Month: June 2011



The Stanley Cup Final is finally over! Not that the hockey season and playoffs weren’t exciting, but let’s face it, June 15th is late for the average fan to be thinking about hockey. But wait, it’s not over yet. The NHL Entry Draft is coming up on Friday, June 24th and 25th in St-Paul Minnesota.

The two day event is hosted by a different NHL city every year and attracts thousands of hockey staff, media, fans, players, their families and agents. The NHL draft has evolved over the years and seems to grow in exposure and popularity as each city wants  to be the best host.

Here are a few facts about the NHL Draft that a good hockey fan should know and a personal story:

The first draft was held in Montreal, June 5, 1963 and has been held every year since. Once it was known as the “NHL Amateur Draft” until 1979 when the name was changed to “NHL Entry Draft”. Why the name change, you ask? The reason for the change was because the NHL was drafting players who had played Professional in the World Hockey Association and were no longer “amateur” players.

The two day format was introduced in 1993. The first round which takes about 3-4 hours is held on the first day and the remaining 6 rounds the next day.

Toronto was the first city to hold the draft other than Montreal in 1985 and the first NHL Draft held outside of Canada was at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in 1987.

For the players, it’s much more exciting today than it was when I played Jr. Hockey in the Quebec Jr. Hockey League. I was drafted in the first round, 5th overall, by the Montreal Canadiens in 1966. The draft system was in its infancy then. Prior to the development of the “Amateur Draft”, NHL teams sponsored junior teams, and signed prospects through them. Players were signed to one of three forms: the “A” form, which committed a player to a tryout; a “B” form, which gave the team an option to sign a player in return for a bonus; and the “C” form, which committed a player’s professional rights. The first drafts only included players who had not signed with an NHL organization except for the Montreal Canadiens.

A rule that favored the Canadiens, allowed them to draft two French Canadiens every year whether they had signed a form or not. The Habs drafted me away from the Boston Bruins with their #1 choice and 5th overall in 1966.

Being drafted was much different than the “BIG SHOW” they put on today. I learned of my fate in the newspaper and nobody from the Canadiens contacted me until it was time to report to training camp. Being drafted was a total surprise for me as I knew nothing about this rule allowing the Canadiens to swipe players away from the other teams. Former Bruins General Manager Milt Schmidt told me later that they contested my French Canadian status because my father was born in Hawkesbury, Ontario. But I was born in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec and although Hawkesbury is in Ontario, it is a French town and the Bruins checked my dad’s birth certificate which was written in French.

This rule was applied until 1970 when other NHL teams realized that a young “star” named Gilbert Perreault was coming through the Quebec league and was eligible for that draft. With expansion looming, the rule was abolished. The last two players to be selected by Montreal under that “French Canadian” rule were my former teammates, Marc Tardif and Rejean Houle.

So anybody who is somebody in the Hockey Circles will be in St-Paul Minnesota this week-end to participate in the NHL Entry Draft and, in some way, celebrate the conclusion of another NHL season…BUT WAIT! The official Free Agent List comes out July 1st which will open the 2011-12 season. Here we go again…! It never seems to end…!


In memory of my good friend E.J. Macguire who loved draft day.



Chara lifts the cup

The Boston Bruins won the 2011Stanley Cup! It was in a very tough 7 game series against the Vancouver Canucks where each team won their home games… until the last one which the Bruins won by a score of 4-0. Three of the four series that the Bruins won went to a seventh and deciding game.
They beat the Montreal Canadiens in seven games in the first round after losing the first two games at home. Tim Thomas was a pillar of strength in the Bruins goal as they won the other two “game seven” by shutout, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 and finally the Canucks 4-0.

The uncontested MVP, Tim Thomas was instrumental in the Bruins conquest of the Cup. His numbers are among the best in the NHL ever in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but more importantly, his consistency and competitiveness was contagious to his teammates and proves that nice guys don’t finish last. He is a player that exemplifies courage, character and determination. No NHL team wanted him for a long time. His unorthodox style made it an uphill battle. He is a great role model for young players aspiring to play in the NHL . . . and very inspiring even for a veteran like me.

Certainly, all the players deserve accolades for a great triumph. But the man who made it all possible is undoubtedly Peter Chiarelli, the Bruins General Manager. He took over a team that was going nowhere in 2006. They had missed the playoffs the previous season and 4 of the last nine years. The Bruins had not reached the second round of the playoffs since 1999. Attendance and interest in the team by the Beantowners was at an all-time low. They missed the playoffs in his first year as GM. He showed a lot of courage after that first year, firing Dave Lewis, the man he had hired as Head Coach to guide the team out of the doldrums. It didn’t work out, so he bit the bullet and hired Claude Julien who soon will be wearing a Stanley Cup Ring.

Peter is not afraid to pay the price to get what he needs and his owners have stood behind him in some bold and audacious moves. He started building this team when he signed Zdeno Chara as a free agent for big money. This was the player around whom he could build his team. He went on to clear the dressing room of unwanted players, acquiring draft picks and assets that he could use to mold the team to his specifications. 

He added the controversial “sniper”, Michael Ryder from Montreal, veteran and team leader Mark Recchi as a free agent and acquired Daniel Paille from Buffalo. All three of those players played an important role on the road to winning this Championship .

His biggest accomplishments were done between the trade deadline in March 2010 and the deadline of 2011. He acquired six players who played major roles in their Stanley Cup Run.

The Florida Panthers helped the Bruins win this Stanley Cup. Peter made deals to acquire Dennis Seidenberg, Gregory Campbell and, my favorite player in Florida, Nathan Horton from the Panthers.

I was still a pro scout with the Panthers when Dennis Seidenberg was traded to the Bruins at the trade deadline of March 2010.  We had signed Dennis as a free agent for one year with a $1.5 million dollar signing bonus payable at the end of the season. The owners in Florida insisted that we trade him so that they wouldn’t have to pay that money. Chiarelli made the deal for a 2nd round pick and change without batting an eye, he paid the bonus and then resigned him long term. He played as Chara’s partner against all the opposition top lines throughout the playoffs. Getting Horton and Campbell from Florida was a master piece. Horton is a legitimate top line player, a difference maker who can score, skate and play physical. He is the type of player who is never available and that GM’s always look for.  Campbell is an excellent role player, character player who can play in all situations.

Getting Rich Peverley from the Atlanta Thrashers really gave him a pivotal player who can play all forward positions, provide some offense and help on the Power play. I always liked Peverly while he was with Nashville and I was a Pro Scout. We tried to acquire him in Florida but couldn’t get it done.

Chris Kelly was an important acquisition for Boston from the Ottawa Senators. He gave up a 2nd round pick but Peter knew exactly what he was getting. A character player, a hard worker and a great team player. The final piece of the puzzle was Thomas Kaberle acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline.

A total of six new players acquired since the trade deadline of 2010 helped the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup. In today’s Salary Cap world, where trades are so difficult to make, it is amazing that he was able to pull that off. It may be unprecedented and likely won’t be duplicated any time soon.

 There is no doubt in my mind that the “Man behind the Cup” is Peter Chiarelli.