|Windsor Spitfires forward Taylor Hall speaks to media during a press conference in Edmonton. (Jason Franson/QMI AGENCY)
EDMONTON - The first question to Taylor Hall was to ask him what he thought he was doing here. I mean, what was the point?
His visit Thursday had the feel of an NCAA recruiting trip. But if the Edmonton Oilers want him, all they have to do is pick him.
A few seconds after thousands of people in Rexall Place, watching proceedings from the NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles on the video board chant “Hall! Hall! Hall” like they did “Doan! Doan! Doan!” when the draft was held here in 1995, all club brass has to do is step up to the microphone and say the words — “The Edmonton Oilers select, from the Windsor Spitfires, Taylor Hall.”
So why, after all the poking and prodding and testing and interviewing he's already gone through, was he in Edmonton yesterday?
“I have no idea,” he said.
“Just to get to know me and to meet Mr. (Daryl) Katz,” was his best guess.
The two-time Memorial Cup champion and first ever back-to-back tournament MVP flew in at noon, had lunch, took a tour of Rexall Place, visited the Oilers offices, attended a press scrum at Sutton Place and was then taken to owner Katz's house for dinner.
He'd already gone through the same drill with the Boston Bruins, who have the second selection in the June 25 draft. And Tyler Seguin is expected to go through the same routine here next week. Today, Hall, who spent most of his minor hockey years in Calgary, finally gets to go home to Kingston for a dozen days before headed to L.A. for the draft.
“I've only slept three days in my own bed since the end of the season,” he reported.
But he's not complaining. A guy only gets to be the first pick in the NHL Entry Draft once in his life.
“I've been on the go since the season ended. I'm having fun with it.”
The Edmonton media tried to make it fun for him, too, with the challenge of asking him some questions that maybe he'd never faced before. And Hall, I'm here to tell you, has improved dramatically as an interview subject since I covered him at the World Junior in Saskatoon.
“I'm a lot more comfortable since Saskatoon,” he agreed. “Especially after these last three weeks.”
Some of the questions?
Did Kevin Lowe tell him if he could wear his No. 4 here?
“I'm not big on numbers,” said Hall, admitting he most certainly wouldn't get No. 4 in Boston where Bobby Orr's number is up in the rafters, Orr also happening to be his agent and all.
Hall, who remembers playing in two tournaments in Edmonton as a minor hockey player, was asked of his impressions of attending the Heritage Classic with his dad here a week after his 12th birthday.
“I just wondered how people were drinking beer it was so cold,” he said of the crowd in minus-20 degree temperatures in Commonwealth Stadium.
Asked if he knew the difference in the drinking age between Boston and Edmonton, he answered the question correctly — “21 and 18” — and then politically correctly — “It doesn't matter to me, I'm a hockey player.”
Another question of that ilk: Seafood or steak?
“Actually I like steak,” he said of New England fare vs Alberta beef.
He said he was pretty impressed with the Oilers' state of the art dressing room — “It was super nice, better than anything I've ever seen before” — and said he walked on the Rexall Place floor and was impressed with all the banners.
It was pointed out to him the spot from where Wayne Gretzky scored his 50th goal in 39 games.
“It was pretty special,” he said.
He did not get to Commonwealth Stadium to the training camp of the Eskimos, the team his dad began his brief CFL career with here. And asked if he could ever see himself taking a run in a bobsled like his dad who competed for Canada in the sport after his football career was complete, he had a good answer for that one, too.
“Never! And pretty soon I'll be signing an NHL contract that says I can't do that.”
As for wanting to play here, he made it quite clear he wanted to be No. 1 and be an Edmonton Oiler.
“I think Edmonton is a great city ... If I'm fortunate enough for the Edmonton Oilers to pick me, I can be part of a young team that's on the rise and part of this city which loves the game. I'd like to be part of this city. I certainly know how hockey crazy the city is,” he said.
Pointing out that in the brief time in town he was astonished how many people recognized him, he added, “it would be cool to play here.”
He had a solid answer for the question of whether or not he could handle everything involved with being the face of the franchise.
“I think I can handle it. I was the face (of the franchise) in Windsor. I was the second pick in the bantam draft and went to the worst team in the league and won the Memorial Cup last year and again this year.
The Oilers have a chance to be like Pittsburgh, Washington and Chicago and go up. It's pretty exciting.”
I'm with Oilers coach Pat Quinn when it comes to this guy.
“It would be pretty hard not to pick him.”