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Draft Memories: Jack Skille

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
Jack Skille poses with Dale Tallon after being drafted seventh overall by the Blackhawks in the 2005 NHL Draft (Getty Images)
By Andrew Imber for

One of the lesser-known impacts of the NHL’s lockout during the 2004-05 season, was the odd draft that it led to. With no results to use as guidance, a system of ping-pong balls was used to determine which team would pick where. And strangely enough, instead of the big production that an NHL Entry Draft usually is, this one was unique in its simplicity.
Behind the closed doors of a private "green room" inside of a hotel in downtown Ottawa, Jack Skille was chosen seventh overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. He then went onto the University of Wisconsin, where his dramatic triple overtime goal helped his Badgers win a national championship.
Now, just six years later, Skille has been traded from the Blackhawks to the Florida Panthers, and is reunited with the man that drafted him. Skille takes the time to look back on the very unusual draft, and other fond memories during his ride to the NHL. How’s your offseason going?

Skille: “It’s going well. I’m just starting up the work outs again after a couple of weeks off after the World Championships. Getting back into the swing of things.” How was the experience of the World Championships?

Skille: “It was awesome – a lot of fun. Good hockey. Great team. We had a character team over there. Everyone got along. It definitely made the experience a lot better.” So you’ve got the new two-year contract. Excited to be coming back?

Skille: “Yeah, absolutely. I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get back down to that sunny weather, even though it’s getting nice in Wisconsin. It was a good time while I was there last season. I’m looking forward to some good hockey.” You were drafted back in the 2005 draft. What was the process like?

Skille: “I remember the combine and everything leading up to that. How nerve-wracking it was being so young and going into the lion’s den with all those teams. I think I had around 27 meetings, just because it was the year of the lockout so nobody knew what order they were going to be in.

“I met with pretty much every team and it was really nerve-wracking. I remember going into Chicago’s meeting just because Dale was there – and it was one of those teams that just made everything light and fun. I remember that really well. I know that as a young guy, you’re so nervous going in there and talking to the big dogs like that. It was a good experience – definitely an experience that I’ll write down as one that made me way more mature, going through the process.” Were there any teams – I guess Chicago would be one of them – that showed particular interest in you?

Skille: “I’d say Chicago showed a lot. Columbus did too. Like I said though, it was really a crap shoot because no team knew what order they were going to go in. I knew I was projected right around the first round somewhere. So I really didn’t know where I was going to go, or who was going to pick me. Each of the 27 meetings was just as important as the next.” The 2005 draft was a very odd draft, being after the lockout. It was in a hotel lobby and not open to the public. Can you talk about some of the things that made the draft so odd?

Skille: “It was an extremely odd draft because of that. It was in a hotel – usually you see it in a big arena and see the guys get their names announced and standing up in their rows and hugging their families, and it’s on TV. It wasn’t that for us. We were in a back room – they called it the green room. We sat down at all these round tables, like dinner tables, in a hotel with our families and agents and whoever was there with us. When you got announced, there were a couple of TV cameras, so they were kind of giving away who was going up next. Once I saw a camera pointing at me and my table, I was like “No way,” it was the seventh pick, Chicago. Nothing could have been better at that point, since it was so close to home. I hugged my family, walked up on stage, and it was just kind of like an auditorium type thing at the hotel. Everything was a little bit different, just because it wasn’t in a big arena. But it was still a cool experience, no matter what.” Did you end up making any friends with anyone in your draft class?

Skille: “The great thing about my draft class is there were a lot of guys that I played with during the season that were involved in that draft. Jack Johnson, Ryan Stoa; I knew Bobby Ryan really well. There were a ton of people that I played with or against throughout my whole career in my age level. That draft, they only picked first round guys and maybe a little bit of the second round. So, having Stoa, Johnson and Ryan there, it was a good experience – having guys in there with you that you knew.” Where’s the draft jersey?

Skille: “It’s at my house right now, actually hanging up in a closet with all my other jerseys. I just moved into a new house, so I’ve got to figure it out – get all the jerseys that mean a lot and frame them up and hang them up on the walls. So obviously you have a relationship with Dale Tallon. He drafted you and now he has traded for you and you’re back with him. Can you talk a little bit about your interactions with Dale and what you think about him?

Skille: “I think when Dale’s being discussed, everyone tends to agree that he’s an extremely positive person. He knows the game well and how to get the right personnel together. He did it in Chicago; the team he put together just before he left was an outstanding team. He knows how to do it, and the best part about him is the players and everyone in the locker room believes in him. They know that he cares about them, and the sport, just as much as they do. I think that’s a huge part of the game – having a good locker room, and making sure everyone gets along. Everyone from the organization – from the high part of the management, all the way down to the players and the staff – everyone is on the same page. And I think Dale does a good job of making that happen.” I read about your famous triple overtime, game winning goal for Wisconsin, when you guys beat Cornell 1-0 in the Midwest Region final. Can you give me a little reminiscing about that?

Skille: “That was a marathon of a game. Looking back, it’s almost painful (laughs). How much of a struggle it was. I just remember some of my teammates out there, cramping up, not being able to go out, literally crawling off the ice to get into the player’s bench. It got to the point where it just seemed like you were stuck in the ice – you couldn’t move. It was such a mentally taxing game.

“I remember right before we went out for the third overtime. The assistant coach came up to me and said, “You know what, I think you’re going to score this goal.” I get goose bumps thinking about it. I remember thinking “No way, you know, okay I can do it.” He gave me that extra, and it sounds cliché, but that extra drive. When you’re playing that long in a game, you don’t really think I’m going to be the guy to do it, but you really know you’re going to give your best effort. That really gave me a little more of a drive. I hit a couple of posts earlier in the game. But it made it more realistic for me, when I went out there in that triple overtime and I got that opportunity.

“It was an unbelievable pass by Josh Engel. I remember it to this day – can see it happening, unwinding. Pavelski was changing, I went on the ice, and Mckee (the goalie) rimmed the puck around the zone. It was going out of the zone, but Engel, our defenseman, pinched down, on his off side, and picked the puck off with his backhand. I can’t believe to this day how he did it because it seems like an almost impossible play, and he just one-touched it off the boards right to me, right in my wheelhouse. I was right there, no one was guarding me, and McKee must have been out of position because he just rimmed the puck. All I was thinking was, “Hit the net.” And it went in, and I couldn’t even make it back to the bench to celebrate. All the guys cleared out.

“I still get goose bumps thinking about it, but it really wouldn’t have happened if Josh Engel didn’t make that great play.”
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