The NHL Draft Lottery: A Cash Cow Waiting to be Milked

Right Wing Conspiracy – 26 Sep 2013

Right Wing Conspiracy is a weekly column about hockey, with the odd hockey-related conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure.

The NHL Draft Lottery:  A Cash Cow Waiting to be Milked

The National Hockey League is fully leveraging the popularity of the Winter Classic with six outdoor games during the upcoming 2013-14 season, a blatant cash-grab that would make J.P. Morgan himself proud.  Whether or not the multitude of outdoor ice-stravaganzas will diminish the Winter Classic itself is a question worthy of debate.  In the meantime, the NHL continues to miss out on a clear opportunity to maximize playoff revenue.  “Is this joker really going to argue for increasing the number of teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” you ask?  Not a chance, mon frere – the Quest for the Cup is just perfect with sixteen teams, thankyouverymuch.  My proposal is simple:  make ’em fight for first.

At the conclusion of each season, the NHL utilizes a weighted lottery system to award the first overall pick in the draft.  In recent years, the draft lottery has been televised.  Simply put, if the hockey-watching public had no interest in watching the high-stakes bingo that is the draft lottery, it would not be on the air.  And if the hockey-watching public likes the draft lottery, wouldn’t they love a Draft Tournament?

Here’s how the Draft Tournament would work:  At the end of the regular season, the teams finishing 27-30 (the bottom four) meet in a single-elimination tournament, seeded 28 vs. 30 and 27 vs. 29.  Rather than a weighted lottery, the teams finishing 29th and 30th would play at home in the first round, with the last-place team guaranteed home-ice throughout the tourney.  The first round winners advance to play for the 1st overall pick, while the losers meet to play for the 3rd pick in the draft.  Thus, draft picks 1-4 would be earned, not awarded.

What are the pros and cons of a Draft Tournament?  Let’s take a look:


  • Four more playoff games = more TV/ticket revenues.
  • Added drama of Draft Tournament = increased TV ratings = more TV money.
  • Allows bottom four teams to play for more than pride/redeem themselves at the end of a bad season.
  • Entire tournament could be played at a neutral site, a la the NCAA’s Frozen Four, to help grow the game.  Call it “The NHL Fight for First”.


  • Unlike current system, teams finishing 17-26 have no shot at the 1st overall pick.
  • NHLPA may balk at requiring bottom four teams to play two additional games.
  • Potential problem of tournament team having previously traded their 1st round pick (Quick fix: Team w/no 1st round pick is awarded 4th overall pick, lowest remaining seed gets bye and plays winner of first game for 1st overall pick).
  • Potential for teams to “tank” late in the season in order to make it into tourney (Quick fix:  For tourney purposes, first tiebreaker for teams tied in points is non-shootout wins, second is most points earned in the last ten games of the regular season).

While a “Fight for First” wouldn’t showcase Stanley Cup Playoff-caliber hockey, it would feature four teams battling for pride, a bit of redemption, and for a chance to improve themselves by winning the top pick in the NHL Draft.  It’s made-for-TV drama.  It’s a cash cow waiting to be milked.

Follow Matt Pryor on Twitter:  @BigTex1926


About Matt Pryor

Freelance writer of hockey, history and travel. Born and raised in Texas. Saw first hockey game 22 FEB 1980 (USA 4, USSR 3), was instantly hooked. Attended first NHL game 26 DEC 1981 (Colorado Rockies 6, Calgary Flames 3). Semi-retired beer league player. Shoots left.


3 thoughts on “The NHL Draft Lottery: A Cash Cow Waiting to be Milked

  1. I really don’t think the players would have ANY interest in playing in this proposed tournament at the end of their season. The added risk of injury, the added wear on their bodies to compete for a new team mate?
    I dont thnk so.

    Posted by Matthew Lindsay | September 26, 2013, 16:29


  1. Pingback: What If Sellers Didn’t Sell? & Other Trade Deadline Thoughts | The OGA Blogs - February 27, 2014

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