If you’re reading this, you likely watched the 2013 NHL Draft on television or one of the NHL Drafts in recent years. For those that haven’t: when a player is selected by an NHL team, we see him stand up and hug his family & friends before walking up to the stage (first round) or down to the draft floor to shake hands with his new employers and do a round of interviews with the media.
Thanks to a really good friend I was able to attend this year’s NHL Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey as a fan, sitting in the stands among some great fans that were representing all 30 teams. When I arrived at my seat a friend who knows I am a journalist informed me that in the row in front of us was the grandmother of one of these talented kids who was about to have his dream realized in a few hours. My response was ‘oh that’s cool, but I’m off duty today, just enjoying the whole Draft Day experience.’ Once the draft began more of this player’s family members arrived and I began thinking about how exciting it must be for them.
As the first round drew to a close the Calgary Flames stepped on stage to announce their third, first round selection (acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Jarome Iginla trade). GM Jay Feaster stepped to the microphone and said: “Calgary is pleased to select from Regina of the Western Hockey League, Morgan Klimchuk.”
As soon as Feaster said “from Regina” his family members realized — that was their boy and they all jumped to their feet cheering and began hugging each other. Klimchuk himself was downstairs in the lower bowl with other members of his family, but to see the pure joy and excitement on the faces of the family right in the row ahead of me was amazing. Prior to that day I could only imagine what that feeling was like having only watched on TV, but seeing it directly in front of me was touching and heartwarming. They weren’t just hugging each other; they were really embracing each other. You could see the tears of joy and excitement run down their faces as they looked into each other’s eyes and their smiles were a mile wide.
Honestly, as I was clapping for them I might have gotten something in my eye that caused my eye to water up a bit. I mean you kind of have to be a heartless, cruel person to not feel the emotion that was right there in front of us. To make the special moment even sweeter the kid was taken by his hometown team; his favorite team growing up. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. To get drafted is one thing but to get drafted by my hometown team is something that I was hoping for,” Klimchuk was quoted as saying on the Flames website. “I’m very, very excited my name got called at the 28 spot by Calgary.”
When I came home and did some more research on Klimchuk I realized that he is the pick that was traded for Iginla, who was the face of that franchise for what seemed like eons. Iginla, by the way, was acquired in a deal for the face of the franchise before he arrived in Alberta — traded by the Dallas Stars for Joe Nieuwendyk; no pressure Morgan, no pressure.
If you ever have a chance to attend an NHL draft, I hope that you do so. It was a great experience and the memories will last a lifetime. You never know what will happen and you never know whom you will end up sitting next to because there is no assigned seating for fans, it’s all general admission. Hopefully you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed the experience and I hope I was able to convey a nice story to you.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.