Image courtesy Barstool Sports / Twitter (screenshot)
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The National Hockey League is buzzing with controversy after the league's draft lottery stirred up rumors that the outcome is rigged after a broadcaster announced an upcoming pick as the show went to commercial.
The NHL Draft lottery determines the order in which teams will select rookie players. The odds of winning are based on each team's final position in the standings; the worse a team performed in the previous season, the higher the odds are that the team will select higher in the draft.
Analyst and retired player Kevin Weekes hosted the ESPN presentation of the draft lottery, and with three picks remaining, the controversial gaffe occurred. After the San Jose Sharks were awarded the fourth pick, Weekes announced that the Columbus Blue Jackets would receive the third pick, despite that information not being revealed yet. ESPN then went to commercial break.
"And there is our first change in the order with Columbus dropping to third, so now either Anaheim or Chicago will select first overall," Weekes said.
\u201cKevin Weekes said Columbus got the 3rd pick and didn\u2019t even flip or show the card and cut to commercial?! \n\nNHL rigged???\n\u201d— Barstool Sports (@Barstool Sports) 1683591772
A subsequent video posted by the NHL, however, shows league Commissioner Gary Bettman selecting the top two picks using a randomized ball draw.
"We have Chicago with the first pick, Anaheim with the second, and sequenced down from there. This concludes the drawing," Bettman said.
The video would appear to put any rumors of an inside job to rest, at least regarding the broadcasting gaffe, revealing that subsequent broadcasts of the order reveal were fabricated for entertainment purposes, as all the selections were already known.
The draft lottery winners, the Chicago Blackhawks, had an 11.5% chance of winning, the third highest behind Columbus (13.5%) and Anaheim (18.5%).
The high stakes of the draft added fuel to the fire, as teams clamored over the highly touted Connor Bedard. The 17-year-old is seen as a generational talent, as he scored 71 goals in 51 games in his last season in junior hockey. Bedard totaled a massive 143 points for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League.
The news immediately boosted the Blackhawks' season ticket sales.
"The Blackhawks have already sold $2.5 million worth of season-ticket plans for 2023-24 in the 1.5 hours since winning the #1 pick — including more than 500 new full-season plans," said Ben Pope, sports reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times.
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\u201cThe Blackhawks have already sold $2.5 million worth of season-ticket plans for 2023-24 in the 1.5 hours since winning the #1 pick \u2014 including more than 500 new full-season plans.\u201d— Ben Pope (@Ben Pope) 1683598296