Chalk it up to my being a “franchise nerd”.
I used to be a big hockey fan, specifically the Washington Capitals. I collected hockey cards, bought yearbooks and apparel and followed my team and the league as best I could given that my team was close to 300 miles away. My enthusiasm started to take a nosedive in the 1990’s for a variety of reasons, and when the league shut down for an entire season, that was it for the NHL. I still enjoy hockey, but I’d just as soon watch NCAA hockey as much as the pro ranks.
So with that in mind, why am I so caught up in the NHL expansion draft to stock the roster of the Vegas Golden Knights?
It’s not because I have any ties to Las Vegas or love their logo… although it is a pretty good logo.
Part of it is the relatively small number of players who will be protected from the draft. Chances are it will still result in only one player I’ve heard of being selected in the draft: Marc-Andre Fleury (And I wouldn’t even count on him being a Knight come the opening puck drop).
So why do I care? I’ve asked myself that question several times.
Part of it is probably that I was caught up in this type of thing from an early age. My first three years of being a baseball fan was with 24 teams divided into four divisions, and when you’re a kid, three years is a long time. Just after I turned 11, there was this expansion draft to create the Blue Jays and Mariners, two brand new teams created seemingly from nothing. This blew my 11-year-old mind. New cities, new team names, new logos and colors, new uniforms… I even had to rearrange the stacks of cards in my dresser drawer to make room for two new team stacks!
And now, it’s been quite a while since any of the four major sports has expanded…. I believe the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats in 2004 was the last of the top 4 sports. Before that it was the NFL’s Houston Texans in 2002 and before that it was the NHL’s addition of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild in 2000. For MLB, it was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998.
When the NHL announced that they would be expanding, that the new team would cost a half-billion dollars and, in compensation, would be better stocked than prior teams, it caught my attention… even though I’d be hard-pressed to name two dozen current players in the NHL.
Unfortunately the Capitals protected the biggest obstacle to my becoming a Caps fan again – Alex Ovechkin, who got into the “Shlabotnik Hall Of Disdain” on the first ballot. I knew the Caps wouldn’t allow Ovechkin to get selected for no compensation, but a guy can dream, can’t he?