The Expansion Draft Nightmare

From time to time, we get submissions from readers and after last night’s shellacking at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, this might be what Oiler fans need.

We all know that Gary Bettman is everyone’s favourite villain – he also looks a little like Gru, from Despicable Me.

Thanks to Melissa Geschwind for this piece. 


A smirking Gary Bettman stands at the podium, licking his chops.

“With their first pick in the 2017 expansion draft, the Vegas Golden Knights select…”

He savors the suspense as he looks over the nervous crowd. Every NHL player is in attendance save for Jaromir Jagr, who is grandfathered out of having to do anything but play games and grow his hair. For everyone else attendance is mandatory; skip the event and you’re sentenced to be interviewed by Pierre McGuire at least twice a week for the duration of the 2017-18 season.

“…Tomas Plekanec!”

A woman screams and clutches her weeping children. Plekanec clutches his wife and sons in a smothering hug, then takes a sharp breath and stands ruler-straight. He begins the long walk to the stage, pausing to detach a crying toddler from his ankle. He’s a Golden Knight now. It is done.

Bettman adjusts the white rose pinned to his lapel as Plekanec takes his place next to a beaming George McPhee. “With their second pick, Vegas selects…”

Oh yeah. He’s going to drag out every announcement. He feels so ALIVE.

“…Jakob Silfverberg!”

Even though he knew it was coming, Silfverberg still wasn’t prepared for this moment. The color drains from his face and he begins to get to his feet when…

“I volunteer as tribute!”

All heads turn toward the voice, looking to see what brave teammate would sacrifice himself that Silfverberg might stay safe at home in Anaheim. Antoine Vermette is on his feet, a portrait of pure heroism.

Bettman scans the “acceptable substitutes” list McPhee had provided mere hours earlier.  He raises his arm and extends his thumb parallel to the floor, then teases the crowd for a full 30 seconds before finally pointing his thumb toward the floor. Vermette slumps back to his seat, equal parts shamed and relieved. There will be no rescue for Silfverberg today.

The next pick bitterly disappoints Bettman. Lee Stempniak is halfway to the stage, suitcase in hand, by the time Bettman finishes saying his name. The commissioner looks for some hint of surprise or sadness in Stempniak’s face but all he sees is a momentary furrowing of Stempniak’s brow when the winger realizes he’d forgotten to carry the 2 when he was calculating his frequent flyer miles.

“Time for an award!” Bettman says to a round of applause. The sound hits his ear wrong. He doesn’t like it; it’s too unnatural. “This year’s Rocket Richard Trophy goes to Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins!”

More applause as Crosby saunters up the aisle secure in the knowledge that he, of all people, won’t have to pull up stakes.

“Even though this is an individual award, I couldn’t have done any of it without my amazing teammates,” he says.

“Speaking of whom,” Bettman interjects, “the Golden Knights have selected Marc-Andre Fleury!”

Crosby’s smile vanishes and the color drains from his face. “Flower, no!”

It’s all Bettman can do to keep from cackling as he says, “Would you like to volunteer, Sid? I’ll break protocol and tell you that you’re on the list.”

At the side of the stage, Bill Daly is now laughing so hard that he needs to take a big pull of oxygen from one of the tanks the EMTs have on hand in case anyone passes out from the stress. “You’re on the list!” he shrieks, sinking to one knee an slapping the floor with his palm. “You’re on the list!”

Crosby looks at the floor and shakes his head.

“Just remember, it was your call,” Bettman says, much more loudly than is necessary.

Fleury, now on stage, puts his hand on Crosby’s arm, whispering in his ear. Tears begin to spill down Crosby’s cheeks. Fleury hugs him, pats his back, kisses the top of his head. It’s cold comfort. Even as the two embrace Crosby already feels an emptiness. Fleury is gone, Vegas-bound.

Bettman, straightening his tie, leans in to announce the next pick…


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