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We just finished watching the lottery to determine who the first pick in this year’s NHL draft would be.

It was a big production out of the Sportsnet studio in Toronto – broadcast live on network TV in both the U.S. and Canada.

Very different from the first drafts back in the 1960’s.

The first NHL Entry Draft (at that time known as the “NHL Amateur Draft”) was held on June 5, 1963 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Quebec.[1] Any amateur player under the age of 20 was eligible to be drafted. In 1979, the rules were changed allowing players who had previously played professionally to be drafted. This rule change was made to facilitate the absorption of players from the defunct World Hockey Association. Consequently, the name of the draft was changed from “NHL Amateur Draft” to “NHL Entry Draft”. Beginning in 1980, any player who is between the ages of 18 and 20 is eligible to be drafted. In addition, any non-North American player over the age of 20 can be selected. From 1987 through 1991, 18 and 19-year-old players could only be drafted in the first three rounds unless they met another criterion of experience which required them to have played in major junior, U.S. college and high school, or European hockey.

In 1980, the Entry Draft became a public event, and was held at the Montreal Forum. Prior to that year the Entry Draft was conducted in Montreal hotels or league offices and was closed to the general public. The first draft outside of Montreal was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Ontario, in 1985.[3] Live television coverage of the draft began in 1984 when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation covered the event in both English and French for Canadian audiences. The 1987 Entry Draft, held at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, was the first NHL Draft to be held in the United States. SportsChannel America began covering the event in the United States in 1989.

Prior to the development of the Draft, NHL teams sponsored junior teams, and signed prospects in their teens to the junior teams. Players were signed to one of three forms: the “A” form, which committed a player to a tryout; a “B” form, which gave the team an option to sign a player in return for a bonus; and the “C” form, which committed a player’s professional rights. The “C” form could only be signed by the player at age eighteen or by the player’s parents, often in exchange for some signing bonus. The first drafts (up until the 1968 Amateur Draft) were held to assign players who had not signed with an NHL organization before the sponsorship of junior teams was discontinued after 1968.

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