NHL’s Bill Daly: Draft lottery ‘finally compelling TV’

Bill Daly sends out his condolences to the Flyers organization for the loss of Ed Snider, calling him a giant of the game.

Tanking is a testy issue for the National Hockey League, a circuit that prides itself on parity and keeping the playoff races thick and alive until the final buzzer.

Yet smart fans of lottery-bound teams had every logical reason to root against their favourite club as they played out the string. The issue was thrust in the spotlight earlier this month when Josh Doan, son of Arizona captain Shane Doan, began rooting for Dad to lose.

“My son is literally the biggest Coyotes fan that you’ll ever meet,” Doan told The Arizona Republic. “He lives, breathes — he, until very recently, would be physically upset when we lost, and it’d break your heart. And I remember him cheering after games, being mad, but being happy we lost — like cheering against us.”

The league’s deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, tackled the popular topic on Hockey Central at Noon Monday.

“I hear that a lot. I don’t think the teams themselves are celebrating not winning,” Daly said.

“I don’t see a lack of effort in trying to win the game. Obviously the player makeup is the issue. We certainly don’t want a perception that our teams don’t want to win, aren’t playing to win every night.”

The NHL recently installed changes to its draft lottery, “smoothing the odds,” Daly pointed out, and giving all 14 non-playoff teams a shot at securing the first-overall pick. Still, the worse a team performs on the ice, the better its odds of winning a top-three pick become.

“This year, by picking the first three teams by virtue of lottery, we’re trying to dull any incentive for any team to finish lower in the standings,” Daly said.

Traditionally, Daly gets the honour of announcing the winners of the draft lottery, which will be aired live on April 30.

“It’s finally going to be some really compelling television,” he said.

Daly said it was not ideal that no Canadian teams qualified for the post-season but was quick to point out the tournament’s Canadian content.

Canadian players make up 47 per cent of the playoff rosters; 110 communities north of the border will be represented this spring.

The deputy commissioner also defended playoff teams’ rights to rest star players once they’ve locked up a playoff spot.

“I’m not offended by what I saw over the last weekend. Look, these guys worked really hard over 190 days to get to the position where they are, to clinch a playoff berth,” Daly said. “Really, they should be trying to position themselves to have success in the second season.”

Daly noted that 2015 — the Connor McDavid lottery — marked the first year he did not know the lottery winner prior to revealing the card himself.

After an internal meeting, the league has decided to keep it that way for 2016’s Auston Matthews sweepstakes.

“Having a genuine emotion is probably better,” Daly said.

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