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The Usual Suspects

TSN's Ferraro forced to play the waiting game Add to ...

TSN analyst Ray Ferraro can withstand a lot. Pucks whizzing past his head as he stands between the benches, NHL players beaking about a comment he's made, fans heckling him over his opinions. He'll gladly take them any day rather than go through Friday's waiting game.

For the past year, the former NHL player and his son Landon have pointed squarely toward Friday night's NHL draft at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Either Friday night or Saturday, Landon, a 37-goal scorer with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, will be selected in the 2009 lottery of amateur players.

And their waiting will end.

"It's the most exhilarating, exciting, nerve-wracking and stressful thing you can imagine," Ferraro says. "I'm just hoping his name is called [Friday night, in the first round] It'll be tough to have to leave and come back again the next morning [when Rounds 2 to 7 are held] I don't know how much sleep I'd get."

For the draft, Ferraro pére et fils are sitting together in the stands. TSN asked about wiring Ferraro, but he declined (although TSN will be miking the loquacious Toronto GM, Brian Burke).

"It's Landon's day, not mine," Ferraro said. "He was more comfortable without the mikes. So we're going to sit there and sweat it out like everyone else."

Landon is expected to go anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second.

"Truth be told," says Ray, who was drafted by the Hartford Whalers, "it's only important for a few hours where he goes in the order. It's what he does after that matters."

There was no TV telecast back in 1982 when Ferraro was selected.

"I sat and home and kept phoning the TV station in my hometown of Trail, B.C., saying 'Have I been taken yet?' I was told I'd be a second-rounder, and when Hartford took me in the fifth round, I was devastated. But it was the best thing that happened, going to Hartford and having to prove I was better than that."

And what will be the best part of the weekend?

"Sunday morning. For the first time in a year, it will all be quiet. The noise, the uncertainty, the speculation will be over. Landon will go back to having a real life. He'll know where he's going and what he has to do. And that will be very peaceful."

Stand-up And Be Noticed

When Ferraro was selected in 1982, players were judged on hockey talent alone. But these days, 18-year-olds need to survive probing TV interviews and teams' character assessments in advance of the draft.

And so CAA Hockey enlisted former standup comedian Steve Shenbaum to help coach its prospective stars such as Matt Duchene, Ferraro, Anton Lander and John Tavares on making a good impression.

"A lot of guys coming into the NBA and NHL are coached on what answers to give," says Shenbaum, who was working with players at Thursday night's NBA draft as well. "But teams don't want rehearsed answers. If all the clients of a firm say the same thing, the teams are wise to that.

"We try to help them bring out their true personalities naturally. I use some of the techniques I learned on stage to get them over their nerves."

Does that mean giving them a few time-tested jokes from his standup days to cut the ice?

"Not everyone is born to tell jokes," Shenbaum says.

Turkey in Vegas

Usual Suspects wasn't alone in wondering who was responsible for the Chaka Khan Telethon For English As A Second Language - better known as the NHL Awards last week. CBC broadcast the awards but wants no part of the responsibility for the production.

It was produced by the NHL, says Scott Moore, CBC vice-president in charge of sports and marketing. Apparently the league was looking for a little Vegas-style entertainment. Which is why a turkey that happens in Vegas is best to stay in Vegas.

As for next year?

"We haven't had any discussion about next year with the league yet," Moore says.

Octagon Rules

And a peek into the future? The finale of The Ultimate Fighter drew 663,000 viewers in males (18-34) on Spike TV last Saturday night. That's more than the MLB on FOX (184,000) and golf's U.S. Open on NBC (384,000) - combined. You may be excused for humming a few bars of It's the End of the World as We Know It.

dowbboy@shaw.ca

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