Kane, Karl Alzner, and Sam Gagner. Now how many local kids get to do this on a yearly basis as this happens every year at the NHL Draft host city? This was not the only event that happened like this, as I think the day before they had a soccer game of some sort. I couldn’t attend that as the wife could not get off work that day. So I settled for the clinic as it said the players and future draft picks would be signing.

Now I am at the NHL Draft, and I need to get some items for autos as I could not obtain the numbers I wanted to from Rivercity Sports. I was hoping to get an “07″ and have them signed to be put on a Columbus Blue Jackets jersey later down the road with a nameplate “NHL DRAFT.” The ’07 numbering would make it a nice piece to be autographed and kept in the personal collection. Problem turned out to be that the numbers were stitched by hand and would take a couple of weeks plus the shipping could possibly be a few weeks.

So, I headed up to the Blueline store which is a line of stores that are spread throughout Columbus and carry all the Blue Jackets apparel. So upon getting into the store I spotted a mini stick and hat that both bore the design: “COLUMBUS 2007 Draft.” So I picked up the hat for me and the stick for the wife, as that is what she chose to get autographed time permitting.

So heading outside we saw a flock of guys standing around, and I said this is where we need to stand. So we sat down on some benches and sure enough we saw a draft prospect come out of the Nationwide Arena. According to a sign that said Top Prospect Luncheon, they would be coming out the doors to head back to their hotel. So we hung out there for a few hours and picked up a few autographs of such players as Angelo Esposito, Jeremy Smith, and Jacob Voracek to name a few.

Here is what the autographed hat and stick looked like at the end of the day:

Here is a close up of Angelo Esposito autograph.  Let just say it not pretty at all.

So we finished a hour or two outside the Nationwide Arena and headed off to watch the Clinic without much fanfare. It was mostly parents and a few autograph hounds that assembled in the building to watch. Here are a few pictures from the clinic (I have some video but that might be a few days or next weekend before I get that up).

Karl Alzner:

Sam Ganger:

Keaton Ellerby:

So the draft clinic ends, and I am thinking the few fans that have attended and kids alike will get some autos. Well, I was in for a rude awakening when I saw the all the Blue Jacket players along with the future stars get behind the bench. Then the kids participating in the clinic lined on the outside and skate oh so slowly as they were adorned with autographs from all. I was like “oh no” as most of the fans in attendance would have to treasure the memories of the pictures as no autos would be given out as the players quickly retreated to the locker room. So the wife and I headed to our hotel to plan our mojo for the next day.

Upon arriving at the hotel, I returned some phone calls that I had left go unanswered from two friends (P-NUT-BUTR and Darryl that I try to get here to post his in person auto as well). Darryl arrived first as he was driving up from Nashville while Ian was driving from South Carolina. Darryl cam bearing a sign that said: “BRING IT ON HAMILTON!!”

He had season tickets last year, and he couldn’t afford them this year with the price increase. He had quite a few people from Penguins fan being the most supportive along with Buffalo and Toronto fans not wanting another team between them. Of course a few people from Hamilton took resentment to the sign, but he kept packing it with him the whole day. So we added a few autos to our hat and stick from last year as we were waiting for the line to form for Rick Nash autos.

Rick Nash autographs were worth me waiting, as I was there before anyone else but ended getting in line third and fourth with my wife respectively as we were close to where the line started but not the exact location. So we waited about three hours while we added an odd autograph from a prospect as well. During the wait the band Yellowcard was preparing for their set around four or five in the afternoon. Here is a shot at the stage and the Nash autographs that we obtained.

So after getting Rick Nash’s autograph, we headed to Nationwide Arena to get in and see what they had to offer. we went in and were given the handout plus our NHL Draft Towel:

Landed a nice auto of VanRiemdsdyk (second overall pick) plus one other top right.

So we spent the night watching the first round, checking out the hockey dealers that were setting up, UD and their redemption program which I thought was pretty weak compared to years past.

1) If you bought six packs of UD or seven of Fleer you received a six card Redemption Set.

2) If you came back on Sunday and spent a $100 on product you would receive a A.O. UD Vinyl Figure. If you were going to spend close to a $100 you might as well go for the free figure as they do sell well within the first release. This figure was supposed to only be for the NHL Draft. So that pretty much finished up the evening as we headed back to the hotel as the first round went pretty quickly.

This draft was pretty much like all I had seen in the past. Bettman was booed, the owner of Columbus received a big stadning O, and the Columbus pick of Voracek received a big applause and the fans flooded out of the arena in droves. So we stayed around, hunted a few more graphs, and then headed back to the hotel to grab a bite to eat as we usually do not eat while hunting down graphs (bad for business).

Sunday came quickly, and the Blue Jacket fans were back in line for this autograph session:

So with the draft starting at ten and the autos at 11 and 12 respectively, the fans who arrived and got in line first would have to wait roughly about three to four hours before they got the autographs of those five players. I figured I could get more on the stick as I went and bought a new mini stick to obtain some more autographs. So throughout the day I chased only prospects and passed up many stars such as Hunter, Bowman, Foglino, Hull, Yzerman, and many many other current and older veterans. I did make one exception as I did grab Samako’s autograph as he will be eligible for the draft next year.

Here is what the two sticks looked like at the end of the draft:

So at about two or three, we went and ate with Ian and his mother at a local pub (bar and tavern) on the porch, and again it was loaded with hockey players and draft picks. Dale Hunter was eating with a group of older players. This guy sat down next us at the table adjacent to us, and I did not bother to ask for a autograph even though I would have loved to. They posed for a picture, so I took one while they shot one for themselves.

This is prospect Joakim Andersson from Detroit who was the third round selection with the #88 pick. What was funny is that he invited a fellow Swede over as he went down to the street and brought back Lars Eller to their table (four of them). I didn’t bother with a autograph, but Ian did. As Ian said, he obtained a few nice autos of Ron Francis, Jim Rutherford, Joakim Andersson, Lars Eller, and a few others to round out his day. As he was bummed he kept missing Big Daddy Kane.

P.S. I hope you enjoyed the read, and if you have any questions feel free to ask.