The National Hockey League’s draft caravan has arrived at Scotiabank Place.
While the big show doesn’t hit the spotlight until Friday night, workers began scurrying about on the floor of the Ottawa Senators’ home arena early this morning to set the stage – literally and figuratively – for the 2008 edition of the NHL entry draft.
Soon enough, they’ll transform the building into the sight more than 12,000 spectators and television viewers across North America will see when the lights turn on for real on Friday evening.
“We should have everything in place by end of the day Wednesday or early Thursday,” said Bill Miller, the NHL’s vice-president of events and entertainment. “We’ll have some computer training sessions for the team people, just to refresh their knowledge of the selection system. We’ll bring some of our volunteers in for meetings, just to familiarize them with the layout.
“By Thursday morning, everything will look 100 per cent like a draft.”
Not that the league isn’t familiar with the process. Miller said what is being set up at Scotiabank Place follows essentially “the same template” used a year ago at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, with a few tweaks made here and there.
For hockey fans in Ottawa, it’s a first opportunity to see a full-scale NHL draft. The Senators also played host to the 2005 entry draft – the event that heralded the league was open for business again after a season-long lockout. But it was held downtown at the Westin hotel, with not a single spectator in the house.
“It’ll have much more atmosphere. It’ll feel like a big event,” Miller said of the difference fans will see Friday and Saturday.
“You take that (2005 draft), add water and watch it grow.”
While the draft is technically the wrap-up event of the 2007-08 season, for a lot of teams, it’s a chance for a new beginning.
“This is really like starting anew, the circle of life of hockey,” said Miller. “We had a Stanley Cup champion crowned (two weeks ago). Now we’re starting fresh again.
“Everyone has an equal chance and they’re laying the foundation for the future. So it’s kind of the season of hope for everyone.”