The evening began with the players busing over to the Casino on the Quebec side. They arrived an hour before the night started, with the captains talking with the media before entering the draft. There was a chill breeze in the air; four hours later when they left the two teams were heating for the weekend up.
The players genuinely seemed pleased about being here, and were quick to downplay any rivalries between teams and players.
“It doesn’t matter because I respect every player,” said Zdeno Chara. If he ( nobody in particular ) plays a certain game, well it brought him to the all star game. So you have to respect that.”
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson spoke about about playing at home, in front of the fans who voted him to the game.
“I don’t think there is pressure because the game is a celebration,” Alfredsson said. “We will do the best we can to win. But I will take this weekend as a celebration with the fans and show them what we can do.”
Jason Spezza was asked if he wanted to play for Alfredsson, and the rest of his Senator teammates.
“We will all be happy to play with him but he is the boss.”
“I’ll be pissed,” chimed Erik Karlsson, getting a room full of laughs.
When the captains were brought out on stage, both Chara and Joffrey Lupol heard a smattering of boos, but overall Sens fans were respectful of the players. Actually, the more they announced any Leafs player, the fans continually let them know they weren’t pleased with them being here.
Host James Duthie from TSN had Alfredsson flip a puck to determine who went first. But the classy Senator allowed the Stanley Cup captain Chara to decide and pick first. Team Chara selected, surprisingly, Pavel Datsyuk.
“I think it is pretty obvious he is an unbelievable player,” Chara said after the draft. “I really admire the way he plays the game and it was my goal to get him first and I was happy to get him.”
And true to form, Alfredsson chose young Karlsson. As he said he would. He and Lundqvist were able to select the rest of the Senator players throughout the night.
“My kids are going to be pumped,” Alfredsson said when asked if his four boys will like the team he selected. “About Erik, Jason, Milan who they know from before. My three year old loves goalies and asked if I would choose Brian Elliot and I said I was going to try. And then the two brothers, Henrik and Daniel (Sedin) and you know my brother is a Henrik, and the kids love it, they think it’s funny. So they are really happy.”
The surprises didn’t end there. Jonathan Quick went early, and so did Evgeni Malkin and Kimmo Timonen. The surprise isn’t their play this year or deserving to be here, it’s that they went ahead of players who were teammates or country men with the captains.
The early returns seemed to favor team Chara, but team Alfredsson had the better of the later rounds. Midway through, it looked like Team Alfredsson was full of Swedes and Senators. And all the Leafs and Slovaks were on Team Chara.
Chara with his last pick went with Jamie Benn, meaning Logan Couture was the last pick overall. He took it in stride when asked if he thought he could possibly be the final pick.
“Possibly, being a younger guy with all these great guys,” Couture said. “My phone is ringing right now!”
He was then asked if he wanted to try and get the MVP award in the game, he responded with a joke.
“I want two (cars) now. ”
Alternate captain Henrik Lundqvist spoke about the evening and how much he enjoyed it. He should be, as his team is full of his countrymen.
“It was awesome. I was really happy and honored and wanted to make sure the fans had fun with it. We wanted to have Ottawa players on the team, and we talked about getting Swedes. But you really can’t go wrong.”
Shea Weber was pleased after the draft with the way things were going. He just stood around, watching players doing interviews and just soaking up the atmosphere. Although he was unsure which team had the advantage going into the game.
“They are both good… you really can’t say who is better as there are so many guys that are good players. It’s going to be fun. Hopefully it will be high scoring, the fans like that.”