David Booth following being selected in the 2004 NHL Draft (Getty Images)
By Andrew Imber for floridapanthers.com
“Our family did a lottery of who they thought I’d get picked by, and I think Florida was 29th out of 30, so it was kind of crazy.” - David Booth
Going into the 2004 NHL Entry Draft in Raleigh, North Carolina, David Booth had only visited Florida as a vacation spot. But after being drafted in the second round (53rd overall), he has called South Florida his hockey home for the last five seasons.
Booth takes a look back at the draft process, including tournament victories at Michigan State and a very special gold medal with the USA team at the World U-18 Championships.
FloridaPanthers.com: How’s your off-season going?
David Booth: "Good, just staying in shape and playing some golf. It’s a long off-season, still some guys playing right now – there’s some fun playoff hockey."
FP.com: What are your thoughts on the Cup?
Booth: "I think it’s been great for the game, showing just how exciting this game can be. Hopefully it goes to game 7 – that could be pretty cool to see. I really want Boston to win, especially with what happened to Nathan [Horton] there. That was really tough to see."
FP.com: Have you had any interaction with him [Horton]?
Booth: "I’ve reached out to him twice, sent him a text message, I don’t know if he’s got the same number. Tried to get to him on Facebook. He’s probably got a bunch of people trying to get to him, and it’s probably not the best for him to be on the phone right now. Just to let him know I’m thinking of him."
FP.com: What are your thoughts on the Kevin Dineen hiring?
Booth: "From everything I’ve heard it sounds like this is going to be a great fit for us. He’s a very positive guy that’s going to try to change this culture here and move us in the right direction. That’s what we need. So I’m really excited to meet him and play for him. Already excited for the year and it’s just June 9th."
FP.com: You were drafted in the second round in 2004 in Raleigh. What was the draft process like for you?
Booth: "It was weird because I went to three years of high school so I could go to college early to get two years of college eligibility before I was drafted. I didn’t know, going into college as a freshman, if I would play a lot so my parents and a couple of advisers thought it would be best if maybe we got to college a year early and had an extra year of college.
"Turns out, my freshman year of college was much better than my sophomore year of college. If I could have had another decent year in college as a sophomore I think I would have had a better understanding of where I was going to go but I think I only scored like 6 goals my sophomore year. I didn’t really know how that was going to turn out.
"I didn’t even think Florida was on the radar because I went to the combine and I think I didn’t have interviews with like three teams and Florida was one of those teams. So, going to the draft, they were probably one of the last teams in my mind that I thought I was going to get drafted by."
FP.com: Was there any contact at all from Florida before you were drafted?
Booth: "Yeah there was. We ended up going to the draft, and there was a meeting with them the night before the draft. And that was the only one. So I thought it was kind of late, and I didn’t think anything of it really. Leaving the meeting, I think it was one of my most intense interviews. They had the most people in it, and took it the most seriously of all the interviews. So, I thought that was kind of good."
FP.com: Had you ever been to Florida before you were drafted?
Booth: (Laughs) "Just for vacation, I think that’s why everybody goes to Florida. Just vacation, but never for hockey or anything."
FP.com: Do you remember any intense work outs from the draft combine?
Booth: "Yeah, I remember we had a push up test, sit up test. We had the wind gate and the VO2. I remember all of that stuff. I don’t know much that really affects anything, but I do remember it all."
FP.com: You talked about your family – how were they throughout the draft process?
Booth: "They were excited. We had my aunt and uncle coming too. It was definitely an exciting process just to see. I mean that’s your dream – to play in the NHL, and that was just the first step towards that. And I mean, man, an NHL team has an interest in you – I thought that was pretty cool, and so did my parents."
FP.com: Was there a moment that it really clicked in your head and you thought, “Hey, I can really be an NHL player?”
Booth:(Laughs) "I think it was after my first game. Even when I got called up, there were like five kids that called up my first year before me, so I was like “Alright, these guys probably have a better shot – they’re picking these guys before me.” So, even when I was called up, I was thinking they’re just giving everyone a chance. But after my first game, I was like, “You know what, I think I’ve got a shot at playing here.” It was actually against Boston (my first game), so it was cool to play against Tim Thomas in net – I remember that. It was cool playing with Joe Nieuwendyk on the line; Jozef Stumpel, Gary Roberts, Ed Belfour were all on the team. It was pretty cool – guys I grew up watching - playing with at the time.
FP.com: Did you end up getting a draft jersey, and if so, where is it?
Booth: "Yeah, I did. It’s in my basement. I have a bunch of jerseys and it’s just right there with all those ones."
FP.com: Going back to your days at Michigan State, do you have any great memories from playing there in different NCAA tournaments?
Booth: "Yeah, we won a couple of tournaments there. We won the CCHA championship in my senior year. We won the Great Lakes Invitational in my senior or junior year. Looking back, I have great memories of Michigan State, the process, the player that it made me, and the guys that I was around."
FP.com: In regards to Dale Tallon – how do you feel about his plan?
Booth: "It’s definitely going in the right direction. It seemed like we always just made minor changes – the past couple of years just tweaking things. Now it seems like we’re going with major changes, which I think needed to be done especially if we want to win. We’ve been close a lot, and we’ve always been close, but we need to get over that next step. It’s got to come with a change, and I think Dale is doing it the right way."
FP.com: Last thing – what’s your favorite moment in your entire hockey career?
Booth: (Laughs) "Oh, my favorite moment in my entire hockey career? I’d say it’s probably winning the Under-18 gold medal in Slovakia. That was really cool – the first time the USA ever won. It was great getting to play with those guys all year in the USA program. It’s just something – beating the World. We played Russia in the finals with Semin, Ovechkin on that team. Just a bunch of guys we really had no business beating out there, but we ended up beating them, 3-1. I had two goals in that game, some I’ll never forget. I didn’t play much in that tournament – I was just the fourth line grinder (laughs). I think those were my first two goals of the tournament, so I’ll always remember that.