You just had to be at the draft

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

I was at the 2005-06 NHL entry draft this weekend, and you weren't.

Okay, maybe that sounded a bit juvenile, but it's not without cause.

Remember what high school was like? This was version 2.0, up to and including the roll call for teams beforehand. Add to this mixture the scores of media who mostly behave like friendly enemies, or "frenemies" -- a term best demonstrated by any film that Lindsay Lohan has appeared in. Strangely enough, the only one in the room that resembled the actress -- at least in size -- was Ottawa first-round pick Brian Lee. Look for more on the latest Senator below.

The event began with the introduction of commissioner Gary Bettman and Mayor Bob Chiarelli. Bob pointed out that the "franchisees" were waiting to select their pick. And I'm not making this up -- I could see Bettman's head bobbling from the fifth row of the riser where the media were situated.

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We were under way at five minutes past noon. Pittsburgh selected ... Sidney Crosby. The excitement was palpable. I had goosebumps (actually, that was the result of the excessive air conditioning).

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Mighty Ducks GM Brian Burke pulled a fast one eight minutes later, shunning the suspected trade and instead choosing to take New Jersey native (and Bob Clarke favourite) Bobby Ryan.

After Burke exited the stage, the Flyers GM pinned him to the floor with his trident. True story. TSN must've been at commercial.

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From my vantage point, I could discern from the unusually luminous sheen of GM Bob Gainey's head that the Habs were up to something. Sure enough, Montreal selected goalie Carey Price with the fifth pick overall, creating the first wave of surprise throughout the room.

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Four selections later, Ottawa headed to the stage. Jack Johnson, Benoit Pouliot and Gilbert Brule had all been chosen. I figured Sudbury Wolves defenceman Marc Staal was a lock. "With the ninth pick, the Ottawa Senators select ... Brian Lee." Whaa? If you're looking for that rare defenceman that can slip through a mail slot, Lee is your guy. He's the blueline version of Nicole Ritchie. If the NHL isn't going to take the implementation of a drug policy with any seriousness, then someone needs to hook this kid up with BALCO --fast.

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Fifteen minutes later and four rows down from my position, the newest Senator sat down with the Team 1200's Dean Brown and Gord Wilson. During the commercials, I caught Dean force-feeding Lee a sandwich from the boxed lunches supplied to the media. Great -- we're on the right track.

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The next few picks failed to hold my complete attention, so I went online using my cellular phone. ESPN's Bill Simmons thinks it's a good idea to attach goaltenders to the net with a 10-foot long chain. I would've considered that for Ron Hextall and Damian Rhodes.

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I spotted Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, and noticed a bandage on his forehead. Hopefully that wasn't Scott Niedermayer's adverse response to the Devils' latest offer.

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Toronto eventually emerged, and selected Finnish goaltender Tuukka Rask. It isn't fair when the draft pick with the coolest name ends up with the crappiest team. On the plus side, the Leafs' representatives were situated at the red-headed stepchild table -- an area miles from the stage in the back left corner.

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St. Louis chose Minnesota high school player T.J. Oshie (as a collective "who?" rose from the media riser). Edmonton's pick (at No. 25) was questionable -- Andrew Cogliano, the centre from St. Michael's, wasn't projected to go until the third round, according to the NHL's final ranking.

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People were skeptical about holding a scaled-down draft in Ottawa, but there shouldn't be any questions remaining. This was a fantastic draft, and a privilege for this media neophyte to witness firsthand. When 2008 arrives, you'll see what I mean. Having the Ottawa fans cheering in the background three years from now, it will still be an event to remember - even without a Sidney Crosby to be chosen.

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Someone needs to do a split-screen of Gainey and ghoulish New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, and then try and convince people that they don't share a connection on a DNA level.

erinnicks@yahoo.ca


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