Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louisans Get to See Where Draft Is Coming From

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louisans Get to See Where Draft Is Coming From

Article excerpt

So, you say there's a draft at Kiel Center.

Well, then, close the doors.

Oh, it's not that kind of draft.

It's the National Hockey League draft, and it's coming to Kiel Center on June 22, and the doors will be open.

But what does it all mean?

That's the question Blues' hockey fans have been asking. They're not quite sure what the draft is all about.

"A lot of people don't know what this is," said Wes Edwards of the Blues' sales staff who has been in charge of organizing the draft and re lated events. "Some think it's a game."

A game?

"They know the kids are coming in, but they think these kids will be here skating, that there'll be a game, that teams will watch and pick them for their team," Edwards said, with a laugh.

That's not even close. Yes, the draft will take place on the floor of the Kiel Center, but the only ice will be in soda cups at the various draft tables.

And the kids themselves, the prospects between the ages of 18 and 21, will be seated with their families and omnipresent agents in the stands close to the draft floor waiting to be selected.

"It's exciting for the kids," Edwards said. "You see how excited they are when they're picked. Their mom and dad are right there, all teary-eyed. It's really neat."

So far, some 350 prospects plan to be here for the draft, which means more than 100 will go home disappointed. With 26 teams picking over nine rounds, only 234 will be selected.

"The only bad part is to see those kids left at the bitter end," Anaheim coach Ron Wilson said. "You can see how disappointed they are."

The NHL has shortened the draft in recent years. It used to last 12 rounds, but it became a tedious marathon. Even with nine rounds, the draft will last seven or eight hours. Most of the spectators leave after the first round, which will be televised live on ESPN2 in the United States, and TSN and RDS in Canada. The only people left in the arena for late rounds are the 300-or so media, team officials and the poor kids who aren't selected.

The NHL draft is like the drafts that stock teams in professional football, basketball and baseball. It more closely resembles baseball's draft because, unlike football and basketball, there are no guarantees.

Only a handful of players - maybe no more than one or two - will be able to play immediately. And a large majority will never make it at all.

Particularly this year. The 1996 draft is regarded as one of the weakest overall in recent years, but still, the draft is one of the NHL's premier events.

"There's nothing like the NHL draft in sports," said Brian Burke, the NHL's director of hockey operations. He noted the teleconference approach in the National Football League and major-league baseball. "It's an exciting day. It's the best day of the year for us."

Better than the Stanley Cup Finals? Better than the All-Star Game? …

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