NHL media personality reintroduces conspiracy theory of rigged 2005 draft


One of the most persistent conspiracy theories in recent sports history is popping up again.

Was the 2005 NHL Draft rigged for the Penguins to select Sidney Crosby at No. 1 overall?

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The question was addressed on a recent edition of the “Clearing the Crease” podcast, hosted by Stanley Cup winner Mike Commodore and broadcaster James Cybulski. In it, Cybulski reintroduces the theory, and provides some convincing arguments.

Before delving further, it’s important to remember where the Penguins were in 2005. The organization had just escaped bankruptcy and was threatening to move to Kansas City. One of the NHL’s most iconic franchises was at a low point.

Crosby was the unanimous top player in the 2005 NHL Draft. As we know, the Penguins’ fortunes turned around as soon as they selected him.

Cybulski says the circumstances were fishy.

“The 2005 entry draft was one of the shadiest things to ever go down in the NHL,” he said. “That was the first time since 1980 the NHL lottery draft was held behind closed doors. There was no public drawing of the balls. Gary Bettman went in behind the curtain, and he came out from behind the curtain holding a Pittsburgh Penguins logo, ‘Oh look, Penguins, congratulations. You won.’”

In the clip below, Commodore, who played for the Hurricanes during the 2005-06 season, doesn’t push back.

There’s no doubt that drafting Crosby was one of the best moves in Penguins history. Shortly afterwards, they reached an agreement to build a new venue, PPG Paints Arena, guaranteeing they would stay in Pittsburgh.

The Penguins have made the playoffs for 16 straight years, winning three Stanley Cups.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons to believe the conspiracy is probably bunk. The NHL modified its rules for the 2005 lottery, giving every team a weighted shot at the No. 1 overall selection. The best odds went to four teams that hadn’t qualified for the postseason in three years nor won any of the last four lotteries: the Penguins, Sabres, Blue Jackets and Rangers.

That distribution left the Penguins with a 6.25 percent chance (1-in-16) of winning the top pick. While those odds weren’t great, they were better than most.

There’s also the Rangers factor. If the NHL truly rigged the 2005 draft, it’s fair to surmise that Crosby may have wound up in New York. Crosby playing in Madison Square Garden would’ve probably been the best case scenario for the NHL.

The mystery continues.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA Today Sports