Scratching A Winning Ticket & Fixing the NHL Draft Lottery Show

If you were like me last night, watching the NHL Draft Lottery show was at times like going to the dentist. You know that the lottery is a necessity to watch for news (or as a fan of a team in the cellar, one last hope) but not something to look forward to sitting down to watch. Honestly, the constant drilling throughout the half-hour led to one thought.

Holy **** this is boring.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly unveiling the #1 pick

The Draft Lottery, as the official kick off to the 2012 NHL Draft, should be treated as such and it's great to see TSN in Canada and NBC Sports Network (which simulcasted TSN's coverage) in the United States cover the event. Although the coverage wasn't all bad, it left a lot to be desired. There was a representative from each of the five teams who had a chance at the number one pick (Minnesota, who finished with the seventh-worst record, wasn't represented because at best they could only move up to third), some analysis from the great Bob McKenzie, the unveiling of the draft order and a quick top-ten mock draft from Craig Button.

All of these segments are interesting on their own. However, if TSN and the NHL are going to make a spectacle out of finding out which team who gets the number one pick, that's exactly what it should be - a spectacle.
I was amazed last night how much the Draft Lottery show felt more like what an extended Sportscenter would be if ESPN ever gave 30 straight minutes to hockey. While that may be the Canadian way to be more factual and have less fluff like many American sports talk programs, why is there none? When they're building a half-hour out of a single announcement ("the first pick in the 2012 NHL Draft goes to Edmonton"), it's not hard to build around and create suspense.

Unfortunately, TSN and the NHL failed at doing just that over promoting TSN's own draft coverage. The draft lottery order was announced in a ninety-second span in the middle of the show. That's right, five picks were announced in 90 seconds while the analysts sped through their ramifications at auction speeds. There was no commercial break or even a pause between the third and first picks and the big reveal was treated as just another piece of information.

It's not.

Fans from each of the non-playoff teams were glued to find out if they had a chance at Nail Yakupov. Even Columbus, whose fanbase gets ridiculed for caring less than Jeff Carter, had fans get together for a viewing party.

Timberwolves fans fill your pain Blue Jackets...

How hard could it be to go to a shot of fans either celebrating or in agony after an entire season of losing fails to pay off? Everyone likes seeing both. Having a monumental occasion celebrated live like the Oilers getting their third straight #1 pick is not only interesting to show but having a quick shot of fans breaks up the monotony of Bill Daly opening an envelope, announcing the team, rinse and repeat. By doing that along with having a commercial break before the number one pick is announced stretches the time of the Decision and guarantees that fans stick around.

There's not much to watch after finding out the Oilers won the lottery other than Steve Tambellini grinning like a fool and answering a couple questions about Yakupov and being there once again.

Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini
Another thing that was tough to watch was McKenzie and Button essentially spending half the broadcast doing the same thing. Both of the TSN experts spent time going over their expertise (McKenzie using his insider status with scouts and GMs to create the most accurate top-10; Button being one of the top mock draft guys) and all it did was discuss the same players with the same shoddy, junior high footage. As nice as it is to discuss the 2012 prospects, there is no reason to repeat it - and taking away time from the lottery - when one segment is better off on Sportscentre where its promotion is more self-contained.

Along with using more time for the actual lottery, why can't the show interview (whether live or pre-taped) the top prospect? The NBA Draft Lottery show normally has the top one or two prospects live and although that's probably not possible timing-wise (many players are in the middle of their postseasons), a quick interview and profile would help casual fans (if any watch given 49K saw the lottery on NBC Sports Net) and hardcore alike understand what's at stake.

Between an expert and the actual player, it's an easy choice.

The NHL lottery doesn't need to devolve into the NBA lottery where 13 teams get interviewed, explain their "lucky" draft charm and then pat themselves on the back for 20 minutes. However, with a little more fluff over fact, changes in segment order and most importantly stretching the lottery announcement out towards the end of the show it can be a better experience for the sad fans who have nothing better to look forward in their team's future.

Photos from AP/The Canadian Press/Aaron Vincent Elkaim

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