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The NHL Draft Lottery took place on Monday night. And if you’re the NHL it was the perfect scenario… or a total disaster. Maybe both at the same time.
First, the good for the league – the Chicago Blackhawks won the lottery and the rights to pick phenom Connor Bedard. As the next generational talent in the league, the NHL couldn’t handpick a more impactful place for him to land. The Blackhawks are an Original Six team in a major market who have produced some of the biggest ratings in modern league history. We already know how Major League Baseball struggles to market Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani as they play in Anaheim. You could multiply that by a factor of ten to see what could have happened in the NHL had the Ducks won the lottery this year. Bedard now will have every chance in the world to be a crossover star and give the NHL a superstar in a big city with a renowned team for years to come.
Of course, this being the perfect scenario for the league also invites skepticism from fans of other teams who would love to have Bedard in Anaheim, Columbus, San Jose, or Phoenix. Cue the comparisons to the Knicks landing Patrick Ewing.
But the lottery was also a bad night for the NHL. First, the production botched the reveal of the final three teams as the Blue Jackets were announced as the third pick heading to commercial before their card was officially shown. While it was apparently a production error, it made the lottery look like a minor league operation and caused social media to blow up with conspiracy theories.
As for those other fans starved for success in markets like Columbus and San Jose around the country who could have been transformed by Bedard’s presence, they will continue to suffer seeing the rich getting richer. And the league will settle into the same status quo as in years gone by without rejuvenation and growth in new markets.
Finally, winning the lottery also can’t make the cloud hanging over the entire Blackhawks organization disappear after their disgraceful handling of the 2010 sexual assault allegations of former player Kyle Beach. Beach and the Blackhawks settled a lawsuit in 2021, team executives resigned, and the franchise was fined $2 million by the league. If any team deserved to be rewarded less by winning any lottery, it was the Blackhawks.
And yet that’s exactly what happened, for better and for worse.
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