Top News

JONES: NHL draft debate not exactly fuelling fans' fire

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks before the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks before the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena.

Sometime in the next few hours or days but not weeks, the NHL Board of Governors will deliver the verdict on the NHL Entry Draft.

And it’s strange when you think about it.

Considering this is a sport that makes our blood boil and elicits passionate debate on most topics in Canada, I don’t detect much on the subject of whether to have an early June draft prior to the end of the regular season and playoffs, if they ever get played.

It’s not that there isn’t passionate debate going on. It’s just that most of it seems to be internal.

Clearly, the general managers and scouts don’t want it to transpire early. But unless the delay in NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman pounding the early draft project through is that the GMs have managed to get through to the owners, the expectation has been that the NHL will announce a dramatically different draft will be held on the first or second weekend of June. And that was originally expected early this week.

If you haven’t decided whom you are cheering for in whatever is going on behind the scenes, here’s your scorecard:

The commissioner wants the draft soon for business reasons. He obviously wants to throw a bone to the TV people who paid big bucks for the rights to televise NHL hockey and could really use the programming. It would also give hockey fans, particularly in the U.S., a reason to get engaged again, if only briefly.

There’s so much more to the draft than going up to the podium and announcing, “The Ottawa Senators are proud to select …” Actually, in the case of the Senators, who, as it sits, will have two of the first four selections, they’ve stockpiled so many draft choices they need to deal some away. And in the case of the Edmonton Oilers, they would likely be willing to do a deal or two with GM Ken Holland having traded a bunch of his draft picks away.

Bettman certainly would hope to replicate the TV numbers created by the NFL draft as fans proved the extent they were willing to embrace live action, even if it was just a virtual draft. And, no doubt, there would be a spike. The CFL draft was up 116 per cent. But for hockey fans, the interest in who your team might pick 20th overall isn’t the reason they normally watch the draft. It’s the words from Bettman himself: “We have a trade to announce.” Those words wouldn’t be heard in early June.

The NHL Players Association supposedly has a say in all of this, but it’s doubtful if they’d take a stand on behalf of the players being drafted in that they are not yet members. But it would seem cruel and unusual punishment for them to have to wait until sometime in September to find out who picked them in the draft.

More interesting than the draft decision itself, at least to me, are the devils in those details.

Like the Draft Lottery. What formula would they settle on?

One thing: Holding an early draft is something the league can do now. Pretty much everything else is in the hands of the health authorities in the different provinces and states. Upper Deck should include cards for ‘players’ like Alberta’s Dr. Deena Hinshaw in next year’s Tim Hortons trading card set.

If the league is able to finish the season without crowds, there won’t be much time between the end of this season and next season, including free agency, NHL awards and making a schedule.

So there’s that.

More than deciding about the draft, the announcements fans want to hear are when players will be able to return to the ice at their training centres, what four cities have been selected as pods to finish up the season and all the details such as schedule and number of games.

For example, I’d like to dial into the NHLPA conference calls to hear the players speak to the idea of possibly being quarantined for weeks without being able to talk to their wife and kids.

For my part, I’d like to know when the drop-dead date might be for having no season at all.

Why have the draft in early June if there isn’t going to be any ‘rest of the season’ at all?


On Twitter: @ByTerryJones

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories