Back­stage at the NHL draft

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHEN WHYNO

EACH JUNE, more than 200 play­ers from across North Amer­ica and Europe are drafted to the NHL in a two-day event broad­cast across the globe. This story isn’t about that. It’s about what you didn’t see.

THIS YEAR, The Spec­ta­tor’s Teri Pe­coskie tagged along with a Hamil­ton Bull­dogs player and his par­ents in or­der to doc­u­ment the ups and downs a fam­ily ex­pe­ri­ences be­hind the scenes at the draft.

THE STORY starts in the lobby of a ho­tel in down­town Chicago.

Kevin Shat­tenkirk could’ve got­ten more money but took less to join the New York Rangers.

Joe Thorn­ton could’ve got­ten a mul­ti­year deal from some­one but wanted to stay with the San Jose Sharks.

Brian Camp­bell and Patrick Sharp could’ve got­ten more money the past two sum­mers but took the Chicago dis­count to re­turn the Black­hawks.

The NHL is be­com­ing more like the NBA with top play­ers for­go­ing longer, big-money con­tracts to pick their pre­ferred des­ti­na­tion..

“It’s their op­por­tu­nity to go to where they want to go and some­times you might have to take a lit­tle bit less money to go there,” Dal­las Stars GM Jim Nill said. “Do you want to go to a good team? Is it a city you want to go to? Is it where your fam­ily wants to be? ... It’s play­ers find­ing the right fit for where they want to be and hav­ing the money that they can live with.”

Shat­tenkirk is not ex­actly LeBron James, but the New Rochelle, New York, na­tive filled that role on Satur­day when he turned down of­fers of seven years and over $30 mil­lion to sign with the Rangers for $26.6 mil­lion over just four years. The 28-year-old de­fence­man felt like it may be his only op­por­tu­nity to “ful­fil a life­long dream” and wants to help pull off what LeBron did in Cleve­land.

“No mat­ter where you go you’re try­ing to win your team a Stan­ley Cup,” Shat­tenkirk said. “There’s no bet­ter place to try to do it for me than in New York.”

The NHL’s hard salary cap and play­ers re-sign­ing to so many long-term deals means su­per teams like in the NBA won’t hap­pen. But where and who mat­ters more and more to hockey play­ers than sim­ply how much and for how long.

Thorn­ton had more than half the 31-team league reach out to sign him at age 38 and signed for $8 mil­lion for one year be­cause he sim­ply wanted to stay in San Jose.

“It was nice get­ting courted by all these teams, and I felt bad say­ing, ‘Hey I’m go­ing back to San Jose,’ but that’s where my heart is and that’s where I’m happy,” Thorn­ton said.

Like­wise, Sharp couldn’t pass up go­ing back to Chicago where he was part of three Stan­ley Cup teams, even if his con­tract is worth just $850,000 with per­for­mance bonuses. Sharp said he was “com­ing back to make some more great mem­o­ries and try to help this team win an­other Stan­ley Cup,” which Camp­bell tried last off-sea­son, too.

Fa­mil­iar­ity with Nashville and coach Peter Lavi­o­lette led Scott Hart­nell to re­turn to the Preda­tors one a $1 mil­lion, one-year deal, af­ter play­ing his first six NHL sea­sons with them.

Sup­port­ers were blown away by the pageantry of the NHL draft’s stag­ing.

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