Tales from the Draft Floor

Arrival_medium
The view from my draft coverage seat, before the storm.
Because I'm an idiot, this is the only photo I took on Friday.

I guess it's best to tell the story of my press pass Friday in chronological order, best I can remember it.

10:00 am -- I depart from my place in Irvine headed up towards Staples Center.  Included in my supplies are 1 borrowed laptop I barely know how to use, 1 piece of random mail in case I needed to prove my identity somehow, 1 drawing pad that never gets used, and a roll of SweetTarts.  I know, whatever.

10:45 am -- I get up to L.A. fast; I have a carpool-sticker Prius and it was light traffic throughout.  That puts me in good spirits.  I park in a lot for $7 and hoof over to the back end of Staples Center where the credential trailer is.

Now I should note that I'd been a bit worried about this credential thing, because in some haste I was applied under the name Earl Sleek, and I had no real ID to prove that was the case.  I had been told through the SBN grapevine that they could match my photo that I had submitted to my face; problem there was I had only submitted the BoC blog logo.  Uh-oh.

So I go into the trailer and announce that I'm Earl Sleek with SB Nation and the guy immediately notes, "Oh, we need a photo for you."  So without any real affirmation I head down to another desk with a camera set up and they shoot a headshot and quick-print me out a badge.  At no point am I ever required to prove that I am Earl Sleek, or that even such a person exists, but thanks to the Jedi powers of the lucky green shirt, that all gets overlooked.

11:10 am -- Having my badge, I head over to the JW Marriott Hotel, because I know per a schedule that there's a free media lunch at 11:30.  I text Connie from Jewels From The Crown, because I'd heard she was going to meet up with some SBN bloggers at 10 am, and she tells me to head over to the Media Workroom.  I locate that and enter, and all of a sudden I'm in the middle of a meeting of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, already in session, so I quickly slink into a first-row seat next to Connie.  We can't really talk -- issues are being discussed by the group -- so we sit through it, and it was equal parts boring and fascinating.

I won't go through what was discussed or who I saw there -- it certainly wasn't my business to be in the room, but there were a lot of "fucks" thrown around in that conversation, and I can't help giggling every time and whispering over to Connie, "How unprofessional!"  It helps pass some of the time -- midway through that Arthur from Anaheim Calling creeps in, but all we can do is meekly wave.

11:30 am -- The meeting finally adjourns, and the SBN bloggers who had infiltrated the meeting finally get to introduce each other.  Me, Connie, Arthur, and Michael Petrella from Winging It In Motown all get somewhat acquainted, and we head over for our free media lunch.  I feel good with the group so far; I'd heard that Mr. Plank and TCY from Fear The Fin were going to wear suits, but I'm not too out of place among our foursome in my t-shirt and jeans.  We eat a nice fish-and-veggies buffet lunch at the hotel with some Kings bloggers, including Gann Matsuda from Frozen Royalty.  Nobody seems to really know what we're in store for, or where we'll be sitting, but the schedule says we can't really get entry to the Staples Center until 2 pm anyways.  

That is, until I text Mr. Plank.  Somehow, he and TCY apparently had gotten into Staples at like 10 am and had been hanging out on a vacated floor for hours.  Plank claims that he can get us in, so we head on over.

1:15 pm -- On our walk over, Arthur spots Scott Niedermayer, chilling off by a building in a suit talking on a cell phone.  Arthur challenges me to go talk to him, even offering use of his own voice recorder, but I chicken out.  I do, however, throw Scotty a huge arm-wave, as if he should somehow know who I am.  He sees it, still on his cell phone, and offers a meek half-wave in return -- he's confused as fuck.

Once we get to the Staples Center, I call Plank and we locate each other at a main entrance with no real staff around.  He cracks a door for us and lets us in, straight through a metal detector that beeps as our laptop cases pass through.  But, as nobody's around, we just laugh about it as we continue onwards.  Plank leads us down, down, down to the front of press row -- there are six SBN seats only two rows away from the action floor.  Plank and TCY are set up in two of them, and we quickly fill up the remainder.  There's still not many people around, so we can wander and set up at an easy pace -- I manage to get the laptop working well enough to check comments and e-mail.

