Aside from loving jerseys way too much, I also happen to be a huge hockey fan. I know that seems unusual for someone living in South Florida, but it turns out that isn’t as far-fetched as most people think. My father and I, Panthers season ticket holders, scored free tickets to the 2015 NHL Draft in South Florida. Estimated attendance for the first round was about 12,300, and that was considered conservative. Here are the best jerseys, players, and thoughts as I made my way around the BB&T Center.
Sights and Sounds
The hosts of the night, your Florida Panthers!
See if you can count the different jerseys as people head into the BB&T Center. Nice throwback All-Star jersey by the guy to the left!
Your Jersey Czar, still rockin’ the playoff beard, and my father.
Kids get the chance to dress up as their favorite NHL All-Stars. I’m not so sure those leg pads fit very well.
I don’t think I quite have the look down either.
Flags surrounding the Stanley Cup to represent every team in the league.
My friends Nathan Oppe and his wife Jenna get to touch the Stanley Cup. I can’t imagine how crazy their household would have been had the New York Rangers beaten Tampa Bay during the Eastern Conference Finals.
The trophy display was pretty awesome. Panthers rookie defenseman, Aaron Ekblad, won the Calder Memorial Trophy, so there was a special set-up just for him.
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, and more.
Ted Lindsay Award.
King Clancey Memorial Trophy, Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, William M. Jennings Trophy, Frank J. Selke Trophy, General Manager of the Year, James Norris Memorial Trophy.
Hart Memorial Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy.
As we make our way to our seats, we get to see some great draft picks of years past!
Dennis Potvin, Aaron Ekblad, Mats Sundin, and Ilya Kovalchuk were great draft picks.
The stage is set for Connor McDavid.
Teams debating picks and trades. Boston says see you later to Milan Lucic!
TV crews are debating potential moves.
The second overall pick, Jack Eichel, goes to the Buffalo Sabres! Eichel kind of looks like Bill from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Connor McDavid, the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
To tell you the truth, he wasn’t the friendliest. I don’t know if he was overwhelmed by the media attention, but he nearly ran over an old lady who wanted an autograph. Clearly he had interviews and photos to get to, but it would have been nice if he would have stopped for just a few minutes. The photo is blurry because I had to walk with him to get this shot.
Noah Hanifin, 5th overall pick by the Carolina Hurricanes trying to get away from all the fans.
Zach Werenski, 8th overall pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Awesome dude! He actually stopped and talked to fans for a few minutes, and he generally seemed to be having a good time.
Mikko Rantanen, 10th overall pick by the Colorado Avalanche.
Julius Nattinen, 2nd round pick by the Anaheim Ducks.
Daniel Sprong and Filip Chlapik, 2nd round picks by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators.
Graham Knott, 2nd round pick by the Chicago Blackhawks. Really cool guy.
Jonas Siegenthaler, 2nd round pick by the Washington Capitals.
Vili Saarijarvi, 3rd round pick by the Detroit Red Wings.
Kyle Capobianco, 3rd round pick by the Arizona Coyotes.
Jeremy Bracco, 2nd round pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Dennis Yan, 3rd round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Samuel Montembeault and Thomas Schemitsch, 3rd round picks by the Florida Panthers.
Austin Wagner, 4th round pick by the Los Angeles Kings.
Jesse Gabrielle, 4th round pick by the Boston Bruins.
William Borgen, 4th round pick by the Buffalo Sabres.
It was pretty neat to see some of the jersey changes teams made this year. Washington now has a red version of their throwback alternate, and it will replace their white alternates they used frequently this year. The Colorado Avalanche dispensed with the “foot” alternate logo on the shoulder, and they now use the CO logo from the Colorado state flag. Edmonton unveiled a new orange alternate jersey that looks very similar to the ones they wore during their WHA days, and the Arizona Coyotes added a whole lot of black to their look. Finally, Columbus recolored their alternate logo, and made that the new shoulder patch. Most of the changes were positive, in my opinion, although I think Arizona could have done a little better.
With all the craziness going on at the draft, I tried my hardest to grab a few shots of fans in #RandomJersey’s. Here are some of the best.
Pat LaFontaine! This guy actually had a few of the late round draft picks walk up to him and tell him how much they liked his jersey. Game recognizes game.
Can’t go to a hockey event without seeing a jersey with “The Great One” on it.
Florida Panthers fans rocking Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad. Two of the last three Calder Memorial Trophy winners.
Charlie Conway has aged a bit since his last Mighty Ducks movie.
This couple from Edmonton had Connor McDavid jerseys made before he was even drafted. That’s confidence. Even though it was the hands-down obvious choice for the Oilers, you never know what can happen on draft day.
I just have to wonder if these guys were still friends during the Stanley Cup Finals.
Martin Brodeur played 7 games for the St. Louis Blues. SEVEN! This is like owning a Mike Piazza Florida Marlins jersey. Interesting half-tuck a-la Wayne Gretzky #FlagItTagIt!
Gotta feel bad for this guy. Walks in to the draft rockin’ a Milan Lucic Boston Bruins jersey. 30 minutes later he has to go buy another jersey when Lucic got traded to Los Angeles. I spoke to him for a few minutes and he said he was approached by a significant number of people who wanted to mess with him.
Martin Biron! Granted, he eventually became the starter for a few years in Buffalo, but most of the time he was Dominik Hasek’s backup. Interesting jersey fact: The NHL had to institute the “Biron Rule” because initially he wore jersey #00. This created a bug in pro scouts stat-tracking software and the NHL mandated that players only wear whole numbers between 1-99.
Jerome Iginla throwback Calgary Flames jersey.
The 2015 NHL Draft was a really cool event to attend in person. One video I did not get the chance to take, but I wanted to make note of, is that there were a few groups of really beautiful girls completely dolled up. While I initially assumed them to be the girlfriends of the draft picks or family members (why else would you be dressed up?) I quickly realized they were there to try to meet the draft picks! Every time a draft pick came out to the concourse, they would introduce themselves, and then try to flirt a little bit. It was quite entertaining to watch as I have never seen this before. All I can say is #thirsty. It definitely added to the fun.
I don’t think other leagues really let you get close to the players the way I had the opportunity to do this weekend. I give the NHL tons of credit for this because they only way to grow the game is by giving fans access to the teams and players they support. Free agency begins on July 1st and it should be a crazy offseason. Chicago Blackhawks fans, enjoy your third Stanley Cup in six years because there are definitely some young up-and-comers looking to dethrone you, and quickly!
Jersey Czar out!