Monday, June 27, 2011

The 2011 NHL Draft Project

We at Third String Goalie were in attendance at this weekend's 2011 NHL Entry Draft at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. While there, we attempted to document jerseys from every different team we could possibly find, eventually numbering 47 different teams ranging from 29 different NHL Clubs, including a few defunct ones, as well as teams from the AHL, Canadian Juniors, Russia, national teams, Finland, the WCHA, WHA and, as always, the enduring movie Slap Shot.

It was a fun and fantastic project as we got to meet dozens of people from all over the country, everyone united in their love of hockey and spirit of fun. A big thanks to all of you who took the time to pose and chat!

Aside from the draft itself, there were other events over the course of the two days to keep the fans entertained, starting with Friday's NHL Fan Fest, which provided interactive games, such as the puck shooting accuracy area, and autograph opportunities at three different locations, each with a different focus.

The NHL Alumni booth had a lineup of former Minnesota North Stars throughout the day including Gordie Roberts, J. P. Parise, Tim Young and Steve Payne among others, while the Minnesota Wild booth with Brad Staubitz, Clayton Stoner and fan favorite Cal Clutterbuck as well as last year's #1 pick Mikael Granlund of Finland. The USA Hockey/Minnesota Hockey featured a lineup which included Minnesota natives Phil Housley, David Backes and 1980 Olympians John Harrington and Rob McClanahan.

There were also six roundtable discussions in two sessions, the first of which included "Minnesota Wild Year 3 - The Road to the Western Conference Finals" with Wes Walz, Darby Hendrickson, Brad Brown and Antti Laaksonen, "Coaching Legends" with Scotty Bowman and Minnesota legends Doug Woog and Willard Ikola, and the one we chose to attend, "The State of the NHL" with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, which was a fun, informative and entertaining hour hosted by the NHL Network's E. J. Hradek.

Gary Bettman
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman

The second sessions to choose from were "The Houston Aeros - The Road to the Calder Cup Finals" with Colton Gilles, Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon, "WCHA Greats" with Mark Parrish, Shjon Podein, Reed Larson and Ryan Carter, while the third one, and the one we were in attendance for, "The Class of '67 - Minnesota's First NHL Team" with Lou Nanne, Jack Carlson, Tim Young, Brad Maxwell and J. P. Parise, all veterans of the Minnesota North Stars.

There were also other booths from the US Hockey Hall of Fame, Fox Sports, where you could do your own sportscast, the Hobey Baker Award, a silent auction for signed NHL jerseys and a live broadcast from KFAN radio among the others with displays.

Auction jerseys
Jerseys available for bidding in the Fan Fest auction

Additionally, there was also a theater set up in of the hotel's other conference rooms, which screened the film "Pond Hockey" and later "The Code - The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL", which we would have like to have seen, only the films conflicted with the discussion panels in an unfortunate scheduling choice.

Following the Fan Fest, it was time to make our way to the Xcel Energy Center in anticipation of the draft itself. With roughly two hours to go before the first pick, we took in the exhibits inside "The X", which consisted of a sports card and memorabilia show sponsored by Panini and Upper Deck. While the opportunity to have your own trading card created by Upper Deck was good fun and worth the time.

2011 Draft Hockey Cards
Being immortalized on cardboard courtesy of Upper Deck

The rest of the show paled terribly in comparison to the Fan Fest put on back in 2004 in conjunction with the NHL All-Star Game. If you are a card collector, there were some chances to purchase packs of cards and receive special six card sets commemorating past drafts, but the number of dealers was quite small and all local, selling the same limited selection we've seen many times over. It's a shame no dealers from Chicago, Detroit or even Toronto could have been attracted to attend, as we would have loved an opportunity to complete a set of 1974-75 Topps hockey cards we began in our youth.

Panini was there promoting their NHL hockey sticker collection and Adrenaline hockey card game products with free samples, which is never a bad thing.

