Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: See You There!
Next story: Alex and Ada: Vol. 1

The NHL Draft is Coming... and Maybe More

Commissioner Bettman in town this week for the big announcement

With HarborCenter hosting its first event on October 31 and a formal grand opening one week later, the Buffalo Sabres have been rolling out the news of more and more signature events to take place at the First Niagara Center. The team has already locked in the NHL combine and the Prospects Game for two seasons, and they have set their sights on bringing back the IIHF World Juniors in 2017, although Buffalo will undoubtedly be facing strong competition from other American cities hoping to land that marquee event.

So while this week’s news came as no huge surprise, nonetheless the official announcement was very welcome...Buffalo will be the host city for the National Hockey League entry draft, which will take place on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25, 2016. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was on the dais along with Sabres president Ted Black and Buffalo mayor Byron Brown to make the announcement.

What does this mean for Buffalo? Well, a lot, actually.

Taro Sez...

• 2,500 people and more are dead thanks to Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine. Tens of thousands more are displaced. What was the gleaming new Sergei Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk lies in ruins. Yet all this needless horror and carnage at the hands of the Russians didn’t stop Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin from sending birthday wishes last week to Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin, along with this message: “You’re on the right track and we respect your actions and will support you in everything always because we also love our country!!!”

• Unsuccessful Buffalo Bills bidder Donald Trump also took to social media last week with a number of sour grapes tweets, including taking pleasure at the team’s loss to New England this past Sunday. Back in January, local GOP elected officials and party operatives were tripping over each other at a local fund raising event to sidle up to The Donald and get that photo opp, many paying $1,000 and more for the privilege. Memo to the eventual Republican nominee for County Executive in 2015: Taro is looking forward to seeing your very own Trump photo in your campaign lit next year. Or maybe not.

The two day event is expected to pump as much as $10 million into the local economy, as hundreds of team executives from the NHL and the junior leagues, along with scouts, coaches, players, prospects and their families descend on Buffalo to take part in what will be seven rounds of player selections which take place over the course of the event.

“We’re partnering with 15 hotels, many of whom are represented here today,” said Black as he took part in the unveiling announcement. Packed hotels downtown will be one of the cornerstones of the event, with the two new properties—the Courtyard Marriott at One Canalside and the yet to be opened Marriott HarborCenter certainly serving as headquarter lodgings.

Bettman also heaped praise on the city, admitting that a number of other NHL teams had inquired about hosting the 2016 draft. “We like Buffalo because of the strong fan base, the cooperation of the mayor and the local government, the superb facilities, and the commitment by the team to make these sorts of events successful,” said Bettman. Being at the end of a long travel day, Bettman admitted that he had not yet toured HarborCenter, but was hoping to do so on his stay in Buffalo. “This is a unique facility like none other anywhere. We’re convinced that the entire hockey world will be abuzz as this will be the only three rink facility in the NHL. Buffalo, you should by very proud of what you have pulled off,” said Bettman.

The spectacle of the entry draft has grown in size and stature over the years. Buffalo last hosted the event in 1998, in what was then a one day affair. Vincent Lecavalier was chosen first overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Buffalo selected defenseman Dmitri Kalinin in the first round and left winger Andrew Peters in the second round that year.

It is also a terrific viewing spectacle—while the arena floor is covered with tables and pits for each of the 30 teams, all linked to their war rooms back at their home venues, ticketed fans can watch the entire spectacle from the 200 and 300 levels, as the horse trading and machinations of the draft unfold and player after player gets called up to the stage for their first taste of the NHL.

Yet to be unveiled is what surely will be an expansive FanFest, and Canalside, which will also include the new canals, will make for a tremendous host venue. In Philadelphia last year, outdoor activities included a full size hockey rink with sticks and balls for pick up play and skills challenges, displays by all 30 teams, games and rides for kids, interactive experiences, food trucks, libations and music. “Our front office will be putting together a schedule of events to appeal to our entire fan base,” Black promised.

As for the promise of a future NHL All Star Game? “We’re waiting for a bid from Buffalo,” Bettman coyly stated. Is a bid coming? “Yes,” said Black.

Stay tuned.

blog comments powered by Disqus