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.