Hopes, dreams of fans evident on draft day

This past weekend was the equivalent of Christmas Day for yours truly, as the annual NHL draft took place in Pittsburgh, Penn.
For the span of four hours on Friday evening, and another three on Saturday morning, I was going as insane as someone can be without having any trace of alcohol in my bloodstream, as players that I have followed during their time in junior hockey were selected by any number of pro teams.
And that’s not counting the big trades that took place during the weekend, such as the Luke Schenn and James Van Riemsdyk swap, and Thunder Bay’s Jordan Staal getting dealt from Pittsburgh to Carolina, where he will now play with his brother Eric.
Adding to the craziness was the fact that during the entire first round, I was in contact with my brother back home in Sault Ste. Marie over Skype as we both went nuts over the proceedings, and I was also able to keep track of everything that was happening in Pittsburgh through Twitter, which was sometimes beating TSN’s coverage by a couple of minutes in the rumour mill department.
That’s pretty crazy too when you think about it, because there is no way that you could do that while watching the draft only a few years ago.
In the midst of the chaos though, a close friend of mine made a post on Twitter that caught my eye, and one that I have been thinking about for the last few days.
“Drafts are like watching people be led to slaughter for public enjoyment,” my friend wrote.
“I’m still tuning in, but really…sheep…poor lads,” she added.
While the words may seem a bit strong and bold to some, the point that is raised is a very valid one.
Why do we as fans of professional sport franchises pin so much hope on athletes that have yet to even suit up for the team that we support?
Over the course of this year’s NHL and NFL season, at times it seemed that more people were interested in the race for the bottom of the standings in the “Suck for (Andrew) Luck” and the “Fail for Nail (Yakupov)” sweepstakes instead of the actually playoff races.
And at the same time, while those that go high in the draft are obviously very gifted and talented players, they are going to teams that are languishing at the bottom of their league.
It takes an awful lot more than just a single player to turn those teams around, as the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers can attest to over the years, along with countless other teams.
Despite those struggles in the standings, that doesn’t seem to discourage the fans of those sides from coming into the arena and spending their hard earned money to cheer their team on.
Call it blind faith if you must, but it’s the devotion of those fans that needs to be rewarded.
That topic is something that Kristian Jack, an analyst for The Footy Show on The Score, discussed with me back in December of last year.
Currently in the English Premier League, the big-money clubs such as defending league champions Manchester City, their arch-rivals Manchester United, and current Champions League title holders Chelsea are able to seemingly spend their way to the top, leaving most of other clubs in the dust.
“So what makes the fans want to keep going to support their team and pay the 30-odd pounds to watch their games,” Jack asked.
“In many ways, it’s a release from life for those fans where they can go in and cheer for their team no matter where they are in the table, and even though the expectations may have changed, they can’t give up on their team because of that,” he added.
In essence, that’s what draws us to sports in the first place.
Our day-to-day lives can be mundane and sometimes have us in the dumps if events outside of our control are bringing us down.
But for the span of a couple of hours, there’s a chance that we can witness something great, and if it’s your favourite team that is accomplishing something, well there are very few things that can equal it.
When looking at in the aspect of a draft, there is a chance that you are seeing that first step in a long process of the team that you support coming back to the promised land.
Is it a guaranteed success? Of course it isn’t.
But it’s certainly fun to dream about.
• • •
As always, yesterday’s announcement over who was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame for this year led to a ton of debate.
While everyone agreed that Joe Sakic was a no brainer, many people felt that Brendan Shanahan should of gone in over other inductees Adam Oates and Mats Sundin.
Plus, for the third year in a row, everyone was left scratching their heads as to why Pat Burns was seemingly snubbed.
However, in the midst of all that, the news that Pavel Bure finally got his due was one that filled me with joy.
Well, that and it also caused me to run around the Fort Frances Times office screaming in delight, but that’s another story.
For me, Bure was, and still is, the most exciting player I have ever seen take to the ice in the NHL during my lifetime.
He was faster than nearly everyone else, he had skills that would make your jaw drop, and he had a flair for the dramatic like no other.
It took longer than I personally thought it would, but I’m pleased that he is finally being recognized as one of the true greats.