To summarize, I was there under a fake internet name with no secondary form of identification saying such, willfully set off an unmanned metal detector, and was sitting two rows away from the trade floor.  Go lucky green.  :)

2:00 pm -- Doors open for the public and the rest of the rule-abiding media.  As other SBN bloggers begin to trickle in, it becomes apparent that there's a problem.  We knew that we had six second-row seats, and assumed with 14 writers that there were eight other seats somewhere else in press village -- turns out there weren't.  So a few bloggers huddle around confused not knowing what to do, and someone proposes a rotation strategy.  I volunteer to move, as I'm sure everyone there is a much bigger draft enthusiast than me.

While that's gets settled, though, I go around meeting some bloggers -- JP from Japers' Rink, Brandon Worley and James O'Brien from ProHockeyTalkPuck Daddy Greg Wyshynski, and I even shake hands with Eric Stephens (ironically, one row back from us -- oops) and SBN megaman Tyler Bleszenski.  Rudy wanders down for a while, too, but with the seat crunch he ended going back up to a ticketed seat somewhere with his brother.  I spend so much time mingling that by the time I get back to my laptop, there's magically no need to relocate anywhere.  Once again, the lucky green shirt proves its worth. 

4:00 pm -- Finally, the draft more or less gets underway, with its typical Bettman boos followed by long stretches of tedious waiting.  Now of course I'm not versed on the draft kids here at all, but I've managed to get in a good location to help with my ignorance.  To my left are Plank and TCY from FTF, who have obviously done their research, and to my right is Michael Petrella from WMT, who has a pretty deep spreadsheet running.  These guys are twitter-monitoring everything, and it is really their reactions that let me know what's going on. 

Picks one and two go down smoothly, of course, but afterwards I keep hearing Cam Fowler's name expected and then passed by -- gasp after gasp from press row let my spidey sense know that something is afoot.  So when the Ducks finally select Fowler nearly two hours into the draft among a solid chorus of boos and the Sharks bloggers both say "Dammit", I'm feeling pretty good about the pick.  Go lucky green.

6:00 pm -- I wander back to the player interview tunnel; there are like ten podiums set up with a big board alerting which player will be expected at which station.  It takes an eternity for Fowler to show up, and by the time he does there's a pretty big crowd gathered.  Not just because of the local coverage, either -- guys like Puck Daddy are there to get reactions from a guy who dropped dramatically from projections.  I'm not really a crowd-fighter here; I easily get pushed to the back, but I do have to commend our other guys -- Arthur and Blez are awesome at keeping their space.  Blez shoots a close-up video up of the interview, and Arthur is probably even closer than that -- I'm relieved that somebody is doing something competent.

In the meantime, in the back of the crowd I end up going up to Ducks radio man Steve Carroll to shake his hand; he's never heard of me but seems really happy to talk Ducks hockey with me, which is pretty awesome.  Not even in any pointed way, either; Bryan Murray gets shown on a nearby monitor and we start talking about how awesome a GM he was in 2003.  We talk through some of his radio history (I admit to missing Brent Severyn), go through some Teemu theories, list out some potential UFA defenseman targets, and joke about trading to draft Steve Thomas' son -- good old fashioned hockey talk.  I really can't believe it; presumably Carroll is there to get a listen in with Fowler and instead he spends most of the time talking with little ol' me.  That guy is aces.

I am still in the interview tunnels when the Kings trade up to make their pick, but even from there the cheer of the crowd is impressive.  Also, randomly in the tunnel I walk right past E from Entourage -- that guy is amazingly short.

7:30 pm -- The draft finally starts pulling towards its tail end, when the bloggers around me finally get interested.  Petrella impresses the fuck out of me by quick-predicting who the Wings will select with their pick, though I did have to console him earlier when Steve Yzerman went up on stage to announce Tampa's pick.  The Sharks guys seem reasonable okay with the San Jose pick right before Anaheim -- but mostly they are trying to monitor the nearby Sharks table throughout trying to figure out which teams they are talking to.  I break out the SweetTarts roll from my laptop bag and share with SBN's press row -- everyone seems appreciative.

