Blunden, Bailey see their dreams come true

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

It was comparable to being one of the final few tie- wearing teenagers sitting in the stands at an NHL draft held in an arena.

Michael Blunden was the fourth-last of 21 "top prospects" invited to attend yesterday's system-stock at the Westin Hotel when the Chicago Blackhawks finally called his name in the second round with the 43rd pick overall.

But if he suffered any anxiety because of the wait, it was impossible to tell when it was over.

"Hey, it really doesn't matter if you come out (of the waiting room) last, it's still a great honour to be drafted," said Blunden, who along with Nepean's Jason Bailey (third round, 63rd overall to Anaheim) was one of two locals to reach a lifelong goal yesterday.

A 6-foot-4 Gloucester-raised winger who plays for the OHL's Erie Otters and entered the day as the 20th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting, Blunden summed up the day best.

"I'm enjoying the moment," he said.

So was his dad Dave, a Coca-Cola employee who will be on the receiving end of many a handshake when he returns to work this week. Dave Blunden and 11-year-old daughter Jennifer accompanied Michael to the draft, while mother Elizabeth was at the Belleville Bulls mini-camp watching next-in-line son Steven, along with 14-year old brother Sean, who is growing at a rate that will make him the largest Blunden of all.

BACK SURGERY

"It's very nerve-racking," Dave Blunden said of the experience, laughing. "I'm glad it's over and I'm glad it's Chicago. He's happy and looking forward to it."

Blunden would have likely gone considerably higher if not for the back problems that have plagued his past.

Stress fractures were corrected with surgery 15 months ago, but he feels his inability to properly prepare for the 2004-05 season affected his numbers.

"It was a serious operation and it put a lot of fright in people's minds," said Dave Blunden. "Teams make a substantial investment when they draft players ... I don't blame them for being careful.

"You have to know Michael. He's one of those people who never gives up. He has a dream and he's not letting go."

The same can be said for Bailey, a former Nepean Raider (CJHL) who will be a teammate of Jack Johnson (third overall) with the University of Michigan Wolverines this season.

Bailey, who opted for the college route after the 67's selected him in the second round of the 2003 OHL Priority Selection, was Central Scouting's 56th-rated North American skater heading into the draft.

He watched yesterday's proceedings over the Internet at his family home, then drove to the Westin to meet GM Brian Burke after he was picked.

"I was seeing all these names going fast, and I just had a good feeling about the third round," said Bailey, a hard-working "character" player who was part of the U.S. under-18 world championship team last April. "It just turned out to be a great day."

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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