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Retro Video: Milbury Tries to Deal at 1997 NHL Draft

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Mike Milbury in Pittsburgh again: "I want Wiemer."
Mike Milbury in Pittsburgh again: "I want Wiemer."

This is a good weekend gem unearthed by kcNYI and discussed a little here: an excerpt of CBC's six-part "A Year in the Life of the NHL," which first aired back in 1998 and apparently led to a book as well.

This particular segment focuses a lot on the 1997 NHL Draft (when Joe Thornton went first overall to the Boston Bruins, and his agent focused quite a lot on his hair and uni number), but in the opening montage there are some other choice snippets from the rest of the series.

Mike Milbury, you might expect, is all over the video (as is Pierre Gauthier waxing about the value of a draft pick to his staff in Ottawa), but one quote from Milbury in the opening stands out. In discussion with an agent over the phone, he captures how the Islanders of that era operated on a tight budget (sound familiar?) that added further restraint to Milbury's already, ah, "debatable" decisions:

"You keep coming back to the 'marketplace,' and I keep coming back to 'my team.'" Indeed, then and now, but especially pre-cap and pre-Wang, the market rate was not anything the Isles were ready to pay.

Milbury hits the stage at about the 9:05 part of the video to announce the selection of Roberto Luongo (aside: this draft was in Pittsburgh, just four years after the '93 Isles ended the Penguins quest for a dynasty).

Then it gets interesting as Milbury, who had a hankering to trade the #5 pick (he had both the #4 and #5), tries to goad fellow GMs into a move. It shows Milbury's draft floor conversations with Al Coates (Calgary) and Phil Esposito (Tampa Bay).

Almost incredibly -- thanks to the beauty of snarky retrospect -- Milbury is gunning hard for Tampa Bay's Jason Wiemer while Calgary is sweating that they'll miss out on Daniel Tkaczuk, who ended up being the bigger draft busts of the era. Instead, the Islanders stood pat (drafting Eric Brewer, whom Milbury would later suggest sniffs glue), Calgary got their man, and the Bruins picked up both Thornton and Sergei Samsonov at #8.