It was only one year ago - June 21, 2003 to be exact - but for Hugh Jessiman, the excitement of being selected by the New York Rangers - his favorite NHL team - in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft hasn't faded much.
With the 2004 NHL Entry Draft set for next Saturday, June 26-27 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, newyorkrangers.com recently caught up with Jessiman to relive his special day of a year ago.
June 21, 2003 was one of the best days of my life, for sure. It was an experience I wish every hockey player could go through, but that's one of the special things about it. It doesn't mean you've 'made it' but it was a great day to celebrate with my family.
I think it made everything a little more that my parents and family were there because I think they really got a taste of what I have been striving for and dreaming of. For any kid, I think it's a great thing to be with your family because everyone involved has made sacrifices along the way and it's a day where you feel proud and it's great to have people there who have given things up for you. It's a nice thing to share with them.
For me, the experience was pretty much out of a written script. It was basically what I had dreamed of my entire life. Playing street hockey in my back yard, I pretty much dreamed of playing in New York. The Rangers have always been my favorite team. My buddies and I grew up following them closely. Other than living in the New York area, one of the main reasons why I became such a big fan was the experience of going to Madison Square Garden. The fans, the atmosphere ... it doesn't get better than that. It's one of the things that gets me pumped up about going to a Rangers game. The possibility of The Garden being my home arena down the road is pretty incredible.
For me, being drafted was just a start. I know that I have to continue to work on my game and improve on a lot of things. This is something I had always dreamed of. Now, thanks to June 21, 2003, it's a reality. I have to stay focused and work towards achieving my next goal - playing in the NHL.