Also I meet up with two other guys -- turns out PJ from Sharkspage is several rows behind me, so I go chat with him, then randomly (and after a lot of staring -- I couldn't remember where I knew this guy from) I spot the guy who monitors the Ducks penalty box -- he's working floor security or something for the draft, and though we're familiar I'd never really spoken to the guy; we've always had a glass panel between us.  He totally recognizes me as the occasional Row B hooligan, and we spend a little time hanging out up front while PJ takes some close-in photos.

Finally, Anaheim is announced on the clock for the 29th pick.  The boos rain down, but once the name Etem is announced the boos transform into cheers -- go local kid.  Again the Ducks seemingly got a kid they probably should have traded up for; again I go ahead and credit the lucky green shirt.

8:30 pm -- After all that, the draft floor eventually dies down.  I go to the tunnel to overhear part of the Etem interview (I really only catch the part where he admits to living 20 minutes away from the Pond but has never attended a Ducks game), then sort of wait around for other productive bloggers to finish their posts.  JP (who had a hilarious line when the Caps drafted a Russian with their pick -- "Oh, THAT'S going to be a great interview.") finishes up his roundup and we head over to the nearby Yard House for some beers.  The place is packed -- not a seat to be had, but once again the lucky green shirt pays off.  Just as we get to shouting distance of the bar some chairs open up.

Drinking with JP is great -- I'm trying not to spill to much of what a blog hero he is, but Japers' Rink is certainly one blog that's been around longer than we have and really one of the reasons why we agreed to move to SBN.  We talk a lot about the Caps' rough exit last spring to the Habs -- all I can offer is the Sharks-Ducks comparison the year before; in some ways it's comparable, and in other ways it is not.  We spend a little time stewing over Steve Eminger ("the one draft pick that George McPhee has seemingly completely abandoned", or something), then JP's brother comes by and I wander to the restroom before running into some other bloggers.

Tapeleg from Jerseys and Hockey Love (who I've met before) and Chris Kontos from The Royal Half (who I haven't) are outside with James O'Brien, so I pull up a chair a bit there, too.  Eventually, I remember my sister's laptop inside so I go back and find JP and his brother -- we all go over to a table they've gotten with Wyshynski.  This is all tons of fun, hanging with blog heroes, but finally I have to depart -- there's still a little bit of Prius-driving ahead of me.

12:30 am -- I walk back to the car and call my buddy, who's house I'm crashing at, to tell him that I'm finally headed over (I had told him to expect me from any time after 7:30 -- who knew how this draft thing would turn out?).  I drive over to his place, which is near LAX, and convey all the key draft stories to him, before we watch "Public Enemies" and I pass out on his couch never really sure whether Batman and Dr. Manhattan had successfully apprehended Jack Sparrow.

The next day -- I wake up too early to see Korea lose, then ditch day 2 of the draft to see USA lose, too.  I guess the lucky green shirt was all lucked out by then.  I eventually make it back to Irvine and become vaguely aware that Mike Brown is traded (a post on that later in the week) before falling over on my own couch.  Go Draft!

* * *

So anyways, that's my perspective of how that day went, more or less -- overall I had a great time.  Rudy is right -- drafts do suck to watch, but fortunately I had an appropriate amount of dread built up for it and with the credential access and blogger introductions I certainly had enough distraction to pass the time.  Seriously, mad props go to the SBN bloggers -- though me being there was largely a waste of reporter space, that's certainly not true of the other guys there.  Read around -- several of these bloggers got great interviews and put together fantastic coverage.  As for me?  I still can't get my scanner to work with my sister's computer yet -- cartoons coming some point later.

And while the crowd probably wasn't enough to have another west-coast entry draft anytime soon (a fact I'm proud of -- hockey fans prefer to watch hockey), it was cool to have one event that brought out some big names in hockey coverage -- in some ways I was a kid in a candy store:  Hey, there's that guy from NHL on the Fly that I like!  Hey, there's whatshisname from Versus!  It was a very cool chance to meet some very cool bloggers, and I guess the Ducks did all right on the draft floor itself, too.

For some real Ducks draft coverage, go read Anaheim Calling's Draft Coverage Page;-- I can attest personally that Arthur put some quality work into that.

Go Draft.

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