On June 23rd, the NHL held its draft in Chicago for the first time in history.
The parking lots of the United Center are usually quiet during the end-of-June, early July months, but this year was noticeably different. Crowds hit the pavement to test their skills in accuracy shooting, pose with trophies and most important, watch the (fingers crossed) future stars of their beloved teams walk the Draft stage.
For Banner Collective, this weekend was the culmination of a several-months-long project creating a webisode series, "On the Clock." Our sports production crew spent countless hours with the Chicago Blackhawks' scouting and hockey operations departments, filming the behind-the-scenes action that even the most avid of NHL fans may not be aware of. "On the Clock" ultimately provides a glimpse into that unseen process.
The documentation was an eye-opener for all involved at Banner, and shining a light on the work of Blackhawks' amateur scouts was one of the best parts of working on the series. Throughout the calendar year, these scouts leave their families for weeks on end to travel to remote locations across the world. They make their way to countless arenas to watch countless amateur hockey players and sleep in countless hotel rooms all while trying to recognize minute details in skating or demeanor that separate players from the rest of the pack. Our cameras were with some of them in Windsor, Ontario and Buffalo, New York as the team readied itself for the completion of a final draft board.
Loaded with the information gained from these grueling trips, they gathered for the annual amateur scout meetings in April, marking the official start of the drafting process. Banner watched in admiration as Vice President of Amateur Scouting, Mark Kelley, helped corral the varying opinions into a unified draft board that eventually gets whittled down by June 23rd. The NHL Draft is the exciting final piece of the incredibly large puzzle that consists of equal parts analytical data, gut feeling and trust amongst peers.
This year's draft was extra special because the festivities took place on home soil at the United Center and the Blackhawks had a first-round pick for the first time since 2014. Banner had Kelley and Senior Vice President and General Manager, Stan Bowman, mic'd up on both days of the draft (another fascinating aspect of this project). The duo navigated the real-time chaos of possible trades and potential draftees being selected by other teams with such an even-keeled temperament that the end result felt almost elementary to our camera operators watching behind the lens.
The final episode of "On the Clock" will allow viewers to watch the gauntlet after a draft selection is made. Chicago ultimately held the 29th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft's first round, and with it, chose Henri Jokiharju. He barely caught his breath before heading into the interview room for his first taste of the Chicago — and league-wide — media. Banner cameras followed his every step as he moved from station to station, getting pictures taken and signing jerseys, taking it all in stride.
Jokiharju eventually got a chance to head into the iconic Blackhawks locker room, He simply looked around for a few moments to reflect. It's this type of moment and access that makes working on a web series like "On the Clock" so enjoyable. We're excited to bring this moment and the many others from the 2017 NHL Draft to viewers.
On the Clock episode 4 airs on Chicagoblackhawks.com on July 12.