Mustangs and the Live Draftby Matt Burch | September 13, 2017, 3:13 AM ET
*get popcorn, get cozy*
Everyone knows the origins of this story by now, so this will be brief. When there was a proposed meeting of the clans about a year ago, yours truly (GM of the Mustangs in case you forgot which article you clicked on) was skeptical. I told the wife, "this is crazy, but these guys want us to all meet up in Canada and do a live draft", to which she replied, "yeah, that's crazy". So I, the Calgary GM, who had probably the furthest to travel to the meeting along with fellow Missourian and Spartans' GM Sean Gallagher, did not pay any further heed to this insanity.
But the nagging feeling that I should go wouldn't go away. My wife, Wittney, offered up a proposal: take one thousand dollars and go by yourself and she'll in turn use one thousand for her new job. Ever the opportunist, I accepted.
Tour of North America
The itenerary of the two Americans - flying together - was given to Sonics GM Mike Franceschini. The response was pretty straightforward from Mike, "have you guys seen a map?"
Sean Gallagher - who barely made the first flight - booked the flights with my blessing (more like he said let's do this, I said okay whatever). Some would say spending hours flying with someone you've never met before is ballsy (Mike), but Sean and I had no worries. You have two huge hockey fans sitting next to each other for several hours, to us that's just several hours worth of talking hockey!
For posterity's sake, the first flight went from St. Louis to New York City, which besides the cavity search for Mr. Gallagher in St. Louis, went without a hitch. After NYC this duo went to Toronto, which as I understand it is the Mecca for everything in Canada, which is probably why many Canadians avoid it. Some GMs later described Toronto airport as a "zoo", and I have to say in comparison to STL, NYC, and Edmonton, that seems extremely accurate.
The Welcome Wagon
Upon arriving in Edmonton, Sean and I were greeted by Mike and commissioner Mark MacRae. The strange surreal weekend in Canada had officially begun, and where else to begin a weekend of overly passionate nerds than at a Beercade? In one word, that was marvelous, because it led me to the introduction of my mouth to a dish called poutine.
I should probably mention that Sean and I met many other GMs there, including Norm Donovan, Henry Skey, Eric Schneider, Ian Constable, and Kasim Husain. All great guys, but more about this poutine thing! I mean, I assume all who have read this know about it, but it really is the best. I was forced to wonder why don't we have this in America? Can I open a poutine chain at home? How have the Canadians kept this glorious dish from us? Needless to say I couldn't get enough. It's french fries with cheese curds, along with brown gravy to top it off. Simple. Genius. Exquisite.
The rest of the night was a blur - $2 guiness will do that - but I vaguely remember talking, laughing, being aware of GMs playing MarioKart, and scarfing down as much poutine as I possibly could!
Breaking Fasts and Breaking Ice....with Axes!
The first official event of the summit meeting took place on Friday afternoon, but many GMs were staying in the same hotel, and ended up mingling at breakfast in the lobby, as well as sharing lunch at the White Spot - more great Canadian fair.
As for the axe throwing, that was a thoroughly different activitiy for this American boy! Unsure of myself, I shanked a few axes at the target before I finally saw some semblance of a groove. For future reference: great ice breaker! The boys had a great time, and even turned it into an SICHL related competition.
After chucking sharp metal objects at wood for a while and making sure we still had all of our appendages, the next object on the list was a photo op with the Gretzky statue. Gretzky never graced SICHL with his skills, but his presence is ever-present, so this was a truly special event. What wasn't on the menu was the totally kickass (I can say this in an article right?) tour of the relatively new arena in Edmonton. The quality, the craftsmanship, the design, everything was just top notch. If nobody said a word (besides the tour guide, obviously) during the tour I don't think anyone would have noticed. Simply brilliant. Another home run from Mike Franceschini.
Finally, to end the night, the GMs all went to a pub that had the upstairs reserved for our very exclusive group. Much drink was drunk, much food was eaten (poutine of course), stories shared, and the trades......my god the trades, but this was only the beginning.