The highlight of the pre-draft activities was the availability of the Stanley Cup, and while the wait was making us skittish about remaining seats would be available for the draft with our general admission ticket, it was worth the wait to have our picture taken with the cup and have a few moments to introduce ourselves to the Keeper of the Cup, Phil Pritchard.

Me with the Stanley Cup
Posing with the Stanley Cup

Me and Phil Pritchard
Having our picture taken with Phil Pritchard, Keeper of the Cup

Despite reports that there were no more tickets available for Friday's first round draft session, seating was not an issue in either the upper or lower bowl of the arena after the first sections of seating set aside for the players and their families. We began our evening in the first row of the upper deck.

2011 NHL Draft
The setting for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft

Following the seventh pick when Winnipeg made their low-key announcement of the choice of the name "Jets" and the subsequent joyous celebration, we made our way down to the lower bowl for the remainder of the evening, which included not only the host Wild's first pick, but their big trade announcement later in the evening, as they acquired Devin Setoguchi from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Minnesota fan favorite Brent Burns, which added some spark to the latter half of the night.

Winnipeg Draft table
Winnipeg's draft table gave no clue to the return of the name "Jets"

One of the most memorable moments was when the classy New York Rangers had Aaron Boogaard, brother of the late Derek Boogaard, formerly of the Minnesota Wild, read the name of the first Rangers pick of the draft following an extended standing ovation in memory of Derek.

The remainder of the evening was spent spotting hockey dignitaries on the draft floor, being amused by everyone who made the drive down from Winnipeg and booing every move by Colorado. And Calgary. And Edmonton. And Anaheim.

And especially Vancouver.

Day Two consisted of rounds 2 through 7 and moved very quickly.

2011 NHL Draft
The NHL Draft Day 2

The bulk of our day was spent adding to our jersey photography project, cheering the Wild's trade which allowed them to select the first Minnesotan taken in the draft in the form of Mario Lucia, son of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers coach Don Lucia, cheering any subsequent Minnesotans selected, getting our business card for Third String Goalie into the hands of as many people as possible and again booing every move by Vancouver, who seemed to take it all in good fun by taking the time to thank us all for our hospitality prior to the next to last pick in the entire draft, which was greeted by a round of applause, along with some more boos by those who apparently felt patronized.

It was great fun to have Winnipeg back in the NHL thanks to their legions of enthusiastic, well lubricated fans and we were surprised to see a number of Canucks fans who not only made bail, but were allowed to cross the border into the United States.

In conclusion, we had a great time at the draft, even if we had hardly heard of any of the players taken outside of the top 10 of the first round, and loved the relatively low-key nature of the event which gave us the chance to either have a genuine conversation with, or at least give a business card to no less than E. J. Hradek (who could not have been nicer to us over the course of the weekend), Pierre McGwire and Bob McKenzie (who were both very sincere and gracious with their time after a very long day on the set), Craig Button, Phil Housley, Steve Payne, Joe Nieuwendyk, Bill Guerin, Tim Young, Scotty Bowman, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and hockey God Steve Yzerman (whose birthday marks the yearly anniversary of this very website), who certainly had better things to do with his time in the middle of the draft than chat briefly with us but did so anyway, for which we will be forever grateful. And thrilled.

Today's video segment begins with the Edmonton Oilers selecting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft.

Our next video is Aaron Boogaard announcing the first choice of the New York Rangers in a very classy move by New York.

Next is pick #7, the first official announcement of the choice of the name Winnipeg Jets.

The host Minnesota Wild pick Jonas Brodin with the #10 pick in this next clip.

Click below for a selection of Official Draft Day Caps given to all draft picks at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft!


  1. Love the Nordiques jersey pictured on your hockey card.

  2. Someone from the jersey department of the NHL saw it at the draft and asked us where we got it, adding that we weren't even supposed to know it existed!

    For more on that jersey, please see this past entry on our blog.


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