The Critical 'I'

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Saturday, June 26, 2004

A QUIET DRAFT YEAR
breezy
The 2004 NHL Entry Draft starts in a few minutes. No, really.

It's been an unbearably quiet buildup. I thought the lack of buzz was strictly local; the Cup-winning Lightning are nowhere near the top part of the Draft this year, and so both area papers have had practically no coverage until today. But even national outlets seemed to be unusually subdued; TSN, which in years past would run breaking stories every time one of the top 15 prospects blew his nose, has been fairly static this week.

What gives? I guess the impending labor staredown is dampening spirits. Plus, after the consensus top-two Ovechkin and Malkin, it's a fairly thin draft (although these are the kind of underrated drafts that end up producing plenty of solid players). The Capitals and Penguins are pretty set with keeping the 1-2 picks, so that's stunted most trade activity. All this has conspired to keep things understated heading into today.

Still, it's maddening, especially compared with the relatively robust coverage of the NBA Draft earlier this week. I realize it's a different bowl of soup for hoops: Most of the players there are NCAA stars that have had plenty of advanced media exposure, or else they're high schoolers whose entry into the pros is still a new enough phenomenon that it merits plenty of attention. In hockey, the draftees are still obscure enough quantities that they're unknown to the general public every year (baseball is pretty much the same way). But the proximity between the two drafts makes it notable.

Anyway, I'll be enjoying at least a couple of hours of the Draft on ESPN2 today. And for what it's worth, the Carolina Hurricanes' home newspaper, the News-Observer, has been running a very good package of lead-up stories, as the 'Canes are this year's Draft host.