After all was said and done, the GMs went back to their respective domiciles, except for some very committed GMs (myself included) who decided to end with a nightcap in one of the other GM's hotel room (Michael and Jeff.....I think), and that's where things got a tad out of hand. Either Michael or Sean proposed a trade with all of the GMs in the room, and there was just enough booze going around that it sounded like a great idea. I personally suspected something like this was going to happen at the draft and not the night before, but anything can and will occur when alcohol is involved. Again, though, this was only prelude to the wild trading frenzy that took over the 2017 SICHL Entry Draft.
Dr. Tradelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Accept This Draft is Going to Take Forever
What's that? The first round took how long? 1.5 hours? 2.5? 3 hours?! How many trades were made?!? I think I might have blacked out for a moment, honestly, right up until my pick. Round 1 was exciting and excruciating all at the same time. Picking towards the end of the first round was a trial, but watching the live action of trading plus the interviews were great fun. Kasim may have twisted the knife a little when he asked if I planned on using my pick when it finally came to me, and even though I was tempted to talk trade I was pretty anxious to make my first pick in the first and possibly only ever live draft! Had to pass, sorry Kas.
Before I continue I should say the room setup was magnificent and absolutely perfect, although by now maybe I should just start calling it "Franceschiniesque". The big screen for the draft, periscope, and of course the merch (thanks for the card, Jeff). The draft room only added to the excitement of the moment which will be locked in my memory forever.
After persevering through the draft in the time alotted, we moved on to the celebration at the Franceschini headquarters to enjoy some more food, conversation, and the McGregor-Mayweather fight.
Mike Franceschini's Punch Out
After inviting us into his beautiful HQ, some new guy hazing occurred as Rockies' GM Ian Constable was forced to bbq for us all and, as is tradition, ate last. Word is the Calgary GM approved thoroughly with this arrangement.
With the marathon that was the seven-round entry draft behind us, the atmosphere was relaxed and the conversations flowed. Henry and Eric performed interviews of each GM present as part of a pre-season power ranking, followed by a meeting of the minds where Mark and Mike led an open discussion on some future SICHL ideas.
After about an hour long panel discussion, we decided to unwind the only way we know how: watch a fight on TV! But not just any fight, this one was the McGregor-Mayweather bout that has been talked about, and talked about, and talked about....you get the idea. Nobody gave McGregor a shot, but there were still some who held out hope (Don).
The first few rounds went by and it looked like the Irish kid could do it! But, predictably, he wore down after about round four and Mayweather started to kick it into gear, scoring the TKO in round ten. The outcome wasn't surprising, but overall it was a satisfying fight, and a good end to the night.
The nightcap back at the hotel was more brief and less populous, as the two American boys couldn't quite sleep right away so drank a beer, watched TV, chatted, and, of course, pored silently over the draft picks we made and asked ourselves, "who the hell did I take in round 7 again?"
So, again, many of the hotel GMs met at breakfast and chatted it up, mostly about picks from the day before, cursing Ryan, Guy, and Sean for sniping, y'know the usual. The fatigue was beginning to show, however, as I think most everyone was ready to get back to their lives...or just their hotel beds.
Not scheduled to leave until mid afternoon, some of the GMs decided to have one last meal at the White Spot before parting, not seeing each other again until possibly the next live draft.
A Thank You and A GM Breakdown
I personally could not thank all of the GMs who made this possible enough, but it really was all of you, not just a few. You far exceeded any expectations I had for this event, so here's my own personal comments to you all, because individual emails are just plain tedious!
In no particular order:
Twooping Don: Don, you exceeded all expectations. I actually felt a little sorry for beating you in the playoffs because I think it would have been great if you made it to the cup just so I could see your reaction in person if you lost to Norm, or better yet if you beat him!
Henry the Red: Is it normal to be that energetic even when the camera isn't on you? Either way, it works: you're hilarious! Fantastic job with the interviews! Hope Kane can keep out of trouble.....who am I kidding, I hope both Kanes can keep out of trouble!
