Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:
It is rare that losing great talent counts as a good news story for a city, but this is an obvious exception: Jamie Drysdale of our Erie Otters was selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the 6th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
There’s something special about the relationship of a minor league sports city to the talent constantly passing through its doors. You can’t find the same thing in PPG Paints Arena or Progressive Field or Bills Satdium. We have the sports version of raising a kid and sending them off to college.
The best part of the SeaWolves, Bayhawks, and Otters is that it’s supposed to be temporary. We don’t have the 15-year veterans (Kurt Airoso notwithstanding) that drive the kinds of feel-it-in-your-bones sports rivalries you see at the top level. That’s fine. Here’s what we do have.
We have young kids getting their first taste of life outside their hometowns, still too poor to be jerks and still too young to be jaded. Kids that grew up knowing they were the best kid on their team, year after year, only to be dumped unceremoniously into a city where no one cares that you scored 39 goals for Ron’s Corner Store when you were 12.
For someone who dreams of playing for a world championship in Dallas or New York City, there’s something revealing about how he handles playing in front of 1,300 people on a Tuesday night in Erie Insurance Arena. We get to see how that humbles a young person, and how he responds.
We see the first little spark of greatness in a career that winds up developing into so much more. We always remember the greats: the Curtis Grandersons, Justin Verlanders, and Connor McDavids, and we remember the first time we saw it in them.
Seeing an athlete do something almost no one else can do is an addicting thing. You need to see it again. You ask the guy next to you if he saw it. You want to show all your friends. When that same kid that you watched grow up in front of your eyes gets picked in the first round of the NHL Draft? You feel that, or you at least feel like your eyeballs and your city were a vital chapter in whatever book that guy’s career winds up writing.
So, of course I’m proud of Jamie Drysdale, but all of the above is why Drysdale’s success makes me proud of Erie, too. I love that “Drysdale was excited to follow in the footsteps of fellow Toronto Marlboros junior players [Connor] McDavid and [Dylan] Strome,” when he came here two short years ago. I’m glad that our city is thriving enough to sustain the kind of facilities that draw talent like this. Whatever success Drysdale has in Anaheim or elsewhere around the NHL, he’s always Erie’s kid.