NHL Draft: 10 Ways to Make It More Exciting
This Friday and Saturday, the 2012 NHL entry draft will be held in Pittsburgh.
Because the players drafted are so young and are often a few years away from playing in the NHL, the draft lacks the feeling of urgency and immediacy that the NFL or NBA draft tend to have.
Still, draft day in hockey is vital to the future of all 30 teams. We may not know it right away, but the foundation for Stanley Cup championships are usually built during the draft.
With that in mind, here are 10 ideas to help improve the draft experience for fans watching the proceedings at home.
Get Cameras Inside the War Room
Each of the 30 teams have a "War Room" where general managers, scouts and owners huddle together and make decisions on who to draft, what trade offers to accept and other vital decisions.
Obviously, we can't be in the room live, but more quick, relevant footage of the war room and the decision makers actually making trades or decisions on who to draft would be a nice addition for fans.
It would give us more intimacy with the management of our teams and make us feel more a part of the process.
Give Us More Profiles of Prospects
Yes, TV coverage features this now, but we need more of it. The more we are familiar with these prospects both as players and as people, the more we'll care about the draft.
The NHL Network, NBC Sports Network, CBC and TSN all need to present more information about these prospects throughout the year.
Junior players and high school players don't get a lot of coverage over the course of the season, especially in the United States. Increase exposure and coverage and when the draft comes around, fans will be familiar with the top prospects and more ready for what we're about to see.
Profile GMs Before and at the Draft
Like players and coaches, GMs have tendencies. Some prefer players with size, some avoid drafting Europeans, some tend to trade up, and so forth.
This is something that TV coverage doesn't discuss enough until the draft has already gotten underway. Again, the more these tendencies are discussed and analyzed, the better informed fans will be.
It will allow fans to grade GMs more easily and to better predict trades and draft picks. Again, the more fans know, the more interested they will be in the draft and the more they will want to watch these tendencies and trends play out.
Create a "Green Room" for Potential Draftees
They always show the same thing at the NHL draft every year. The prospects sit in a designated area of the stands with their families. While this is touching, it gets repetitive quickly and doesn't provide a lot of drama.
The NFL draft places many of the top prospects in a "green room," where they sit together and nervously wait for their name to be called. The players' natural competitive nature comes out as they share the moment, and viewers get to see more of their personality emerge as the wait continues and the draft plays itself out.
Putting a microphone in the green room will give us more insight into the players' personality. Sure, we'll need the good old seven-second delay, but it helps fans share the moment with future NHL stars.
Creating a green room situation for the top prospects will just add a little flavor to the draft and make it better theater.
Interview the Family Members of Players
Another way for fans to learn more about the future NHL stars being selected at the draft is to do profile interviews with the parents and family members of prospects.
Hockey moms and dads make a lot of sacrifices so their children can play this game. They all have stories about when a player started skating, something embarrassing or different that happened at a particular practice or game or other stories that give us insight into players.
It is also a chance for the hockey media to pay tribute to hockey moms and dads and recognize what they do for their children.
Again, the better fans know the prospects, the more meaningful and interesting the draft becomes for them.
Scouts are the lifeblood of the sport of hockey. They go to countless games and observe prospects first-hand to report back to their GMs with in-depth evaluations of all the players who are eligible to be drafted.
While scouts from individual teams may not be able to reveal much, perhaps the networks can do more interviews with scouts from Central Scouting or even hire their own experts to rate and discuss prospects full-time.
The more insight fans can get, the better, and nobody knows more about the strengths and weaknesses of these potential new NHL stars than scouts.
Show Draftees Speaking with Their Favorite NHL Players
Sometimes we forget that the players being drafted are still just 18- or 19-year-old kids. They are talented hockey players, but they are also fans who have been following NHL hockey for most of their lives.
It would be great to see some of the top prospects interview their favorite NHL players, asking them questions about life in the NHL and what it takes to be successful at the next level.
Again, it would provide fans with a more intimate and personal view of both the draftees and the players they choose to speak to. The segments can be taped a few days in advance and can be shown during a lull in the draft.
Have the Players Compete in a Skills Competition
NHL prospects are all evaluated by scouts and interviewed by them before the draft. But holding a skills competition, much like what is done during All-Star weekend, would add something to the draft experience for both the prospects and fans.
The skills competition could be held a day or two before the draft itself and would give fans a clearer picture of which prospects are the fastest, have the hardest shots and the most accuracy, and so forth. It's one thing to hear someone say it, it's another thing to watch it happen.
It would also lengthen the draft weekend and add a little more actual on-ice activity to the proceedings.
Televise the Combine
Central Scouting already holds a scouting combine where top prospects are asked to show how physically fit they are and are interviewed by teams so they have a better idea of the personalities of the players they are thinking of drafting.
Showing extensive clips from the combine would again add more buildup to the draft and give fans a chance to see future draftees earlier and get to know them a bit.
Again, the broadcast doesn't have to be live. But imagine during a night when there are no playoff games scheduled, the NHL Network airs footage of the combine in a one-hour special. It fills a programming gap for hockey fans and gives the fans more insight into the game's future stars.
Hold the Lottery 24 Hours Before the Actual Draft
I know it may help GMs a bit if they have a months notice, but it certainly would be more exciting for hockey fans if the draft lottery was held live and just 24 hours before the actual draft itself.
It would be the perfect way to kick off the weekend's festivities and would add suspense and excitement to the weekend for fans.
Critics may say that this won't give GMs enough time to prepare and make trades, but hold on here. First, remember that no team can move up in the lottery more than a few spots to begin with, so the preparation won't be all that different. Also, most trades involving top draft picks don't take place until the last day before the draft anyway. Teams play chicken and try to get the best deal for their picks or players, and they usually wait until the last minute anyway before making a major deal.
Again, it creates more suspense and more action for fans and makes things on draft weekend a lot more interesting.