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Parental support system carries over to draft

by Brian Compton

While the wait may have been nerve-racking for Nikita Filatov, the sixth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Filatov's mother went through plenty of her emotions as well when Columbus call her offspring's name.
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OTTAWA -- Being selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft is a special time for any player. The chance to stand on the podium with team executives and put on a NHL sweater for the first time is a life-changing experience.

But it's not just an emotional moment for the player. It's a night to remember for the parents, too.

As it should be.

After all, reaching this point isn't exactly easy. More often than not, parents are driving their children long distances to rinks early in the morning and late at night. The sacrifices are endless. The miles on the car unquestionably add up.

In the end, it's about making your child's life better than yours. It's the goal of any parent.

Friday night was incredibly special for the mother of Nikita Filatov, who was selected No. 6 by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Despite his Russian heritage, Filatov is able to speak fluent English. Helen Filatov teaches the language.

She graciously sat down with for a few minutes at Scotiabank Place, just moments after she finished wiping away tears of joy when her 18-year-old son became a member of the Blue Jackets.

"I'm full of emotion. It's fascinating," she said. "There are some nerves, of course, but it's done. I'm happy to be here and I'm greatly impressed with the whole ceremony."

Like most players and/or parents, Mrs. Filatov said the waiting was the hardest part.

While most thought the New York Islanders were going to take Filatov at No. 5, they instead dealt the pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto drafted highly touted defenseman Luke Schenn at No. 5.

But Columbus was not about to allow Filatov to slip through its fingers. Obviously, the hope is that Filatov will take some pressure off captain Rick Nash to produce offense. Friday night, though, was about congratulations and welcoming Filatov into the Blue Jackets' organization.

"It's very difficult to explain the feelings. So many emotions," Mrs. Filatov said. "Believe me, I was very happy to see the officials of Columbus and how they greeted him. I enjoyed it. It's like joining the family. They were really, really friendly. Their attitude was very nice."

More importantly, the Filatovs could take a deep breath with the long-awaited knowledge of where Nikita was going to begin his NHL career finally revealed.

"I hate waiting," Mrs. Filatov said. "Right now, I'm not ready to go through it again. We can relax a little bit and enjoy it."

For Steve Del Zotto, watching his son Michael get drafted by the New York Rangers was a moment he won't soon forget. It made the building of an ice rink in his backyard worthwhile. It brought back memories of the first time Steve put his son on skates.

Fifteen years later, Michael is a New York Ranger. His parents couldn't be more proud.

"He was three years old when he was on skates, and he was with his older brother in the backyard rink everyday after school," Mr. Del Zotto said. "I was driving him to rinks four, five, six times a week. It's worthwhile now. We're very happy for him."

Of course, the Del Zottos had to wait much longer than the Filatovs to witness their son's fate. While the Filatovs waited for what must have felt like hours, the Del Zottos actually did have to wait a couple of hours before the Rangers came calling at No. 20.

In this case, the waiting was the hardest part.

"Coming into tonight, I thought I'd be a little more nervous, but I wasn't," Mr. Del Zotto said. "I think he was a little bit more nervous than I was, obviously.

"It's gut-wrenching, but we're happy at the end of the day. This is what he wanted to do. He's realized his opportunity, and now he's just got to finish his dream."

Should Del Zotto fulfill his dream and reach the NHL, his parents will surely make the trek from Stouffville, Ontario, to New York City. Unquestionably, it's a trip his folks can't wait to make.

When they arrive, they'll get to watch their son skate for one of the League's most historic franchises. Not bad.

"I was hoping he was going to go to an 'Original Six' team, so I was glad New York is the place he'll go," Mr. Del Zotto said.

And Madison Square Garden won't be the only place he'll visit. With all the shows and restaurants available in the biggest city in the world, the Del Zottos plan on taking full advantage.

"I'm looking forward to going to New York City," Dad said. "Absolutely!"

Given the sacrifices his parents have made through the years, anybody else get the feeling that Michael will pick up the tab?

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