With the 2011 NHL Entry Draft all wrapped up in St. Paul and Minneapolis, I thought I’d finish up the task of trying to make FlamesNation followers back in Calgary a little more a part of the action. This years draft was very significant for the Calgary Flames, among a number of other NHL teams, as player movement became part of the norm throughout the weekend. With Kent Wilson, Robert Cleave and I all there, we got a ton of things covered and I managed to snap a few G rated pics along the way.
I’ll go through things chronologically, as the first real event of the weekend was on Thursday morning, when the top prospects went to a rink outside the city to work with young Minnesota hockey players. It was a clinic put on by USA Hockey and saw a number of Wild players attend as well as Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. Seeing guys who would be front and centre the next day work with the kids on the ice was a pretty cool sight.
It was a pretty good thing to go to as a media member, as very few other media were there, which meant WAY more access to the prospects. They’d go to a luncheon later on in the day when everyone else is there, and that’s a tad more frenzied…and by a tad, I mean it’s like a pack of hyenas fighting over fresh meat. I’d take the laid back morning over that anyday. After they were off the ice, the guys came off and had a little more time for interviews.
That’s first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins a day before being drafted, while the below pick is the back of my colleague Boomer’s head and third overall pick Jonathan Huberdeau.
Boomer is actually winking and licking his lips during this interview, which was really quite unsettling. That was Thursday, the same night Kent and I debuted FlameNation radio for the first time. We were in a palatial studio, room 2302 of the Minneapolis Hilton, to react to your comments and phone calls. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of the two of us doing the show, but I can assure you it looked exactly like this:
Friday saw things get really busy, with the start of the first round that night. I got into the building a number of hours prior to the proceedings, because I’m fancy people.
They did a really good job around the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul of making the Draft a big deal, and it carried a whole lot more buzz than the year before in LA. Minnesota really is the state of hockey, and the first round was jam packed in the building. I got onto the draft floor a number of hours before things started going, and while I tried to go streaking, they did have security.
So, it ended up being the Coilers taking Nugent-Hopkins first overall, which surprised almost nobody. In all seriousness, Edmonton got a real player, this kid is an amazing talent. The scene below is the mob backstage which tends to get bigger each and every year surrounding the top pick; this year, it was coined the Hopperazzi.
The seventh overall pick went to the unnamed Winnipeg team, but in very cool fashion, the team was named the Jets on stage to the delight of a good traveling contingent of Peggers. They chose Mark Scheifele with their first pick since rejoining the NHL, and I was prepared, so I got right close to him backstage. However, the media throng around him was BIGGER than the one shown above…
The Calgary Flames chose Portland Winterhawks forward Sven Bartschi with the 13th overall pick, so naturally I snapped a couple photos of him. The first is him talking to the media backstage while the second is him right beside Sportsnet Radio FAN 960’s setup on the media risers when he came to chat with Boomer and I on the air.
That about wrapped things up for Friday, and we moved on to Saturday. It was a whole lot more difficult to snap pics on the Saturday, just because EVERYTHING was happening. News of the Regehr deal was made official one minute, and a few moments later we were chasing down term and money on Alex Tanguay’s new contract. But, because it was a huge day for the Flames, I got in on the Jay Feaster scrum right at the Draft wall.
Overall, a pretty cool weekend, one that we will continue recapping in the coming days. Of course, we also have to morph discussion into free agency, which of course opens on Friday.