All-Star advice: Help for the Last Guy Picked
Some advice for worried NHL all stars
A smaller person than myself might be filled with glee at the thought of some poor NHL big shot facing the prospect of being the Last Guy Picked at the first-ever all-star draft on Friday night in North Carolina.
After all, the thirty-sixth and final person called Friday was likely no worse than the second or third chosen back in his ball hockey days, whether that was in Murray Harbour, PEI, or Jesenice, Slovakia.
Guarantee you they never suffered the humiliation of being the Last Guy Picked.
I prefer to use this opportunity to be helpful, however, and offer some helpful advice from someone who was almost always the Last Guy Picked as a kid growing up from the age of seven to 11 in the street hockey mecca around 111 Combermere Drive in Metro Toronto's Borough of North York.
(Note: Anyone who remembers my nickname back then and is thinking about telling everyone here — I'll track you down, somehow).
1. Position and eye contact are crucial.
As the smallest kid trying to get picked, it was hard to get noticed, even with a voice as loud as mine.
So what I had to do was get right in front of the captains, lean on my stick and stare them right in the eyes. Every time one of them picked someone else, I would look a little sadder.
Push the puppy dog thing as hard as you can. If you can make a captain think you are about to cry, that can really help, too. One of the captains may have a heart of gold.
Then you're in.
Key point: Do not actually cry.
2. Bring a goal stick.
I badgered my mom to buy me a goal stick ($2.25, from the K-Mart where she worked for a while until Coutts Hallmark Cards opened in North York and mom moved up there), and that made me a valuable commodity.
There were many times when my stick was drafted long before I would have been. Of course, that meant I often stood on the side of the road or at the back of the net and watched a lot of the game while my goalie stick played, but at least I was on a team.
One time we played an "all-star" game of the guys from 111-121 Combermere, vs. the "Low Rentals" (what we called Ontario Housing) next door, and my stick was picked really high.
Then I was called in to dinner, and the guy using it promised to bring it to me, but later I looked out the window and the stick was lying in the parking lot by itself.
By the time I raced downstairs, someone had stolen it. My advantage had disappeared. And a note to whoever did that: You still owe me a stick. Sherwood.
3. Volunteer to play goal.
This really works. Seriously. And these days, nobody really wants to play goal in an all star game, not even the goalies.
Back then in our neighbourhood, if it was really cold and we were playing on Pynford Cres., where the wind really blew, my goal stick would play for a while with someone else until they started to complain.
That was the chance I needed. I was good in goal, as long as I wasn't wearing pads (could never figure out why, when I put pads on, I couldn't stop a beach ball), and I was willing to take as many shots off the shin with a frozen "baldy" tennis ball as needed to stay in there.
Besides, I always brought my baseball mitt and a hockey glove as the blocker with me just in case.
4. Get your mom to talk to the captain's mom.
Devastatingly effective, but I had to be careful not to use it too often because you would get a reputation as a mommy's boy.
The trick was to "just happen" to mention to your mom, when you knew she might be talking to one of the regular captain's moms, that it really hurt you to be the Last Guy Picked.
And, really, it wasn't fair because you really were better than that and they just don't like you because you're (fill in something good that will get your mom mad like "too short" or "have an English accent" or "too poor").
Make something up.
5. Make yourself useful.
If I were the Last Guy Picked, I always made sure I hustled after a ball down the street when a shot went wide and rolled 12 houses away.
And I always went to fish the ball out from under Mrs. Smith's new 1969 Chevy Biscayne, even if the ball thumped against the driver's side door and she came out yelling.
Car? I always moved the net. I was always the first to yell "car," for that matter. And I always brought an extra ball in my pocket so if one was lost, I could hold it up and say "I've got one!"
Suck up. It works. Go for that puck in the stands at Saturday practice.
6. Get your dad to buy you a net.
Absolute gold. If you brought one of the nets, you were in like Flynt, because if you went home, the net went with you (or Dad came back to get it — those things were, like, $20).
Finally, never, ever, say "Aw, how come I'm always the Last Guy Picked." They'll call you a big suck and not ever pick you again. Suck it up. Play hard when you get a chance.
Hope this helps, Phil.