Is there a problem, Constable?: Ian is a great guy, and in 3 years I'm going to want to shake his hand again for Letang....or curse him for the very same reason! Thanks for the rides and showing us your fair city. I look forward to a healthy rivalry.
Eric....the Cred?: Eric you seemed to know a little something about every prospect drafted, you sure did your homework, not that I'm surprised. Also, thanks for protecting my identity. And Babymetal rules!
Flaming Carrot!: Guy also didn't disappoint. Watching his first round in person was a thing of beauty, and perfectly fit with how I've perceived him from this side of a computer screen. It was basically Guy leading gms around with a carrot and him ultimately getting exactly who he wanted anyway.
High Ball Norm: What more can be said about the champ? Swell guy, funny as hell, and forever immortalized Matt's sorrow in a group photo at the draft. I frankly swapped his pen with mine just in the hope that some of his positive energy might transfer to me and my woeful team.
Strong Like Sean: Sean braved the long journey with me, so that's a bit of an unbreakable bond in itself. Then to share a room? Well that's an extra bit of devotion right there, or is it insanity followed by more insanity? Either way, much appreciated. By the way, Sean worked out every single morning we were there, even after the late night drunken 8-way trade. Guy's a beast!
Mike the Geek-King-chini: I always figured from the website and our past that you were a well organized fellow, but this event took my breath away. I realize we gave you monetary support, but what we did for this event was worth far more. I'd go so far as to label it priceless even, but I prefer just to say special. Thanks and thanks again.
A Song of Bryce and Fire: Great song choices and great shirt choices, Bryce! Didn't get a whole lot of time to chit chat, unfortunately, but what little we did talk I enjoyed it. Hope to see you at the next live draft?
I Believe in a Thing Called Doug: Don't think I forgot your speech/toast before you left Mike's house, Doug! It was very special and heartfelt, and we're all glad to have met you after all these years. Like Mike said, we were shocked when you got on board with the live draft event, but it was most definitely a case of being pleasantly surprised.
Corey Graham: To the few GMs who didn't get a chance to meet Corey, you totally missed out! He said no words. He looked at our draft board and laughed, then exited the room. Corey saw. Corey knew. Corey knows all. *cough*
Pain in my Kasim: So like I said before, Kasim, you tried to get my pick, which I don't blame you for, but the tension was building! I didn't have my usual rot gut there to nourish me through the wait, so I felt compelled to make the pick, though I do wonder if you were trying to trade for it to get who you ended up with anyway a few picks afterward? Anyway, you sniped me a couple of times too, but that's cool, it happens (translation: revenge will be mine).
Ryan sTorrie: This has to be a record, right? All the stories you wrote consecutively? Getting your koin well before the season starts? Unheard of! But it was great nonetheless. It was definitely very fitting leading up to the live draft event. PS - thanks again for not making Grigs the bust *wink*
Jeff the Padrino de Merch: If I had to vote for a GM who makes immersion the most fun, it'd have to be you. The merch, my god the merch! Business cards? Your shirts? What's next, coffee mugs at the next live draft? Keep it coming!
Oram Knows his Onions: Glad we could finally get that Lehner-Bishop trade hammered down! Big Ben in London is just a perfect match, one that can only happen in the great SICHL! Good luck with your rebuild? It is a rebuild right?!
Dustin the buyer....no the seller....no wait, yeah the buyer: Tip of the hat to one of the crazier GMs in the league. Your team is always in the conversation, whether for good or ill, but needless to say many GMs would sell their best kidney for some of your players! Whatever you're doing, it works.
Mark Bettman: After the dust has settled post-draft, I don't know what's more insane: the fact that we've been doing this for twenty years, or that we spent hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars to make it come together in person? Or maybe just all of it together is insane? Either way, major kudos to you, sir. I'm sure that in all the history of everything, nobody has been more celebrated for pushing a button semi-consistently for twenty years.
And, finally, to all the GMs who read this article in full but were NOT at the live draft, all I can say is I'm sorry, Gary, it was really a great time!