The doors to the 2018 NHL Draft opened and immediately the feeling of fresh air washes over you. The scorching heat of the Texas sun replaced with a wave of air conditioning.
The chatter of thousands of excited fans and families carried throughout the building, only interrupted by the hushed tones of conversations between general managers and other hockey op members frantically finishing their final preparations.
The 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Centre in Dallas, Texas was as overwhelming, stimulating, and – simply put – an amazing event.
Between speaking to the newest NHL draft picks, to the environment inside the arena to the Sports Management Worldwide (SMWW) conference, to the town of Dallas itself, the draft was a hockey experience unlike any other.
Everything is bigger in Texas
Over the course of the three or so days in Dallas, one of the best parts was experiencing the town itself. Although at first, it feels like any other major metropolis, the city oozes southern charm; an enchanting slow-pace of life, as casual as the jeans and cowboy hats that dot the streets.
One of the biggest – and most startling attractions – was the Giant Eyeball. The 30-foot-tall statue outside the Joule Hotel is, frankly, pretty neat. It’s not every day you’re walking and come across a giant eyeball on a way to a meet and greet, but in a way that was Dallas: Unexpected, quirky, lovable – and hot enough to make you want to shed your skin.
The NHL Headquarters Hotel
The Fairmont was the place to be during the draft weekend. On Friday the hotel was full of NHL prospects, executives, and coaches. The hotel had a setup store located in one of their lobbies full of NHL Draft merch. After the Draft, the bar was full of NHL prospects and executives, willing to chat about the excitement of draft day.
I had a chance to speak to one of the more intriguing first-round draft picks; watch for that article later this week.
Sports Management Worldwide Conference
One of the best parts of the weekend was the SMWW conference that was a great opportunity to meet other people in the sports industry and hear from professionals. Some of the bigger names at this conference were E.J. Hrdack, John Shannon, George Parros and Bill Zito. The topics of each conference varied anywhere from Players Saftey to how to promote teams in smaller cities.
As is a tradition at the NHL Draft one of the biggest events is Fan Fest. During Fanfest the biggest trophies are out on display and you are given the opportunity to take your photo with the Stanley Cup. It’s the first thing visitors see when they get to the draft, and it sets the tone for the weekend, a reminder that the future of the sport is being decided right here, right now.
Besides the trophy and memorabilia, there was also music and games. This year the had mechanical bull riding, country music, and a shot accuracy test.
Being at the NHL draft is something that should be on every fans bucket list. The best part of being right in the middle of the action is to talk to fans around you. There is just so much to take in when you are actually at an NHL Draft in person.
Alex Langlois, one of the fans I spoke to at the draft, said it was “really cool seeing how everything went down and being so close to the floor”. One of my favorite aspects was being able to see all the GM’s on the floor and moving around throughout the draft.
It may be a full year away, but I’m already looking forward to hopefully being able to attend next years draft hosted by the Vancouver Canucks.
If you can make it, it’s a trip worth making.
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