Canucks and Beyond

The Imaginary Draft Pick

06/16/2008 at 11:06pm EDT

I often worry I should start a blog subject-category entitled “Things Everyone Else Probably Knows Yet Alanah Never Heard Of.” Case in point…

Today, perusing Sabretooth House (and enjoying Anne’s entertaining indictment of Alexander Daigle and the blunders of the Ottawa Senators on draft day 1993) I came across this tidbit from Sabres’ draft history 1974: the drafting of Japanese superstar, Taro Tsujimoto.

Who?

On the off-chance that I’m not the only person who somehow missed out on this awesome bit of hockey history, here’s the story:

From Wikipedia:

Taro Tsujimoto is an imaginary ice hockey player that was legally drafted by the National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres in the 11th round of the 1974 NHL Entry Draft.

The Sabres’ general manager at the time, Punch Imlach, was reportedly fed up with the slow drafting process via the telephone. He decided to have some fun and contacted public relations director Paul Wieland for the translation of Sabre in Japanese and a common Japanese name. When the 11th round surfaced, Imlach chose to select star center Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas. The NHL made the pick official, and so it was reported by all major media outlets including reputable magazine The Hockey News.

Imlach did not clear the air about the fake draft pick until weeks later. He admitted that he had found the name Taro Tsujimoto in a Buffalo phone book, and the team name Tokyo Katanas translated into English as Tokyo Sabres. The NHL would eventually change the pick to an “invalid claim” for its official record-keeping purposes, but this was after Tsujimoto’s name had appeared in several of NHL Guide and Record Books. Tsujimoto is still listed among Sabres’ draft picks in the Sabres media guide.

And a few thoughts from Bill Meltzer at NHL.com in 2006:

As the Buffalo Sabres’ turn came up with the 184th overall pick, legendary general manager Punch Imlach made an announcement that caused everyone else in the room to perk up in astonishment. The Sabres’ pick: Taro Tsujimoto, star center for the Tokyo Katanas of the Japanese Ice Hockey League.

With overseas scouting still in its infancy, the other NHL teams were shocked the Sabres had scouted a player in Japan. Not even Major League Baseball teams were doing that at this point, and Japan was certainly better known for baseball than hockey. In fact, no one in the NHL Headquarters meeting room even knew Japan had a pro or semi-pro hockey league (it did—the Japan Ice Hockey League).

NHL officials dutifully recorded the Tsujimoto pick, making it official. Over the next week, all major North American media outlets listed the pick along with the rest.

That’s got to be the best Draft day story, ever.

Thanks to Sabretooth House for bringing this whole thing to my attention. (And for that photo of Alexander Daigle wearing a nurse’s uniform—if the back-story to that photo had something to do with draft day, it would probably trump this Tsujimoto thing pretty damn quick…) :)


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Note: 2008 Draft Day coverage on Kukla’s Korner

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