Draft Party? Not in Tampa Bay [UPDATED]
I held off on writing this story as long as I could, hoping that someone in the mainstream media would ask the powers-that-be about this... But that doesn't seem to be happening.
For as long as I can remember, there have been some type of team-sponsored events linked to the NHL draft yearly here in the area. They usually occurred in one out-of-the-way place in Tampa or another, sometimes at Shots, the restaurant at the Arena... That changed last year when three different parties were hosted by the team to hype the upcoming selection of Steven Stamkos by the Bolts.
We've known since April that the Lightning held the #2 selection in this years NHL entry draft. There's been speculation of keep the pick, trade the pick, who to pick and who will be picked... Of course this has been dulled down in the TB market with the other sports stories in Tampa Bay and of course the two major dailies tightening their belt at every corner in order to make ends meet.
So with all that, I can understand the draft not being at the top of the region's sports radar... And of course wild speculation isn't quite our thing in the bay area (no, you go north of the border to get that )...
But riddle me this, where's the NHL draft party for the Lightning this year?
The New York Islanders have been making a huge deal about this draft for quite a while and have a very large number of confirmed number of attendees to their draft party. Of course, that's New York with a bigger population to draw from, and the media capital of the world to boot. The draft has been hyped up there for a while...
But they're not the only ones doing it. And they are not the only ones who have announced with plenty of time beforehand. A simple Google web-search for "NHL 2009 draft party"shows you that teams such as the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Atlanta Thrashers, and Nashville Predators are all having events on draft night... And that's on the first page of results.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are holding a draft party even if they aren't picking until mid-round. Our cross-state rival's, the Florida Panthers, are having a get-together of their own as well.
Of course, not every team holds these events (of the top five teams by way of draft order, only the Isles and the Thrashers have announced events)... But it seems rather curious that such a tradition as a draft-day get-together sponsored by the team isn't happening this year.
Of course, we'll have an open thread chat here on Raw Charge on draft night, but a "virtual" party isn't the same thing as rallying the fans and getting them together for a good time.
UPDATE 8:10 PM EDT: The St. Petersburg Times officially reports that there will not be a draft-day, team-sponsored event. There will be, however, a public prospect camp with a scrimage free to the public in July. More on that at a later time.