But back to that last draft in Pittsburgh. It was 1997 and the Wings were fresh off their first Stanley Cup in 42 years or whatever it was (it was, it was 42: 1955-1997 was the duration of the drought) and it was nice to see Scotty Bowman to congratulate him in person. I'd been hosting the Wings pregame show on the radio for several seasons prior--I'd left just before the '96-'97 season to do play-by-play in Grand Rapids--and in that capacity it was my job to interview him an hour or so before faceoff every night so we'd gotten to know each other fairly well. And, of course, the year I leave is the year they finally win and Scotty teased me about how my not having been there being the #1 reason they'd won.
At breakfast in the hotel the morning of the draft I was sitting with our coach in Grand Rapids, Dave Allison and who walks into the coffee shop but Bobby Orr. I am stunned to learn that Allison and Orr, well, they know one another. Like, on a first name basis. So, Allison introduces me to him and like, wow, right? Bobby Orr! And he could not have been nicer. What a gentleman and what a kick I got out of that.
There'd been a social affair the night before sponsored by the NHL at a restaurant right on the river--drinking was involved--and the GM of some team in the American League, Hershey, maybe it was, somehow got it in his head (probably because I was wearing a sports coat and tie) that I was the General Manger of our team instead of the broadcaster for our team which is what I was. So he asks me if our team is in the market for a play-by-play guy because he's trying to help some guy out and I say, "Personally, I can't stand our guy. But, the owners like him, so what can you do?"
Ah, memories. We shall enjoy them...
As for the draft itself, I always say, "Who knows?"
It is tougher, in my view, to handicap the NHL draft than it is to forecast any other sports' draft. Who knows which 18-year-old kid is going to grow up to be an NHL-er? If anybody did, do you think Pavel Datsyuk would have been there in the Sixth Round for the Wings to take in '98? But he was. Detroit selected Jiri Fischer, Ryan Barnes, Tomek Valtonen, Jake McCracken, Brent Hobday, Calle Steen and the legendary Adam Deleeuw in the '98 draft BEFORE they took Datsyuk. And to make it all even a bit more amazing, they had two picks in the Sixth that year and they used the second of them, not the first, the second pick they had in that round on Datsyuk! Is there a backstory here or was it blind outhouse luck for Ken Holland and the Wings in '98?
They need some sort of luck tonight, one supposes. Detroit, which has not had a First Round pick in two of the last three drafts, doesn't have one again tonight. They won't be on the clock until the 19th pick of Round Two, #49 overall.