Draft Day Memories…

It seems like a long time ago that I was drafted. The process is the same but the attention the draft gets has multiplied many times. Players know right away they have been selected. Between the Internet and Twitter, all news of who is drafted where is reported in real time.

Not so when I was drafted in 1994…(insert your age chirp here Wanye!!!)

After a successful first year playing junior hockey in Kamloops I was ranked somewhere around the fifth round by NHL Central Scouting. I was pumped! I couldn’t believe that; it looked as if it was a guarantee I would get drafted to the NHL. Never thinking that I could become a part of the league growing up, this was a major score for me.

Between my agent, Don Meehan, parents and I, we decided I wouldn’t go to the draft in my best suit and wait to be called. We all felt that unless I was sure to go in the first couple of rounds that it wasn’t worth going to Hartford (chirp me here again Wanye). Donnie told us stories of kids waiting round after round to hear their name called. It could be very hard to sit through. We were all sure I would get drafted but why risk it and turn a great milestone in my career into a bad one by sweating out a potential later pick for me.

I remember not being nervous at all the night before the draft. Looking back maybe I should have been. Getting chosen at all is a thrill and going to a team that really can support your development is so important.

The time change between Edmonton and Hartford is two hours. When they got to the third round it was about eleven thirty in Hartford and nine thirty in Edmonton. Not thinking I would be chosen before the fifth round, I was still in bed when the phone rang. My mom answered, came into my room to wake me up so I could take the call.

My mom handed me the phone and I could tell she was pretty excited. It was Stu MacGregor. He was the assistant manager of my team, the Kamloops Blazers at that time.

‘Morning Struddy, I have got some good news! You have just been drafted by the New York Islanders in the third round, number 63. Congrats!’

‘What? Thanks. Third round? I can’t believe it!’

I was stunned! The third round? My mom and I just sat there and let it soak in. Moments later the phone rang again. It was the Islanders calling.

‘Hi Jason, Don Maloney here. (I think it was him that called?, I wasn’t thinking to clearly at that point). Welcome to the Islanders, we are happy to have you with us.’

‘Thanks, thanks a lot!’

The draft was on a Wednesday that year and my dad was at work. We called my dad to let him know the good news. He came home and to celebrate he took my mom, sister and I to Earl’s for lunch! The chili chicken never tasted so good.

That day was the first time in my life I actually thought I had a chance to play in the NHL. I had never seriously thought it possible before. It seemed like a dream that was way out of reach. Getting drafted brought it a lot closer. Funny how that works.

A couple of weeks later the Islanders sent me a jersey. I hung it proudly in my room to inspire me each night before I went to bed.

After coming home from Kamloops I had gotten a job steam cleaning carpets. The day after I was drafted I retired from that line of work to focus a hundred percent on my new job. (I could fill up ten articles with stories from my carpet cleaning days!)

Getting drafted was a great milestone and experience but I believe that is when the real work begins. Each year, over two hundred players are selected. The competition to play in the NHL never stops coming! I found a way to make it and I wish all this years draftees the same results.

Previously by Jason Strudwick

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Do you think going that early gave you more motivation to work hard than if you went in the 5th or say the 11th round?

    Also now that you don’t play hockey you getting back into steam cleaning? My rugs need a cleaning.

  • book¡e

    Thanks for the story Jason! What an exciting day that must have been. The fact that you went forward from that day and ended up having a 15/16 year career in the NHL is awesome. I am sure it took tremendous dedication and effort to do so. Its great that you take the time to share a few memories with all of us.

  • vetinari

    Thanks for sharing the memories Struds… did you ever think that 18 was too young to go through this process or did your time in junior prepare you for that day? Was there anyone in that draft class that made you go, “they drafted him earlier than me… really???”

  • Bucknuck

    I remember in High school when Emile said you might play in the NHL one day and I was absolutely floored. I knew were athletic, but the NHL!? It made me feel pretty ambition-less in comparison.

  • BaconWrapped

    Great Story Struds. I see what you mean about the work starting. My 18 year old nephew just got drafted by the Blue Jays last week as a pitcher. He had three days of acting like a rock star as he went from place to place for interviews, to his college school for acknowledgment and then off the Dunedin for orientation. He talks about how much work he put into it to get where he is today and that he realizes that now is when the real work begins. I commend all the young men who have the drive and fortitude at such a young age to accomplish so much.

