Sunday, July 17, 2005


NHL: Tweaking the Entry Draft

One of the few marketing jobs the NHL has done right over the years is the annual meat-market event known as the NHL Entry Draft.

While many of these kids will not make an impact in the NHL until a few years after they are drafted (if at all), the Entry Draft still provides a lot of excitement and exposure for the NHL. If you aren't dreaming about how your next draft pick will carry the franchise to the Stanley Cup, you can always laugh at some of the foolish picks some teams make (Adrien Foster, hullo?) or get your kicks from the numerous trades that go down when 30 GMs are in the room together and desperate for attention.

Televising and creating hype around an Entry Draft is a great low-cost way to market the stars of tomorrow and create buzz for the NHL product during the summer, when there is no hockey being played. If memory serves me correctly, the NBA actually copied the NHL in this regard and started putting more emphasis on exposing their draft when they saw what the NHL was doing.

Still, the NHL Entry Draft is a very long and drawn-out affair and does need some fixing. With the NHL holding a very 'reduced' draft this summer, it's the perfect time to borrow a page from the NBA Draft Book and make some changes.

As we know, Gary Bettman calls up representatives from each team to make their picks. The GM, head scout, and a whole posse of hanger-oners mosey on up to the podium (which takes a few minutes). This posse proceeds to thank the hosting city, congratulate the Stanley Cup winning squad, say hello to their mothers, etc etc etc.

Then the GM or one of his staff finally gets around to announcing the pick. The prospect kisses his disgustingly hot girlfriend, and then has to take a 5 minute walk to the podium before finally putting on a sweater and trying not to show the "I can't believe I got drafted by Chicago" face.

A bunch of interviews ensue, analysts chop the picks with a sushi knife, and we move on to the next pick 10 minutes later. Wash, rinse, repeat 30 times.

So, either the NHL should take measures to speed up the process, or just make the process a hell of a lot more entertaining.

First, we need ONE person to announce the picks. Either we have the weasel, Gary Bettman, call the picks to the podium ala David Stern, or we hire an uber-celebrity like Jessica Simpson to call up the picks. Imagine the cheap laughs we can have while Simpson struggles with those Russian names. Imagine the look on some of these guys faces when they come face to face with her and

Forget the team entourages, we don't need 10 people to announce a draft pick when one person can do that without taking away from the 'experience'. We also wouldn't have Doug MacLean butchering a very easy name like Rostislav Klesla.

Then, we need to have an NHL version of the "Green Room". Put all of the top prospects in a small section where they have to sit next to each other in nervous anticipation. We can then pan to Gilbert Brule with a pissed off look when a lesser prospect, such as Benoit Pouliot, gets taken ahead of him. Create some friction!! ...and get them prospects to the podium in less than 5 minutes.

Third, the interviews are so boring an unrevealing. The GMs proclaim that they got they guy they wanted ("Oh yes, we REALLY wanted Benoit Pouliot over Sidney Crosby"), the prospect conducts a standard cliche interview and tries not to fret over being picked by the Chicago Blackhawks/Carolina Hurricanes/Florida Panthers, and we don't learn anything.

Solution: Triumph the Insult Dog! He wouldn't pull any punches and we'd get the most entertaining hockey interviews ev-ar!

"Hey Dougie, that was a great pick...for me to poop on!"

Now, since we know the NHL won't take any steps to make the draft more 'entertaining', the least they could do is get the picks announced through one person, and have the whole process sped up at least 50%. As much as I love the Entry Draft, my patience and interest starts to wane at around pick #15.

Many folks are lamented the fact that the Entry Draft will be closed to the public this year due to the special circumstances. Michael Fedor is pretty ticket off about it, and is must be noted that the NHL is missing a good and cheap marketing opportunity given the Sidney Crosby hype.

Would it really be that hard to open the Corel Centre to the public and have a few thousand fans attend? The NHL needs any good publicity it can get, and holding a nice free 'Entry Draft Party' in Ottawa would be a nice kick-start to the New NHL.

What is of more concern to me is the rumour that the NHL will hold the draft lottery in private.


Umm, yeah...I can smell the fix right now.

Given the hype surrounding Crosby and the fact that every team (supposedly) has a shot at the best prospect since Eric Lindros, it would make great TV for the NHL to televise the lottery. TSN or Sportsnet in Canada would definitely make a show out of it, and it would be a really good low-cost and quick way for the NHL to get some publicity.

Instead...we get a 'private' lottery...once again the NHL drops the ball.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

What's worse- having the draft held in private or having it held in public and only have 2000 fans show up in Kanata? The Sens care barely get people to go to real, live NHL games. Do you really think people would show up to watch a draft at the Corel Centre? It should be televised but having it open to the public would just be embarassing.
Just a quibble with the gratuitous Ottawa-bash above...Ottawa's attendance ranks 13th in the league, above Calgary, Edmonton, Boston, and New Jersey, and only a couple hundred fans per game behind New York.
The Senators averaged about 17,700 in attendance last year (link is at home somewhere) and had about 96% capacity...their attendance was extremely strong.

If the Sens did a bit of actual marketing and made it into a nice little party (maybe have some Sens players come out and market themselves...what a concept?), they could have filled up a nice chunk of the lower bowl with some fans.

The problem is that the NHL isn't even trying to market itself...hell, they are going to de-market themselves by not allowing a network to televise the lottery. Who runs the league? a weasel?

oh, yeah.
Seriously though, it seem utterly stupid not to televise the draft lottery. The NHL simply has to make this event public, nobody in the world would f*** up a marketing/excitement opportunity like that...not even a weasel!
Yes, yes... you're right about Ottawa attendance in 2004. I was thinking 2003 when I wrote it I guess. Televising the lottery is a good idea. Televising the draft itself is probably unnecesary. It certainly wouldn't hurt if they did it, but this year does anyone really care who goes after Crosby? The only bit of excitement in the whole lottery/draft will be when Bettman pulls the Ranger ball out of the bin for the first pick. After that it's all downhill.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?