Imagine being 18 years old, a projected first-round draft pick into the National Hockey League and you are trying to win over a prospective employer during interview after interview.
What would you say to separate yourself from the hundreds of others? Would you embellish certain details to impress a general manager or scout?
With the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine just having been held here in Buffalo, I’ve been thinking: What stories are being fabricated by this year’s draft-eligible prospects?
Turns out back in 2001, Tuomo Ruutu found himself in a situation like that. But clearly, the native of Vantaa, Finland wasn’t losing sleep over it.
Calgary was slated to pick 11th that year and as then-general manager Craig Button recalls, Ruutu was one of a handful of kids that Flames’ scouts had targeted.
“I wasn’t in on that particular interview,” Button said of his teams’ session with the very personable Ruutu. “But my brother was.”
Tod Button was Calgary’s director of scouting and was really impressed with the young winger’s enthusiasm for the game – and specifically for the Flames.
Craig can’t help but chuckle when looking back.
“Tod couldn’t wait to tell me that during their chat, Ruutu cited being a fan of numerous Flames greats and even went so far as to say he had Calgary Flames pajamas when he was a kid!” Craig recalled.
Why would anyone lie about something like that?
Alas, Ruutu and his jammies never made it to the Canadian Rockies as he was scooped up by the Blackhawks with the ninth-overall pick.
Calgary, meanwhile, traded back and selected Chuck Kobasew at 14.
Fast forward to the fall of 2001: Tod Button and Dale Tallon, Chicago’s director of player personnel, find themselves on a European scouting trip. Tod takes the opportunity to follow up on Ruutu.
Craig Button picks up the story.
“So Tod and Dale get chatting. And Dale can’t help but talk about the Hawks’ first round pick, this burgeoning power forward Tuomo Ruutu.”
Tallon then dropped this little nugget of information from their interview with him.
“Man, he just blew us away with his love for Chicago, talking about all our great players from the past,’” Tallon told Tod. “He even said he had Blackhawks pajamas as a kid!’”
Imagine Craig’s laughter when recounting this tale.
Imagine Tod’s silence when learning of Ruutu’s unlikely obsession (allegedly) with NHL-sanctioned sleepwear.
Tod never let on that he knew anything more than Dale did. After all, how could he? Both of them had essentially been fleeced, if you will, by an 18-year-old.
It’s a classic tale, woven by familiar names in this great game.