  • BaconWrapped

    I can’t think of many players from that draft other than the goalies and I think maybe Alfredson and Elias who went after the second round and had a good long career like you did Strudwick.

    Congratulations. Hell of a run you had… what a success.

  • oilersplumber

    We should swap stories……….I have a few of them………..Bonsignore in Banff is funny….
    Struds do you remember Devo or Oilers 5 at the time……

  • I’d love to see a series of articles about your road to the NHL, Jason. Successes, stumbles, people helped you pick yourself up, people who tried to keep you down (if any), etc.

    Keep it up.

    • Jason Strudwick

      Good idea. I will do that. Every player has an unique story on how they got to the NHL and what kept them there.

      No I am not interested in doing any more carpet cleaning except my own house.

      • Jason Strudwick

        Hey, it could be the start of a memoir – you should consider getting co-rights to these posts if you do them (I imagine you work under a work-for-hire agreement right now.)

        Since I’ve grown up, I’ve find journeyman players more interesting than stars. Star players are among the top 5-10 in the world at their position. A journeyman might be in the top 100. It’s such a slight difference and yet we overlook the journeymen. Can hardly remember them. Who was the third line centre for the Lightning when they won the Cup? I can’t tell you.

        There has to be this incredible ability to quiet your ego when you play at that level. On the one hand, you have incredible drive, talent, and belief in yourself. You’re among the top 100 defencemen or centres or wingers in the world. Step onto any rink anywhere in the world that doesn’t have an NHL logo plastered somewhere, and you are guaranteed to be almost immediately be the best player on the ice. Yet on your team, you could see 10 minutes of ice time, or be sitting in the press box. Giving up your ice time (and thus ability to score and stand out) to some hot shot punk kid who has a cannon, skates like a bat out of hell, and has the defensive awareness of an overly excited Paul Coffey.

        It’s a much bigger problem (the egos) in basketball, where shots, ball possession, and floor time are so unfairly distributed and a guy like Mike James can look like an All-Star on a terrible Raptors team, and then be a second-stringer in Minnesota.

        I remember a friend of mine telling me he was at a basketball gym in LA, where he plays and practices (for fun), because you’d see some mid-level college athletes there and he could get a good workout and test himself. All of a sudden, Rick Fox shows up. Who? Rick Fox, borderline NBA starter for the LA Lakers at the time. A man brought on board for his ability to suck it up, play defence, give Kobe the rock, hustle and get the occasional point. He’d get the Lakers maybe 8-10 points on an average day, with a few rebounds and assists. So Rick steps onto the court and proceeds to absolutely mop the floor in a pick-up game, one-on-one against some UCLA kid, etc. He looks all-world out there. My friend, who is a lifelong Lakers fan, has gone to countless NBA games in his life, watches the sport obsessively (to the point of using his PVR to break down plays, like a coach… to himself) – anyway, my friend is floored. Has never seen anything like it. Never in his life imagined the gap between journeyman NBA player and average tier 1 NCAA player.

        And yet, Rick had to try harder to be that middling NBA player than Shaq tried to be a superstar (and this was when Shaq was at the end of his stint with the Lakers and quite obviously unhappy and unmotivated.)

        Taylor Hall? Yeah, it was interesting to meet him. It’d be even more interesting to talk to him and find out if he’s the closet nerd that he seems to be. But I don’t think there’s anything I could ever learn from Taylor Hall. Being born gifted with a greek god’s frame and with the reflexes, co-ordination and vision that border on the superhuman… that’s not advice. No doubt Hall works hard to be elite, but even if he doesn’t, at worst he’ll be the guy who never fulfilled his potential and still made millions off natural talent alone.

        Naw, what’s fascinating to me is the guy who has to struggle to get onto the second pairing or third line, the guy who goes into unrestricted free agency with a sense of trepidation if not dread, rather than one of trying to decide whether to get a platinum-plated or gold-plated Ferrari, live in New York or LA.

