Every year, without fail, I figure out who to cheer for among the Oilers’ draft picks. It can’t be a No. 1 overall, that would be gauche. No, my favorite player has to be a decided underdog. Sometimes, other fans choose my year favorite for me—if a bunch of noodle-puss and fuzz-brain fans are picking on some poor kid, well, I’m a Dad and man that pisses me off. So, I adopt those guys, too. Mitch Moroz wasn’t originally a favorite but Jesus Murphy people were so over the top I said to hell with that noise this is unfair.
That’s the great part of being a fan. I cheer for all these guys, even (mostly) the lost causes like Mathieu Roy who got hurt so often it was insane, or Chris Hajt who may have had a skajting problem. Here, by year this century, are the young men all the saints who cheer for lost causes adopted and suffered for in the name of hope and justice.
- 2000: Brad Winchester. 390 NHL games and now an OKC Barons player. Talk about your deja vu, I’ve been feeling it all week.
- 2001: Doug Lynch. Even before his injury (hand, diagnosed incorrectly—cost him an NHL career) he was a favorite.
- 2002: Jesse Niinimaki. No-brainer. If your team drafts a guy No. 15 overall and no one knows who he is? God, that’s perfect.
- 2003: Marc Pouliot. Only his Mom and Dad cheered more for him than me, I’ll go to my grave believing he could have been a good NHL player.
- 2004: Liam Reddox. I remember reading around the draft that he was highly touted entering junior but had been passed during his time in the OHL. Underdog!
- 2005: Slava Trukhno. I saw him good in his first TC, brilliantly skilled player. Small p Pouliot, thought he’d have a career.
- 2006: Theo Peckham. Always cheered for Teddy Peckman, he’s exactly the kind of blue who should have owned Edmonton for a decade.
- 2007: Riley Nash. By this time badly wanted to see a center with size and skill. Nash turned out okay, just not here.
- 2008: Teemu Hartikainen. There’s still a light on, hope he finds his way back to the NHL.
- 2009: Anton Lander. His resume reminded me of Doug Jarvis, who was a favorite back in the 1970s.
- 2010: Curtis Hamilton. Reminded me of those Habs wingers of my youth, range of skills. Still hoping.
- 2011: Martin Gernat. Instant favorite because he was a rangy kid who immediately became an Oil Kings player.
- 2012: Mitch Moroz. The things that were written about this young man, just because he was chosen by the Oilers in the second round? Shameful.
- 2013: Greg Chase. I met him when he was just a kid. Nice young fellow, a little shy. Reminded me a little of my own son.
- 2014: Tyler Vesel. I liked his story, seemed to be coming from way back (that’s important) and his interviews were interesting.
I can’t choose a favorite until they’re drafted and sometimes it takes awhile to choose said player. You may ask ‘why on earth would you cheer for a long shot?’ but for me that’s as natural as drawing a breath. Maybe it’s about how I see the world, or myself in the world, but it’s always been there. I remember well reading a Hockey World magazine in about 1970, this was the expansion year with Buffalo and Vancouver, and they listed all the players who would make the team and a few who might make an appearance. Every team had their page, and the good teams had names that were familiar. Even the 1967 expansion teams had players who I’d at least seen on a hockey card.
Then Buffalo. Right at the end of their page, a line that read something like “Larry Mavety is also available” and that was all she wrote. I watched for Mavety every year, usually found him in the minors (The Hockey News listed the top scorers all year but would have features and Mavety would appear from time to time) and he did make it to the WHA, but never the NHL.
Larry Mavety. Don’t ask me why but for me a big part of this wonderful sport is cheering for guys who haven’t yet made their appearance in Total Hockey, don’t have their name in black ink in the scroll of hockey men who made it all the way to the promised land.
Godspeed, Curtis Hamilton. I’m cheering for you.