Nerves, Hugs and Excitement: Zayde Wisdom’s Draft Day

The NHL Draft might not have been in a jam-packed arena as Zayde Wisdom was hoping, but the whole process leading up to being picked, and now signed by the Philadelphia Flyers was still very memorable for the Frontenacs forward.

Swamped by Zoom calls with NHL teams over the last few weeks, Wisdom knew he could go anywhere from the second to fifth round of the Entry Draft, but the first night was pretty calm for the 18-year-old. The night before being selected, he sat in his basement, taking in the first round with family and friends, including Frontenacs teammates Lucas Rowe and Ethan Ritchie.

He spent much of the evening congratulating friends who were being drafted but was very relaxed otherwise. However, his relaxation did not last very long. “I didn’t get much sleep at all,” he said. “It was a long night and the hours went by like days. It took a while to get to sleep, my mind was racing.”

When he woke up, practically sleepless, the day had a different feel. He knew he was likely to be picked, his heart pumped with a mixture of nerves and excitement.

Family and friends were supposed to arrive around 11:30 am, leaving Zayde to keep himself busy for the morning. “I was setting up food, getting drinks, making sure everyone was happy for the day. I was keeping busy, so it kept my mind off it and kept me calm.”

His grandmother was one of the first to arrive with home cooking for the big day. In addition to the meat, buns, vegetables and cakes that were already set out, she added some traditional Jamaican cuisine, things like jerk chicken, rice and peas.

While there was an extravagant spread of food, Zayde, stressed, did not have any. “I didn’t eat a single thing, I was so nervous the first few hours of the day,” he said.  But as the clock neared 11:30am, Zayde nestled into the couch and back into “TV mode.”

From the moment NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly began the second day of drafting, everyone’s eyes were glued to the television set; the Wisdom name could be called anytime. As NHL General Managers announced the names of the second and third-rounders, Zayde and his family sunk further into the couch. “I had hope in my mind there was a chance of me going,” he said, “so it was definitely nerve-racking until the 94th pick came around.”

When the 94th pick finally came and the name “Zayde Wisdom,” blared through the TV, the man of the hour was nowhere to be found. “I was laying on my bed, trying not to look at the TV. I looked at my phone and then my brother started screaming and ran into my arms hugging me, crying.”

Lying on his bed, away from the long list of names being called by NHL teams, Zayde Wisdom became a member of the Philadelphia Flyers organization. It was a far cry from the bright lights that would have been the Bell Centre in Montreal, however, he described it as one of the most special moments in his life, one that he will never forget.

After he was finally picked, the nerves evaporated from the room and the rest of the second day went by like a breeze, despite it being a nearly eight-hour TV spectacle. “My whole phone started blowing up,” Zayde said, “Calls, texts, DMs, all that sort of stuff was off the hook, it’s been hard to get back to some people, but I am trying my best.”

The 18-year-old spent the rest of the day on Zoom calls with the Flyers, and other media members, while also finding some time to relish the moment. While he celebrated, he also knew that he was picked 94th, further down than some expected, but that does not bother him. “It just shows me that I got to work harder to prove myself even more and the job is not finished yet, he said, not disappointed by his draft position. “I’m not as good as I want to be and I want to get a lot better.”

With family and friends by his side, many who have seen him grow up, Wisdom began the next chapter of his life. As he prepares for a new season in Kingston, he is doing so under the close watch of the Flyers staff, as he signed an entry-level NHL contract with the club on Monday, October 12, 2020. The draft may not have been in the situation he had hoped but signing his first contract days after entering the organization makes up for all of that.

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