If you grab the highlights of the Islanders making their first round picks from the mid-90s through Kyle Okposo, you can actually see the hair-less circle on the top of my head grow larger with each draft. No, despite too many years picking in the stressful top ten, I do not blame the Islanders for what became of my hairline.
Life-after-NYI has been kind and joyful so far. The soul-sucking train ride to the city takes a while to get used to, but overall I have to say it’s been a lovely six weeks. I thought I would ache by now for a visit to Islanders Country, but surprisingly I haven’t. That could be because I hear from my friends at the Islanders regularly. It could also be the result of taking on an exciting, temporary challenge elsewhere in pro sports. It’s also easier to say when there are still more than a hundred days before the next game at the old barn on Hempstead.
But to be sure, the first day I’ll truly miss the Islanders job comes Friday when the NHL Draft begins. As much as I took a shot in my Hockey News column at the absurdity of the entire league flying to one city just for the crapshoot of selecting 18-year olds, for people who do what I did it’s kind of like a weekend family reunion. You get to see a lot of people you enjoy being around. You talk. You eat. You drink. And then, mercifully, you get to leave before it all becomes too much.
Of course, the U.S. sports media has made it easier on me by, ya know, paying very little attention to the NHL Draft. Hockey has seen more than a few potential superstars enter the league since the lockout. Stamkos is a freakin’ stud, Filatov may be special and you could have up to five future Norris nominees in this year’s lot. Yet, other than a one-paragraph plug for the VERSUS coverage, Sports Illustrated’s got zip on the draft in the issue that came out today. SI, needless to say, is not alone.
I don’t think I’m ready to watch the draft on TV. I’ll miss hanging out with Mario Saraceno too much. I’ll miss watching my friend Ryan Jankowski develop as one of the best young minds in the game. I’ll miss Andy Kallur’s infectious optimism. I’ll miss watching Garth grab the first building block to truly call his own. I’ll even miss the buzz from putting those Velcro nameplates on the backs of the jerseys, like I did for Luongo and Brewer, DiPietro and Connolly, Bergenheim and Kudroc. Yes, the Kristian Kudroc.
I’ll probably stay in the city after work on Friday night. I’ll eat. I’ll drink. But I’d be lying if I said my mind and part of my heart will not be elsewhere.
If any of my friends could text me and let me know whether the Islanders picked Filatov, Schenn or Pietrangelo, I’d appreciate it.