NAIT’s World’s Richest Hockey Draft marks 35 years

Published on March 22, 2023

All images supplied.

Competition for a good cause and a chance to win $50,000 keeps players coming back for more. 

When a group of staff and volunteer fundraisers at NAIT joined forces to start a hockey draft in support of student athletes, they never dreamed it would still be going strong 35 years later.  

Bill McCallum, (Electronics Engineering Technology '65) was a champion curler and golfer, who later returned to the institute to become an instructor. He was also managing director of the NAIT Foundation which raises funds for NAIT scholarships and bursaries, operational costs and capital equipment needs for NAIT's educational programs. During that time, he conspired with the likes of NAIT Foundation board member and co-founder of the Edmonton Oilers and World Hockey Association Bill Hunter, as well as Reg Hodgson and others to leverage people’s love of hockey to raise money for athletic scholarships. 

“Bill (McCallum) was the brains behind the operation, and it went really well,” recalls Reg, a former NAIT dean of student services, who got his start at the polytechnic 60 years ago developing audio-visual services.  

With a hefty $50,000 grand prize up for grabs each year, the World’s Richest Hockey Draft aims to raise more than $50,000 annually to support NAIT athletic scholarships during the NHL playoff season. Since its inception, the draft has raised more than $1.5 million.  
Although Bill passed away in December 2022 at the age of 82, Reg says he believes he would have been thrilled to know that something he started so many years ago has had such a positive impact and is still going all these years later. 

“I think (Bill) would be very pleased because he was so dedicated to NAIT.” 

Reg added that planning and implementing the draft back in the 1980s required a lot of outside help as well. 

Portrait of Reg Hodgson, former dean of students at NAIT Reg Hodson, former Dean of Students

A team effort 

One of those helpers was now-retired Edmonton teacher and football coach, Al Zelant, who says he jumped at the chance to play an advisory role in planning the draft after reading about it in a local newspaper. 

“A group of us sat down together at David’s over on Argyll Road and we all had our own ideas that we brought to the table — it was a really great group,” he says, adding that the initial plan was to do the draft for that first year and see how it went. Al has faithfully participated in the draft ever since to support student-athletes and in pursuit of that $50,000 prize. 

“I've done so much research over the years,” he says, of his strategy as a player. “You can't predict (the outcome) because you always have upsets and surprise teams. You always have a player or 2 that comes out of the woodwork, who doesn't do anything all year and suddenly has just an outstanding playoff. He maybe only scores 5 goals during the year, but the playoffs suddenly he had like 12, or 14, or suddenly, he's a top scorer.”

Fuelled by competition 

Two-time winner Andy Malycky agrees.  

“It can really go any way any second of any game — and that's what makes it interesting,” he says. 

Andy has been playing the NAIT draft since 1991, winning top prize in 2006 and 2017. The Calgary IT professional says while the potential to win a lot of money in the NAIT hockey draft is a big draw, that’s not all that keeps him coming back year after year.   

“It’s the competition, the effort that goes into crafting teams that have a shot at winning, and the satisfaction that comes from defeating literally thousands of other contestants' entries,” he says. “But mostly the thrill and importance it adds to every goal, every assist, every decision on goals allowed or disallowed, every injury, every healthy scratch. I cannot imagine not having the pool on the line while watching the NHL playoffs. I would of course still watch but it wouldn't be the same.” 

Bringing draft picks to life 

2002 draft winner Ken Mildenberger says that while winning the draft for a second time is his ultimate goal, he’s happy that net proceeds from the entries go toward supporting student-athletes.  

Ken, a retired business owner living in Red Deer, Alberta, says a lot has changed since he started playing the NAIT hockey draft in 1995, particularly when to comes to accessing information about the players and teams.  

“It’s a hard draft to win,” he says. “In 1995, there was very little information online – not like there is today. You had to get your information by watching hockey, subscribing to Hockey News or reading the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun. Nowadays, you can really plan it better because you've got all that information at your fingertips.” 

Play the World’s Richest Hockey Draft 

If you want to be part of the action, the 35th World’s Richest Hockey Draft is now open. Enter today! Deadline for entries is April 16, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. MDT

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