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Passing the torch

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
It’s every young Canadian hockey player’s dream to one day play in the NHL. There are various paths to getting there, but the easiest is having your name called in the NHL Entry Draft like Cody Hodgson did last summer.

On TV it looked simple enough, the Canucks headed to the podium and picked Hodgson 10th overall. The 18-year-old strutted to stage, put on a Vancouver sweater and sailed into the sunset – or so we thought.

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes at the draft and even getting to that day was surreal for Hodgson.

When did you realize that being drafted into the NHL would be an option for you?

When I was around 14 or 15 I’d say it became a reality. All the way up I played on pretty competitive teams with great coaches that were always focused on winning. I played with some of the top guys in the country with Stamkos and Tavares and those guys so I knew the competition and what was around so I always thought there was an opportunity to be drafted, definitely.

How big of a goal did this become for you to be drafted?

The ultimate goal has always been to play in the NHL and then there are steps along the way and getting drafted is one of the major ones.

One day it’s a dream, the next Central Scouting has you ranked in the top 10. Were you prepared for everything that came with that?

Like I said, I always played on pretty competitive teams growing up and we won a lot of tournaments and stuff so we were all used to the attention around it, but then it just hits you and it becomes surreal. It really isn’t until you get drafted that you realize the magnitude of it and that you’re part of NHL history already just being part of the draft.

Did you follow your stock in the rankings during your draft year?

No, not at all, I never paid attention to it. I just tried not to worry too much about anything because where I went was where I was supposed to go. I just went in empty minded and it didn’t matter when or where I went, as long as I went I would be happy. The big thing with me was that wherever I went would be the right place for me and I lucked out in Vancouver.

Can you describe the feeling of sitting and waiting while nine other players were selected a head of you? Were you playing mind games with yourself?

No, not at all, my parents might have been though.

I was just trying to take it all in. I had a lot of my friends and family there and even people from my home town came down so I wasn’t worried about anything, I was just having a lot of fun and taking it all in.

What about the feeling when you heard your name called…

It’s hard to describe that feeling. It was a little overwhelming with all the cameras were all right there. It was just such a great culmination of so many things in minor hockey growing up and it brought me one step closer to the NHL.

Were you surprised it was Vancouver? Were they one of the teams that went back and forth with you the most?

I didn’t know exactly where I was going to end up, but I had a pretty good feeling about Vancouver. I had talked to them a few times beforehand and got to know some of the guys in the organization so I definitely knew there was some chemistry there.

Steven Stamkos went first overall to Tampa Bay, that wasn’t a surprise to the media or fans, was there ever any doubt he’d go No. 1 from your point of view?

No, never. I think he was predicted as that since he was 10-years-old so there wasn’t much surprise there at all.

He’s a special player because of his smarts. Everyone talks about his speed and his agility and his skating and everything, but I think what separates him from a lot of players is his ability know where the puck is going to be. He can break into it well and once he gets it obviously he uses his skill and hockey sense to make things happen.

Was the draft overwhelming with how it’s become such a major event?

A little bit. Coming from Brampton where there’s maybe one or two reporters at a game to getting drafted and of the sudden there’s media scrums and people from all over the place getting pictures and wanting autographs and stuff, it was pretty surreal. You realize it’s the big time pretty quick.

So Vancouver picks you, then what?

First you shake hands with everyone in the organization then they take you over and right away you’re on TV for a TSN interview. After that you go back stage and do even more interviews and pictures and media scrums with the Vancouver media, then you go up to the Vancouver box and meet more people from the organization. To end the night I celebrated with my family. We had a nice dinner back at the hotel and it was just nice to have everyone there.

Did the fact that you’d accomplished a childhood dream hit you when you were handed the Canucks jersey to put on, or was it before or after that?

I think it was shaking Mr. Bettman’s had actually. Growing up you watch all the best players who go on to play in the league go up and shake his hand. When I was young they looked so old, then you get up there and you realize that it’s not that far away.

Will you be watching this year’s draft and are you pulling for anyone in particular?

I’ll definitely be watching. There’s people I know and played with and are pretty close to, like Matt Duchene, hopefully he goes as high as possible.

Would you be shocked if Duchene went first overall?

Not at all. You never know what can happen.
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