Monday evening’s NHL Draft Lottery was marred by chaos, but there was no grand conspiracy at play.
The broadcast of the event on ESPN in the United States went smoothly until the reveal of the top three picks. Host Kevin Weekes announced the Columbus Blue Jackets as picking third prior to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly flipping over the card for Columbus. Controversy and cries of a fix erupted.
Quite the snafu here during ESPN's Draft Lottery broadcast. Host Kevin Weekes announces that the Columbus Blue Jackets are drafting third. pic.twitter.com/yLpJoautLo
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 9, 2023
Of course, there was not a fix in play – the actual lottery was conducted prior to the broadcast, as detailed by The Athletic, which was in the room as the lottery took place.
The issue involving Weekes, which he and the NHL didn’t comment on, was blamed on a “production error” involving a teleprompter.
Both Weekes and the NHL declined to comment. A source with knowledge of the situation told The Athletic that a production error fed the wrong words into the teleprompter that Weekes was using, and that it wasn’t just a passing comment by the former NHL goaltender and veteran broadcaster.
Most importantly, it had no impact on the actual draft order, which was determined approximately an hour before the TV show. It only ruined the surprise element of the draft, particularly in Columbus, where fans gathered at a local brewery for a watch party.
“It was pretty evident what was going to happen (when they came back from break),” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “It spoiled the moment, I guess.”
Controversies go hand in hand with draft lotteries, especially when a large market team or a team with lower odds ends up winning. Chicago winning the lottery, combined with the on-air miscue by Weekes, only fanned the flames of controversy, production issues be damned.