RALEIGH (June 4, 2001) -- With June in full swing and the Stanley Cup Finals winding down it’s time for hockey fans to turn their attention toward the annual NHL Entry Draft.
At the end of the month management, coaches, scouts and staff members from all 30 NHL clubs will descend upon National Car Rental Center in Sunrise, Fla. to choose the future of their organizations. Fans will attend the festivities in and around the arena during the two-day, nationally televised event.
But, the NHL Entry Draft was not always the spectacle it is today. In fact, at its inception, the draft was nothing short of a business meeting held in hotel meeting rooms near the league’s Montreal offices.
During the 1962-63 season the league felt the need to develop a system by which each of its member teams could acquire star players. Previous to the league’s intervention NHL clubs sponsored amateur teams and players that inevitably joined with those clubs upon turning professional.
The NHL held its first Amateur Draft at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal on June 5, 1963. Despite having four picks each the six NHL franchises selected just 21 players at the inaugural draft since most of the sport’s top prospects already played for sponsored teams.
Montreal selected Garry Monahan of the St. Michael’s Juveniles as the first pick in the 1963 Amateur Draft. Monahan continued to play at the junior and minor-league levels until joining the Canadiens for the 1967-68 season. He played in 12 NHL seasons for Montreal, Detroit, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto before finishing his playing career in Japan in 1982.
The draft order rotated on an annual basis until 1968 when it was determined by the previous season’s final standings. Then, in 1969 the league held its first universal Amateur Draft as the old sponsorship system had been successfully phased out.
At that 1969 Montreal draft the Detroit Red Wings, with the 10th first-round pick selected Hurricanes CEO and General Manager Jim Rutherford. Rutherford was the first goaltender taken in the 1969 draft in which the 12 NHL clubs drafted 84 players into their organizations.
“That was before everyone was there at the draft,” said Rutherford. “I lived about 40 miles north of Toronto and my parents and I drove to the Globe & Mail for the midnight edition to see who had drafted me. About three days later they called and said, ‘By the way, we drafted you and we’d like to come up there and talk to you.’ It was very different then.”
Progressively, the draft and the league grew into the event and intense business meeting it is today. In 1980, following World Hockey Association expansion, the league decided to make the draft a public event. From 1980-84 the NHL Entry Draft took place at the Montreal Forum before moving to Toronto’s Convention Centre.
Along with Montreal and Toronto, Detroit, Bloomington (Minn.), Vancouver, Buffalo, Quebec City, Hartford, Edmonton, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Boston and Calgary have hosted the NHL Entry Draft.
Commissioner Gary Bettman awarded the Hurricanes the draft by 2005 at a the NHL All-Star Crusade kickoff in March. Following the Florida Panthers this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs will host the 2002 draft. No team has been named as host to the draft following 2002.
Carolina Hurricanes Website Reporter Kyle S. Hanlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.