For the third time in four years, I attended the NLL entry draft this past Monday. I don’t remember why I missed it last year, but I was at the 2013 draft at the TRAC as well as 2012 in Toronto. Considering the NLL is based in New York City, it seems a little surprising that the draft has been held in Southern Ontario for the last four years. OK, that’s a lie, it’s not surprising at all. I don’t have the numbers, but I’d guess 70% of the NLL players live within a couple of hours of here, between all the Toronto guys, Peterborough, Orangeville, and Kitchener.
I arrived around 6:20 and was the first person sitting in the stands. There are a bunch of chairs at the back of the floor but they’re for the players and their families. Lots of NLL coaches and execs are already milling about the floor. John Tavares, Blaine Manning, Gary Gait, and Jim Veltman were having a conversation, and Tracey Kelusky joined a few minutes later. Curt Malawsky and Steve Dietrich had a short chat, Glenn Clark was remembering the old days with Dan Ladouceur, and Curt Styres (one of the few GMs who’s easy to spot when he’s facing away from you) was checking out the table full of fancy new hats that the draftees received. Commissioner George Daniel was standing by himself for a while but then I saw him talking to Steve Toll.
After 10 minutes or so, a few people sat just down from me (turned out to be new Knighthawk Derek Searle and his family), and then Stephen Stamp came by and said “You guys are going to move down there, right?” pointing to the chairs on the floor. We said that we thought they were for players only and he said no, not that many players show up so we’re welcome to move down. This was great since the spectator benches are not terribly comfortable.
Earlier in the day, the Toronto Rock and
Minnesota Georgia Swarm made a deal, the Swarm sending tough veteran defender Mike Grimes to the Rock for, essentially, a second round draft pick next year. Great deal for the Rock. Grimes works in Ontario and missed all of last season because of it, so he wasn’t likely to play for the Swarm anyway. It’s OK for the Swarm too; at least they get something for Grimes, even if it isn’t for a year. The Swarm also learned a lesson when making trades: check on the player’s availability first. They gave up Tyler Hass and Dane Stevens for Grimes who never played a game for them.
Lyle Thompson went first overall to nobody’s surprise, and then the Rochester Knighthawks took defender Graeme Hossack second. I had a fun conversation over twitter with the Knighthawks; after I joked that I thought they were drafting me, they admitted that it was a tough decision.
Right at the end of the first round, I noticed Jamie Dawick, who had the next pick, was talking to Curt Malawsky. The Rock then requested an extension and the talks continued. I tweeted about it and thought maybe I had a real scoop but nothing happened. The Rock eventually picked Turner Evans, but Dawick went over to Malawsky after the pick and talked some more.
There was a kid sitting across the aisle from me, wearing a suit. He seemed nervous, as many others did throughout the night, but as we got into the fourth round, his applause at the names being called seemed to get less enthusiastic. I felt bad for the guy, to the point where every time a name was about to be announced I hoped it was him. He eventually went to Calgary in the fifth round – Jordan Kanscal (pictured right – he looked older in real life. Though not much older.) I was almost as excited as he was when his name was called. Similarly, the kid sitting directly in front of me was Matthew Clearwater, who was selected last.
Also sitting near me was Luc Magnan, who was drafted by the Rock. His dad was sitting next to me and I’m pretty sure he was reading this article over my shoulder as I was writing it. Sneak preview!
Just like previous years, Stephen Stamp and Claude Feig were the hosts, and did a great job interviewing the players that were there. Once again Stamp showed his encyclopaedic knowledge of lacrosse players in the NLL, WLA, MSL, Senior A, Junior B, and whatever other letters there are.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the NLL awards ceremony the next night, also at the TRAC, but I’ll post my thoughts on that in the next couple of days.