Yesterday, the NHL overwhelmingly voted to Decentralize the NHL Draft going forward, with potential changes to the format coming as early as this upcoming example.
Why are they doing that?
The NHL first began the public “Conference” format of the Draft in 1984, when they took it both public and televised for the first time. Since then it’s been a relatively decent and informative broadcast that has been fine, if a bit bland; it requires an inordinate amount of professionalism due to the sheer number of GMs that could revoke access to a network’s press pass if they try and jazz things up against their will.
Meanwhile, most of the other major sports league entry drafts have otherwise done away with having the general manager and scouting staff being at the event, and have focused it on being a fan and fan reaction. Has it worked? For the most part it appears the answer is yes.
For the content creator and the scout both amateur and professional, this is one of the best times of the year where you can network and come together, and quite a few of them disagree with the idea primarily on the terms of the draft being a place where the entire league comes together, where now we would not have any such place. However, it remains a broadcast that is difficult to call enthralling, and for what it’s worth...It seems like the GMs kinda dislike it as well, Elliotte Friedman stating on 32 Thoughts that the myriad teams are kind of sick of everyone being able to just kind of hover around each other, and have insinuated that teams have been able to look over each other’s shoulders and completely screw each other up.
So naturally, they made that particular bit of gamesmanship disappear. GMs and Scouts get to stay at home.
Will it actually make for better TV?
Maybe a little bit!
I’m sure the on-screen TV product will be juiced up for a couple of years, with big stages and flashy graphics and maybe celebrities who wanna show up to give a dude a jersey and if that’s the way to go? Good for them. It would be nice for the league to start trying to worm it’s way back into popular culture and if this is the way to do it? All for it.
On the other hand, is that there’s a much more insidious problem that will immediately begin to sewer it over time; one larger problem the sport needs to figure out and fast.
That problem being that this is an extremely fun and interesting sport to watch...where the least interesting part of any game or team is the personality of the athletes. I mean sure, in Boston we have a veritable treasure trove of interesting and fun characters to get behind most of the time, but the rest of the league has a huge problem of the overwhelming majority of hockey players being kind of...well, boring.
Every year, the 32 NHL teams draft a rough approximation of the same four guys with the same interests; all media trained the exact same way to give boring non-answers to every microphone put in their face. You see it in Sidney Crosby, you see it in Patrick Kane, you see it with Jack Eichel, and you’re seeing it now with ESPN’s excruciating awkwardness in trying to get blood from a stone in Connor Bedard.
Far too many of these guys have had the personality that would make them much easier to root for (or against) trained right the hell out of them, and eventually it will become clear that as we move away from the “convention” aspect of the draft experience, the more we need to promote the stars...then the stars of today and tomorrow need to give something worth promoting, and right now they’re being taught to do the opposite.
Personally I would propose life-ruining non negotiable fines to any team caught bringing in PR firms, but until then we have to acknowledge that making the draft slightly more fun will only mildly impact the issues that continue to plague the game.
But for right now? Let’s wait and see if they can come up with a fun version of the NHL Draft.
I for one would love to see what that looks like!