As a Patriots fan, I tend to lose interest after the first ten picks of an NFL draft. For the good part of two decades, New England would select towards the end of the draft, or trade out of the first round like they did last Thursday. However, the idea of a virtual draft fascinated me, and after the first pick I was hooked. Obviously things were different this year, but the NFL set a good standard for the NHL to follow.
Oh and by the way, the NFL shattered viewership records.
For the most part, the NFL’s virtual draft went well, even the glitches and missteps fit. It was actually quite refreshing considering the current times. Viewers weren’t expecting everything to run smoothly when the commissioner is announcing the selections from his basement and players are finding out through FaceTime. But somehow they made it work and it was entertaining.
When you think about the amount of people that are in separate places I thought it went really smooth. It was interesting to see, you get a little peak into everybody’s personality. I thought some of the outfits were interesting. -Brad Treliving, Flames GM
The digital minds at the NHL need to be as loose and self-deprecating as the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell were. The normally stiff Goodell wasn’t as awkward as expected. He stole a page from Gary Bettman, embracing the boos from NFL fans. Heck, the first round even featured a wardrobe change by the commissioner. Bettman should skip that step, hockey fans don’t care what he is or isn’t wearing.
So how can the NHL enhance their virtual draft?
Certainly our draft is going to be remote, that would be safe to say. For sure I’m going to be watching (the NFL draft) and doing a lot of homework on not only that, but different ideas of how we could potentially do our draft. -Treliving
A virtual draft allows for imagination and innovation, and hopefully the league uses the opportunity to loosen up and entertain. Show us Bettman’s basement. Have cams set up to show players and their families huddled around TVs. Give us a personal glimpse into the lives of the players. Invite us in to see Pete DeBoer and his children hanging out like the NFL did with Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Split screens of GM’s and players on the phone, or using FaceTime. Add some personality to a league that lacks it.
The NFL did it in a way that’s the safest… They did what they had to do. I suspect we’re going to do the same thing. -Jim Rutherford, Penguins GM
With no certain date, they’ll have time to perfect what the NFL pulled off.
Here are a few suggestions for the NHL:
During their broadcast, ESPN aired Zoom interviews with some of the drafted players, it might be fun if the NHL tweaked things by adding in a coach or better yet, a veteran player. Imagine Ryan Reaves or Jonathan Marchessault jumped on a video chat to congratulate the drafted prospects. Screw it, have a current player announce the pick. Would fans rather see NHL players or the NHL commissioner?
The virtual draft can help bring out personality, encourage young players to express themselves through their attire, and home decor. Tell coaches or players to show off their luxurious pads like Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury. Go live from Kelly McCrimmon’s personal war room, and Foley Family’s draft cellar.
War Room 2.0 pic.twitter.com/aCh3GYPVCG
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) April 24, 2020
The last suggestion would be to keep the draft order board permanently on the broadcast. The NFL limited their list to only a handful of teams, making it tough for the viewer to keep up. Only the team drafting and a few after were on the bottom left of the screen. It was difficult to see who had been selected and which teams were coming up. If the NHL found a way to keep the selection board up entirely, it would keep eyes glued to their TVs, not their phones.
More eyes will be watching the eventual NHL virtual draft and hopefully the league takes advantage of this unique opportunity like NFL did. If the NHL involves their players and caters to fans the 2020 NHL Draft may break viewership records of their own.