Contributed by Hockey Mom (ON, Canada)
I remember what it was like one year ago. I remember what it was like to watch and wait. And wait.
The months and weeks leading up to the OHL Priority Selection — THE DRAFT — felt different, for a number of reasons. Primarily, it was the interest early in the season that gathered in intensity and frequency. We heard of serious interest widely—from our team’s GM, from coaches on OHL teams, from team-mates who heard it through their own network of insiders, from over-age players who noticed scouts in the stands, from personal trainers and on-ice instructors. Months before the draft, there was an invitation to camp. There were whispers and flat-out inquires. There were emails and text messages from coaches, there was a due-diligence telephone inquiry, then our son’s name appeared for a second time on the Eligible Skaters list in the “Selection Preview and Media Guide.”
Until the phone call came in, all of the interest was nice, but we knew being drafted was not a given. As the saying goes, Nothing is certain except death and taxes.
We had already been through our son’s draft year, in minor midget, without success, so we knew what not getting drafted looked like and we prepared ourselves for that inevitability, again.
Having a personal invitation to main camp in December from a head coach allowed us to relax a little, but we were confident that our 16 year-old could handle whatever came his way. After all, he was in his second year of eligibility. Being drafted seemed statistically a bit of a long-shot. Sure, he would be disappointed, but, nothing could be as devastating as the year before. Being drafted into major junior means a lot to competitive hockey players with an eye to playing professionally.
This time we would be prepared for the worst, and when the telephone call came, we were all in a state of shock. It is the result we hoped for, maybe just not the one we expected.
The previous year, I looked through the list and saw the names of players that were not in their first year of draft eligibility. When a player born three years before my son was drafted, I suggested that it could happen to him, the next year. This remark prompted dirty looks and eye rolls from my son and husband.
And yet it happened.
Would we have been better prepared if we better understood the draft process the first time out? Maybe. Maybe not.
Every player gets emailed a form to complete, some get letters, others get several letters. Real interest, from what I understood, involves a flurry of telephone calls, agents, advisors. Yet, players who claimed to have had close to a dozen teams calling them were not drafted. A few who said they had assurances from advisors were not drafted. Everyone gets on the draft list in their bantam year, so it’s hard to separate reality from hopefulness. Contact from GMs and formal inquiries encourage hope, but they are not definitive factors, either way, because anything can happen on draft day.
And that’s the key bit of information we failed to understand on both occasions, until well after it happened.
The OHL draft is not a cut-and-dried process. It is a moving target. It is dynamic on draft day, and sometimes the board just doesn’t go the way it’s expected to go. And the fallout is undrafted players. Knowing the unpredictable nature of the draft would’ve helped us understand, but I’m not sure it would have lessened my son’s disappointment. Athletic fifteen-year-old boys want to pursue their hockey dreams with the stamp of approval from the powers that be.
Understanding that it was indeed possible, or rather, not impossible that our 16-year-old had a good chance of being drafted in his second year of eligibility would soften the blow, taken away some of the sting, and helped us to cope the first time around. And yet, even with interest from a handful of teams, it could have gone the other way.
The thing is, when it comes to draft day the words of screenwriter William Goldman come to mind. Of determining box-office success of Hollywood films, Goldman said: “No one knows anything.”