Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 07
The Stanley Cup Journal

Rabid hockey fans from all over Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama arrived in Nashville for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and to see the Stanley Cup.
(Monday, June 23) -- It's the day many 18-year old hockey players wait for their entire lives. They've worked hard, harbouring dreams of glory, and on Saturday and Sunday, many of those dreams were realized when players from all over North America and Europe heard their names called from the podium by one of the thirty NHL teams.

The NHL Entry Draft was hosted this year by Nashville, with the actual draft taking place over two days - Saturday and Sunday - at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, home of the NHL Predators. The Stanley Cup made its way from Toronto to Nashville on Thursday afternoon, ready for the next generation of NHL stars to take a step into the next phase of their professional - and personal - lives.

Like any large metropolis, the City of Nashville has outstanding shopping, dining and entertainment. But as much as it thrives as a contemporary city, Nashville's history is equally unique. For example, Andrew Jackson, who served as President of the United States between 1829 and 1837, was born and raised just outside Nashville and his magnificent home, The Hermitage, stands as a proud symbol of Southern hospitality.

But Nashville has come to be known as the Home of Country Music. Although incorporated as a town in 1892, Nashville really was put on the map in 1925 when radio station WSM signed on the air. Shortly after its debut broadcast, the station began programming country music, and reinforced its reputation as the foundation of country music when it began broadcasting 'The Grand Ole Opry' from Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. From such humble beginnings, a multi-million dollar industry was born. Today, Nashville is renowned as the rich source of almost all of the country music that finds its way to airwaves and record collections. Nashville is, appropriately, also the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Children gather around the Stanley Cup
Patients at Nashville's Baptist Hospital Cancer Center were brightened by a visit from the Stanley Cup.
This year's NHL Entry Draft took place in Nashville for the first time. The Stanley Cup spent Friday visiting TV and radio stations to let the city know more about the draft and hockey's rich heritage. Friday at noon, the Stanley Cup, as well as all the NHL's merit trophies, were on display at the Prospect Luncheon. Ken Morrow, the only player ever to win an Olympic Gold Medal and a Stanley Cup championship in the same year (1980, first as a member of 'Miracle on Ice' U.S. Olympic Team followed by the first of four consecutive New York Islanders' championships) brought his wife and two daughters to see the Stanley Cup up close. Morrow is the Director of Pro Scouting for the New York Islanders. The Stanley Cup also visited the Baptist Hospital Cancer Center to bring some sunshine to patients facing one of life's toughest challenges.

The Nashville Predators, host team of this year's draft, began their NHL life in 1998-99. The team played its home games at the Nashville Arena, which was built in 1996 and opened December 18 that year appropriately with Amy Grant's Tennessee Christmas, featuring Vince Gill (now Grant's husband), Michael W. Smith, CeCe Winans and the Nashville Symphony. In August 1999, the Nashville Arena was renamed the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Gaylord Entertainment owns and operates convention resorts and hotels, including Nashville's Opryland Hotel. But to bring the story full circle, Gaylord also owns WSM Radio, the Ryman Auditorium and the 'Grand Ole Opry.'

Saturday arrived with hundreds of young men and their families sitting anxiously hoping that an NHL club would call their name. The Stanley Cup was displayed at the Gaylord Entertainment Center from 9AM until 6PM, and proved to be so popular an attraction that there was a two-and-a-half hour lineup to see hockey's historic Cup. Philip Pritchard, the Hockey Hall of Fame's Vice President of Hockey Operations, was on hand to observe the draft and commented, "Nashville has really embraced the game of hockey. I would never have believed how popular hockey is in the area - fans drove in from Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia and all over Tennessee to see the Stanley Cup and to watch the Draft. It was unbelievable! The Predators' organization did everything first class all the way."

Saturday night, the Devils held a dinner for staff and prospects, with the trophies won this spring by New Jersey in attendance. Prospects stayed clear of the trophies so as not to jinx their own chances of winning them.
The first name called out from the podium Saturday was goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The partisan crowd went wild when the Predators' chose Ryan Suter, the nephew of NHL star Gary Suter. The Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils selected Zach Parise with their first pick. Zach is the son of another former NHL star, Jean-Paul Parise. That evening, the historic Hermitage Hotel was the location of a private dinner hosted by the New Jersey Devils' franchise for scouts and draftees. Although the Stanley Cup sat proudly in the room with the young prospects, none would get close enough to examine the Cup. The prevailing superstition is that, as a player, you don't touch the Stanley Cup until you've actually earned the honour by being part of a championship team.

Rounds one through three took place Saturday while the remaining six rounds were held Sunday. After the final selection, pick number 272 (Sean Sullivan by the Phoenix Coyotes), the Stanley Cup was carefully packed and flown to Toronto.

Return to the Stanley Cup Journal on Wednesday and find out exactly who Stanley was and why he wanted to donate his Cup to hockey.

Kevin Shea is a hockey journalist and historian residing in Toronto.

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