Could the NHL Lottery System Ever Be Fixed?

Image courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHL Draft Lottery is upon us. Tonight in Toronto, 14 non-playoff NHL teams will participate in lotto to determine which will land phenom Connor McDavid and possibly change their NHL fortunes for the next decade. Tonight’s draft is undoubtedly important. Here’s how it works.

According to

To determine the winner, the official lottery machine is loaded with 14 balls, each bearing one number, 1 to 14. The NHL Draft Lottery involves drawing one set of four numbers from the machine. One ball is expelled from the machine at a ten-second interval until four balls are discharged.

Without regard to the order the numbers are drawn, there are exactly 1,001 four-number combinations. Each of the 14 teams in the NHL Draft Lottery is assigned the number of combinations corresponding to the odds allocated to them by their regular-season finish (i.e., the team given a 20% chance to win the NHL Draft Lottery is represented by 200 of the 1,001 possible combinations, the team with a 13.5% chance is assigned 135 combinations, and so forth).

Has this process of using lotto balls ever been fixed? In 1980, WTAE TV news reporter and Pennsylvania Lottery host Nick Perry hatched a scheme to fix the Daily Number Pick Three drawing. Perry and his cohorts used weighted balls to ensure the outcome they wanted. After making replica balls, Perry and WTAE art director Joseph Bock experimented with different substances injected into the ping pong balls. The two decided on white latex paint as it perfectly weighed down the balls so that they could bounce around in the machine, but never fly high enough to reach the vacuum and be selected in the drawing. Each of the balls were filled with paint except for the numbers 4 and 6. Perry recruited others in the television station, and he was able to replace the real balls with the weighted ones. The fix was on.

Perry sent his associates around the state to purchase tickets in bulk using the only combination of numbers that could be selected: 444, 446, 464, 466 646,644,664 and the infamous 666. On April 24th, Perry watched his numbers come up to the tune of 1.8 million dollars. However, Pennsylvania Lottery officials soon became suspicious of the winners, but could find no evidence of wrong doing. The case was eventually solved when a tip came in that two brothers bought a large quantity of tickets with the winning numbers. The pair had used a phone at the establishment and had called the WTAE Studios and spoke Greek, a language Nick Perry was fluent in. The call was traced back to Perry, and the brothers were brought in and cracked under questioning. Many in the scam were sentenced to prison, and the winnings were never paid out. For his role in the scheme, Perry recieved a seven year sentence of which two were served. The plot did force Pennsylvania and other state run lottos to reform their systems and institute tighter security measures. Perry did recieve a consolation prize for his lotto plot. In 2003, a major motion picture starring Lisa Kudrow and John Travolta was released called “Lucky Numbers” . The movie has a score of 22% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Could this ever happen in the NHL? The answer is probably not. The NHL Draft Lottery is overseen by an independent company and due to the large number of combinatons possible, it would be impossible to tamper with the balls. That being said, landing McDavid will be a huge financial boon to whatever team lands him. However, with that much money on the line, you never know what type of schemes are taking place behind the scenes. McDavid on the Florida Panthers sounds good to me.


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