NHL Headquarter, New York City. Some Time Last March;

            Gary Bettman: Gentlemen. It’s time we figured out who we’re gonna give this McDavid kid to. We better make sure we don’t mess this up because this kid looks like a real keeper, a face we can slap on hats and toys and deodorant and sell for years. Anyone got any ideas where we should stick him?

            Nefarious Conspirator 1: Well how about Toronto? We all know they’re the capital of Hockey and besides, we owe them for not having Hockey Night in Canada talk about them for precisely 8,319 hours this year. And have you seen the standings? They’re doing so bad we could totally fake and make it look like they actually won the lottery.

            Nefarious Conspirator 2: Well what about L.A.? We’ll talk to the refs and make sure they don’t make the playoffs (wink wink, nudge nudge) and then make sure their ball comes up in the lottery. We can market the hell out of him in LA LA land and haven’t done anything for them since we made Canada trade Wayne Gretzky to the Kings back in the 80’s.

            Nefarious Conspirator 3: Hey, y’know, speaking of Gretzky, what about Edmonton?

            Gary Bettman: Edmonton? You might be on to something there . . .

            Nefarious Conspirator 3: Yeah, think about it, we could make a total fortune by giving him to Katz and boys. I mean think of all the money we could make from a small Canadian city that ‘s practically Santa Claus’s neighbor. And you know this team is so well managed it’s practically on the verge of ending one of the longest playoff droughts in modern history! This is the last piece that could make them average!   Mediocre at the very least! You gotta hand it to the Oilers, those guys really know what they’re doing up there.

            Gary Bettman (banging his fist on his desk in a Eureka moment): Sold! Edmonton it is. How did we not see that earlier? It’s obvious he belongs with such an efficient organization. Nefarious Conspirator 3, you get a raise. You other two punch yourselves in the penis really hard. Right now. Now let’s go, we have a draft lottery to fix.

It’s funny, I was originally preparing to whip something up to dispute the inevitable screams of “conspiracy!” following last Saturday’s NHL draft lottery. For months, as the regular season wound down and a number of teams began positioning themselves for a chance to land Erie Otters super prospect and Next Big Thing Connor McDavid, murmurs that the NHL’s draft lottery to see who would snare the young phenom was rigged began getting louder and louder. The whole thing was a hoax, they said, the NHL was planning on awarding the top pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs because everyone knows Gary Bettman’s leash is held firmly by the Centre of the Hockey Universe (explaining why Toronto has never had a first overall pick and why they’ve gone nearly half a century without an appearance in the Stanley Cup final). They were going to hand McDavid to the Arizona Coyotes to sell tickets in the desert (because that was a strategy the NHL used to perfection during the nearly four years it ran the Coyotes while searching for an owner who wouldn’t move the money losing franchise to an actual hockey market). No, they were going to give him to the last place Buffalo Sabres because they wanted him playing in an American market, because as anyone who’s been paying attention can tell you Gary Bettman hates Canada and wants all the best players on American rosters (which explains why the sad sack Edmonton Oilers had the first overall pick from 2010-2012).

It was conspiracy roulette. Every day there seemed to be a new theory making the rounds. My father recently shared one he heard on his local all sports radio station, stating that the Leafs were going to get the pick as a reward for the boat loads of money Rogers (who owns half the Leafs and their other assorted affiliates) gave the NHL for the rights to Hockey Night in Canada. His proof? He’d “talked” to some “people,” people he of course couldn’t name (and isn’t that always the way?). On a recent story that appeared on The Hockey News website regarding the NHL’s decision to make video of the lottery public on its website, a poster was jumping at every opportunity to make ludicrous allegations that the draft was so obviously fixed that anyone who couldn’t see it was blind and stupid and when I and a few others politely challenged him on his desperately flawed logic (because he was missing a little thing called facts), he resorted to thumping his chest, calling us “pencil necked geeks” who he could beat up and not only were we all gay (something only considered an insult by a bigoted ass hat) but we were also performing sex acts on one another while we ganged up on him. Other then being your typical unintelligent, most likely inbred troll, he summed up what most conspiracy theorists, hockey or otherwise, truly are; stupid children who concoct things in the absence of actual knowledge to conform to their bigotry and prejudice in an effort to transform their ignorance into a comfort blanket.

But all that aside, if the Edmonton Oilers winning the right to draft first in next June’s entry draft proved anything beyond a single shadow of a single doubt, it’s that the NHL draft lottery is the furthest thing on Earth from being fixed. Because Edmonton is the very last place on Earth the NHL wants to see McDavid calling home for the foreseeable future.

As an Oilers fan, I totally appreciate, agree and sympathize with the fallout and outrage that has followed the Oilers landing their fourth first overall pick in the past six seasons, particularly for a generational talent like McDavid, whose been likened to Sidney Crosby and received a ringing endorsement from none other then the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky. I agree with a lot of what’s been said about this turn of events (I had accepted that Edmonton would be picking third or fourth in this year’s draft and was wondering if blue liner Noah Hannifin would be able to step in make an impact on our beleaguered defence next season), and I sympathize with McDavid, who looked about as thrilled as a six year old in a dentist’s waiting room when it was announced the Oilers won the first pick. A number of NHL executives are reportedly irate that the Oilers, easily the most mismanaged franchise in the NHL, have had their continued incompetence rewarded with the NHL’s next superstar. But all the gnashing of teeth serves only to prove my point further, that the draft, in its current form, is a complete crap shoot and free from any meddling or interference from Gary Bettman or NHL brass.

Because while I may not agree with some that the NHL just lost millions of dollars by allowing McDavid to fall into the Oilers inept clutches (and remember, I’m an Oilers fan), the NHL gains absolutely nothing by seeing McDavid don a copper and blue jersey for the next few years.


I have to admit, up until last Saturday the conversations around a rigged draft were a refreshing breath of fresh air from the usual springtime temper tantrums. Usually around this time of year we’re treated to endless accusations that NHL referees are either selling playoff victories to the highest bidder or deciding games based on Gary Bettman’s explicit orders (because no one’s favourite team ever loses in the playoffs because their opponent is better). And it has been truly hilarious to see some of the logic acrobatics the really stubborn conspiracy nuts have been performing to try and twist McDavid’s inevitable arrival in the City of Champions into a 911-was-an-inside-job, Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim-Terrorist, the-moon-landing-was-faked, Elvis-still-lives level conspiracy. But while the playoffs usually separate the elite from the contenders, I hope last Saturday’s draft lottery managed to separate the simply foolish from the truly delusional.

Shayne Kempton


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