2011 NHL All-Star Weekend: Being media at the Fantasy Draft
Technical difficulties have kept me from posting on Twitter and writing sooner. Which have been frustrating, but hardly surprising. Today and Sunday I'll be at the RBC Center, so it should be better.
The place is a nut house. Not only are there the All-Star players and their families in town - along with a ton of fans - but there are over 400 members of the media in attendance. Trying to organize this crew is sort of like herding cats; it's very challenging. I can't even imagine how the non-English speaking contingent is doing this.
What you saw on TV is only half of it. I saw the other half, and that really should've been planned better by somebody. They managed to get people to where they needed to be, but they made it difficult for the media to do their jobs.
The Fantasy Draft started at 8 pm, but the media availability of players started much earlier - at 6:30 pm. During the actual draft itself, the media had to watch that just like anyone else; on TV. Except for the TSN crew, of course.
The Fantasy Draft took place in downtown at the Raleigh Convention Center, which is miles away from the RBC Center. Also going on at the convention center is the NHL All-Star Fan Fair. Unfortunately, since the convention center was essentially just one big open space, it was almost impossible to interview anybody because of the background noise.
There was a runway that was curtained off from the rest of the convention center, with a sturdy barrier put up to separate the media from the players. Players were ushered in, and through, this runway. Towards one end was the TSN TV crew, and then everyone else jostled for position.
I had questions that I'd wanted to ask Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Eric Staal (on the condition that he'd pick Stamkos), but I was basically unable to get my questions in due to the background noise from Fan Fair going on. It was very loud in there, and trying to record anything usable was next to impossible - and my recorder isn't that great to begin with. So I didn't even bother. Instead, I took pictures.
The great part was that St. Louis stopped right in front of where I was to talk to people. And that frustrated me, too, since I couldn't do much about that. Just like I couldn't do much when Lidstrom stopped near me - twice! - or when Stamkos was nearby.
And I wasn't the only one with issues. Plenty of media went through the motions, hoping that something would work out for them. But not many thought that it would. Most of the media was pretty disgusted by the background noise and having to wade through a crowd of the rest of the media to get to the players.
So the players wandered past on their way to the stage. And they wandered past on their way out after the draft. A lot of the guys who'd snuck in without talking to many people, if any, stopped on the way out. So I think pretty much everybody took their turn.
As I've mentioned, the media were not allowed to attend the Fantasy Draft itself. Instead were were told to go back to the media workrooms that were set aside for use in a hotel across the street from the convention center. That's right, the media wasn't even in the same building at the Fantasy Draft.
We were ushered back in before the Fantasy Draft was over, so that we wouldn't miss the players when they left. We waited for half an hour or so before they strolled past again. Mostly it was the big stories from the event - the Sedin twins, the Carolina Hurricanes players, Marc Staal, Jonathan Toews, among others. For some reason, Phil Kessel wasn't around, though. And, naturally, Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom once again.
Other than not having cell signal in the convention center, and not being able to use the wifi in the media workroom, it was fun. I'll probably post the pictures from the entire weekend early next week, and I will definitely post a link to that album for everyone to enjoy.
Next up: the red carpet and the Skills Competition later today.