Well it happened again… much to my dismay I wasn’t taken with the first overall pick, or any pick for that matter. Even though all 30 teams decided to pass on the 24-year-old former club hockey player, I still had an incredible time at the Sports Management Worldwide NHL Draft Conference and the draft itself. During my time in Buffalo, I met some great people, learned a lot and made important connections for my professional development in sports.
Before I get to the details of my stay in Buffalo, I want to give advice to anyone planning on going there soon. I would not recommend making that drive alone. If it wasn’t for my two cans of Red Bull and some new episodes of KFC Radio and Pardon My Take, I probably would have dozed off from seeing the same scenery every mile after Syracuse.
Besides the drive out there, Thursday was an overall fun day at the draft conference. I kicked off my night at Sidelines Sports Bar & Grill for some dinner before the networking event there that night. Huge shoutout to the bartender Hillary for the incredible service and hospitality for someone not familiar with the area. My night at the event was entertaining as I quickly learned that everyone at the conference thinks they are the next big thing and I played middle man to a few debates.
Friday morning the real fun started. The first speakers were Brian and Patrick Burke, two of the most influential men in hockey. The father-son duo spoke their minds and got the audience laughing first thing in the morning. We also got an inside glimpse of how hectic the hockey industry can be as Brian Burke had to leave early as trade talks heated up just hours before the draft. This ended up being the Brian Elliot trade.
The rest of the day consisted of a variety of topics with different expert speakers. Of the remaining speakers, I got to speak separately with a few to get some more specific pointers and advice on succeding in the hockey industry. I would like to thank Trevor Whiffen, Roger Shannon and Rick Curran for their time at the conference and for some of the best advice I’ve received. Trevor is the Governor of the London Knights of the OHL who had seven players selected in the draft. Roger is the Director of Hockey Operations/Scouting for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. Rick is an NHL agent at the Orr Hockey Group who used to have an office in Boston due to their local ties with Bobby Orr, you might have heard of him. One thing that was said by a speaker was that they had never met a bad person working in hockey. This is definitely the case with these three guys who didn’t just brush off a 24-year-old kid who is determined to make it big.
Once all the speakers were done, the fun really started. As I started to walk from the Buffalo Convention Center to the First Niagara Center I met up with a few other conference participants. The five of us realized it was too early to go inside the draft so we decide to head to 716 Sports Bar for some drinks. While inside the bar, where everyone was wearing jerseys, we started to get some looks from people deciding if we were prospects or not. We definitely stood out with our suits and with my clean-shaven face I could have passed for an 18-year-old prospect about to be drafted. Once we got settled we realized it wasn’t that crazy as the second overall pick, Patrick Laine, was in the same bar except in a private room.
After killing some time, we decided to head over a little early to the draft so we could see the Stanley Cup and then settle into our seats. While it wasn’t my first time seeing it, it is always special seeing the greatest trophy in sports. Eventually I got to sit down and enjoy the draft although that was short lived when the Bruins passed on a few of my favorite players that dropped to them.
My trip finally ended on Saturday when I caught the second round of the draft with a former colleague who was covering the draft for the team she works for now. After catching up and seeing a few more picks I made the trek back home with a lot of memories. Needless to say, there is a very good chance I will head to the NHL Draft next year after my experience at this conference.
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