        It’s why I feel for Cam Barker. The guy who supposedly should have had everything, who started on a good note, but somewhere along the way failed to develop and in fact regressed. Confidence? Concussion? Lasting effects of injury? I wish I could say. Getting passed over by guys who were drafted so far down that TSN doesn’t even have a bio on them other than place of birth, age, and team.

  • Guy Lafleur

    Struds you are lucky you got noticed on that squad .
    993-94 Kamloops Blazers [WHL] scoring
    Leagues -> WHL -> 1993-94 -> Kamloops Blazers -> Scoring

    Head Coach: Don Hay (50-16-6-0)
    Assistant Coach: Ed Dempsey
    Assistant Coach: Brian Henderson
    Assistant Coach: Terry Bangen

    Regular Season Playoffs
    # Player Name Birthdate Age Pos. GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
    Darcy Tucker 1975-03-15 18 C 66 52 88 140 143 19 9 18 27 43
    Rod Stevens 1974-04-05 19 C 62 51 58 109 31 19 9 12 21 10
    Jarrett Deuling 1974-03-04 19 L 70 44 59 103 171 18 13 8 21 43
    Hnat Domenichelli 1976-02-16 17 C 69 27 40 67 31 19 10 12 22 0
    Tyson Nash 1975-03-11 18 L 65 20 38 58 135 16 3 4 7 12
    Nolan Baumgartner 1976-03-23 17 D 69 13 42 55 109 19 3 14 17 33
    Ryan Huska 1975-07-02 18 C 69 23 31 54 68 19 9 5 14 23
    Scott Ferguson 1973-01-06 20 D 68 5 49 54 180 19 5 11 16 48
    Shane Doan 1976-10-10 16 C 52 24 24 48 88 — — — — —
    Aaron Keller 1975-03-01 18 D 58 6 38 44 8 19 3 12 15 6
    Louis Dumont From Regina 1973-01-30 20 C 34 18 20 38 33 13 8 5 13 12
    Chris Murray 1974-10-25 18 R 59 14 16 30 260 15 4 2 6 107
    Jason Holland 1976-04-30 17 D 59 14 15 29 80 18 2 3 5 4
    David Wilkie To Regina 1974-05-30 19 D 27 11 18 29 18 — — — — —
    Jarome Iginla 1977-07-01 16 R 48 6 23 29 33 19 3 6 9 10
    Bob Maudie 1976-09-17 16 C 65 11 13 24 29 19 1 1 2 2
    Mike Josephson 1976-06-09 17 L 48 11 12 23 114 19 1 10 11 8
    Scott Loucks To Regina 23 5 13 18 48 — — — — —
    Brad Lukowich 1976-08-12 17 D 42 5 11 16 168 16 0 1 1 35
    Bob Westerby 1975-10-29 17 L 50 6 9 15 218 19 1 4 5 64
    Jason Strudwick 1975-07-17 18 L 61 6 8 14 118 19 0 4 4 24
    Mike Krooshoop 1974-10-10 18 D 60 3 9 12 207 9 0 1 1 6
    Greg Hart 48 5 4 9 16 8 0 0 0 2
    Steve Passmore 1973-01-29 20 G 36 0 4 4 26 17 0 1 1 11
    Rod Branch 1975-04-14 18 G 44 0 2 2 18 2 0 0 0 0
    Jarrett Bousquet To Swift Current 2 1 0 1 18 — — — — —
    Shawn McNeil 1978-03-17 15 C 1 0 0 0 0 — — — — —
    Dion Hagan 1975-01-13 18 D 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
    Craig Swanson 1 0 0 0 0 — — — — —
    Cam Severson 1978-08-15 15 L 2 0 0 0 0 — — — — —
    Jason Becker To Swift Current 1974-05-26 19 D 2 0 0 0 0 — — — — —
    Sean Matile 1975-01-12 18 G 3 0 0 0 0 — — — — —
    Totals 381 644 1025 2368

    Player Name GP Min GA GAA W L T Svs Pct EN SO
    Steve Passmore 36 1927 88 2.74 22 9 2 0 1
    Rod Branch 44 2311 125 3.25 28 6 2 0 2
    Sean Matile 3 161 9 3.35 0 1 2 0 0

    The greatest junior hockey team EVER .