Before his Draft Day on June 27, 1998, Andrew Peters had met with almost every team in the NHL. Projected to be selected anywhere from the late first round to the third round, he sat in the stands of what is now First Niagara Center here in Buffalo and waited to hear his name called.
A big, tough wing playing for the Oshawa Generals, Peters found his niche as a physical presence and a fighter in his draft year, scoring 11 goals and racking up 220 penalty minutes.
Buffalo was one of the teams that had met with him prior to the draft and he remembers having a really good interview with a large group that included Darcy Regier, Lindy Ruff, Don Luce, Larry Carriere, Doug McKenney and Mike Racicot.
“You’d think it would be intimidating, but it was actually relaxed and that was my kind of atmosphere,” Peters recalled.
Toward the end of the first round of the 1998 NHL Draft, there was a run on big wings. Scott Parker, Ramzi Abid and Stephen Peat were all off the board by the time Buffalo was back on the clock with the 34th overall pick. Peters tried to prepare for the moment.
“When Buffalo came around, I knew,” he said. “I had that gut feeling.
“…I think the biggest question I would ask was, ‘What’s it going to sound like to hear my name called at the NHL Draft?’”
So what did it sound like when Buffalo selected him in the second round?
“I don’t even think I heard it, actually,” he said.
A native of St. Catharines, Ont., he had a lot of family members sitting with him when the big moment finally came.
“My name got called. I remember my family going nuts and that was it,” Peters said. “It’s just a day that was an unexpected surprise from where I was two years prior to that. From where I went from 16 to 18, for me, it was just an experience. I didn’t even think I was supposed to be there.”
Once his name was announced, he leaned over and hugged his brother Geoff, who had been drafted 46th overall by Chicago two years earlier. Geoff’s experiences proved invaluable as he helped Peters in his preparation for the interview process, the fitness testing and everything else that comes with trying to get drafted.
Peters was happy to have Geoff there, and while he’s still grateful for all of Geoff’s help, Peters was really happy to finally have the upper hand on his big brother.
“To go higher than he did, that was pretty sick,” Peters said with a smile. “Because my whole life, I’ve always been second fiddle to my brother. To go higher than him in the draft, that was my ultimate moment right there.”
Right after the draft, he was approached by Luce, who told him to get ready for a six-week training program with the other rookies. While in Buffalo for the conditioning stint, he saw pros like Michael Peca, Jay McKee, Matthew Barnaby, Rob Ray and Dixon Ward go through their off-season workouts. Peters saw first-hand how hard he’d have to work to make it to the next level.
“You’re getting whipped into shape just to go back to junior and you’re seeing these guys do the same things to stay in the NHL,” he said. “It’s an eye-opening experience. That was the biggest thing for me.”
Peters went on to play six seasons in the NHL, including his first five in Buffalo, racking up four goals and 650 career penalty minutes. He now co-hosts Sabres Hockey Hotline with Kevin Sylvester on WGR 550 on weekdays from 10 a.m. until noon.
Being drafted by the Sabres may actually have kick started a 20-year plan set forth for him by the organization.
“They were thinking, ‘One day, we’re going to have a radio show,’” Peters joked, “‘and this guy would be great for a radio show.’”