The NHL PR machine

Look, we know the NHL isn’t the most savvy of sports leagues. They’re like that distant cousin you barely know that leaves comments on your Facebook vacation posts from like three years ago.

“That trip seems like it was fun! LOL” – NHL

They just always kind of feel like a step behind other leagues when it comes to marketing the game.

Marketing their star players in particular has never been a strong suit of the NHL. Sure, part of the problem is hockey culture (celebrating the robotic cliche nature of Crosby over the outgoing nature of other players), but the NHL are the leaders in the room here. If anyone can help steer the league towards a more entertaining future, it would certainly start with them. Sell the players, sell the game. Seems easy enough.

But the NHL never gives you a reason to think they actually understand the concept of fun. Look no further than the John Scott debacle. Despite the NHL’s best efforts to keep Scott out of the All-Star game, Scott went on to have arguably the most memorable NHL All-Star game of all time. Scott going to the All-Star game was a fun, organic sort of process (sure it started as a joke, but people really got on board with it), and when the NHL finally got its hands on it, they did their best to choke the life out of it.

It was like trying to explain a meme to your parents, basically. Sure you tried to make them understand the concept, but you’re never quite sure they actually got it. Then the next day your mom emails you the meme and uses it incorrectly.

“I think I locked my keys in the car!”

Image result for kermit sipping tea

So yes, any time the NHL does attempt to do things with more pizzazz, I would normally applaud it. This is a league in desperate need of a bit of showmanship at times.

So when it was announced today that the NHL would be adding a twist to reveal of the draft lottery results this weekend, you would think it would be a good thing:

But rather than enjoying this idea, I hate every single part of it, and here’s why.

Tanking is not a fun process. Sure, the idea your team can land a top pick is the carrot on the stick that keeps you going, but actually watching your team perform like a flaming turd is not enjoyable. It’s garbage hockey. So you watch the games based on the hope that your team will somehow turn this poop into diamonds down the line, but you’re paying the price for it. Your interest in hockey wains because honestly, it’s really hard to watch a hockey season in which a team making two passes in a row is considered a “good game”. There are only so many self deprecating jokes you can make about your team before you start wondering where the jokes stop and where the sobering reality begins.

And for some teams, this process has been going on for months. Months of watching your garbage team, do garbage things. The only redeeming part of this process is the draft lottery results.

Which is why it seems somewhat cruel to draw that process out. Because for some people, this is all they’ve got. And the carrot on the stick? It’s being touted as a possible franchise defenseman. Something every NHL team needs, none more so than a bottom feeding team. This is a prize fans desperately want and have been dreaming about for many months. Yet the NHL wants people to wait around just a bit longer to find out if their team has won the lottery.

Look, showmanship is good, I like it. But there is a time and a place for showmanship. John Scott All-Star game? That was the time for showmanship. The NHL draft lottery results? The showmanship is already there in the reveal. Flipping over the cards in a timely manner. You don’t need to dress this up more than that. A bad way of doing this would be a press release stating the results all at once. That is not enough showmanship. But gathering all the teams reps in one room to get their facial reactions to the draft lottery results? That’s the sweet spot.


Never forget.

But forcing people to sit through a period of a hockey game to find out the top 3 results? That isn’t organic fun. That screams corporate PR. “Hey why don’t we force people to tune into our Saturday game then go kick some puppies to celebrate how awesome we are???”

On top of that, only 3 fan bases will actually enjoy the delay. Well, enjoy is a strong word. Only three fan bases will be invested in the delay. Everyone else will most likely be bitter and annoyed by the delay and will be shitting over the wait on social media. And the pay off of having three fan bases wait for the results? Where is it? What’s the payoff? Creating a weird tension? Making three fan bases feel nervous about draft lottery results?

“Man, that draft lottery was amazing, that’s gotta be right up there with the time my team won that playoff series.”

Save that nervous energy for the games. Let fans get that emotional pay off watching an overtime game. If you really don’t want people buying into the idea of tanking, then don’t over celebrate and draw out the lottery results. Don’t fabricate tension over the reveal of a damn card. Imagine if Edmonton is one of the three teams left in the chase for the top pick? Just uninstall your social media now if you want to avoid constant hockey vitriol during the delay in the reveal.

“If Edmonton wins this, I swear to god…” is now trending.

Anyways, it’s not an end of the world thing. We will all certainly move on past this quite easily come Saturday. It just feels like yet another case where the NHL is doing everything it can to be the clumsy guy in the dark room. Rather than flipping on the lights, they’re just gonna keep on stumbling along, positive they know they’re going the right direction.