The Bell Center will host the 2022 National Hockey League (NHL) draft on July 7 and 8, where the local team, the Canadiens, will have the very first choice, a first since 1980. Another first will take place during this auction: the broadcast of NFT by young entrepreneurs who hope, one day, to entrust a community of supporters with the management of their own professional hockey team.
Riding on the popularity of pools hockey, electronic sports and technologies related to cryptocurrencies, the young Montreal startup Lipsweater has received the agreement of the NHL and the Montreal Canadiens to broadcast as part of a podcast that will take place live from the Bell Center during the draft its first non-fungible tokens, or NFT (for “ non-fungible tokens “, in English). Lipsweater expects to issue just over 300 at this time, out of a total of a few thousand tokens in all. These tokens will take the form of a hockey-themed digital image — but will not be directly associated with the NHL or any of its teams.
Internet users interested in these tokens will have to pay from the Ethereum cryptocurrency the equivalent of an amount ranging from 400 to 2000 US dollars. They will immediately become part of a group that will be invited to participate, alongside the officially incumbent managers, in the management of the Plattsville Lakers, a hockey team in the Greater Metro Junior Hockey League, a development league in the Toronto.
This way of involving NFT holders in team hockey decisions makes the Lakers the first “decentralized autonomous organization” in hockey in North America, says Thomas Sychterz, a former American college hockey goaltender and founder of Lipsweater. The key word in this expression is “decentralized”. The concept is intimately associated with NFTs and Web3, technologies that in theory promise to entrust the people at the base of a company with some of its decision-making.
“By owning an NFT, you will have a say in the management of the team”, explains Thomas Sychterz at To have to. “We see fans who want to get more involved in the professional sports world. We are likely to encounter this type of arrangement more and more frequently. »
Lipsweater dreams of implementing this kind of decentralized management formula within an NHL team. There’s no telling if this will ever happen, although some teams — including the Montreal Canadiens — have begun to take an interest in the NFT phenomenon in recent months.
It’s a new way for them to sell or exchange digital items in the image of the players or the team as we have done for more than a century with sports cards.
A “decentralized autonomous organization” takes the use of NFTs a step further. Some professional sports leagues elsewhere in the world are a little more advanced in this movement, starting with English soccer. Welsh team Wrexham AFC, whose history dates back to 1864, was acquired in November 2020 by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. A movement has since begun among the team’s supporters to encourage the new owners to cede part of the management of the team to them by means of such a formula.
Skip the fad
We do not know if the process will succeed. What we do know is that on Lipsweater’s side, the concept attracted a few dozen active and retired professional hockey players, including Alexandre Carrier and Eric Robinson, from the Nashville Predators, Nicolas Aubé-Kubel, from the Avalanche du Colorado, and Jake Bean of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Born on the heels of a resurgence in the popularity of cryptocurrencies, NFTs seem like a rapidly fading fad these days. According to the specialized analysis platform NonFungible, interest in these digital assets fell by 90% between September 2021 and May 2022.
Thomas Sychterz refuses to bet solely on the speculative side of technology to interfere in the management of a hockey team. “We have a business vision that goes beyond NFTs,” he says. There will be companies that will crash with NFTs, but others — like sports teams — will benefit. »
Used as a loyalty tool that brings a team closer to its biggest fans, NFTs can become “the Costco of hockey”, believes the one who collaborates with comedian David Beaucage on a hockey podcast called Drette su’l tape.
“They will give privileged access to the team that would otherwise be impossible. And if it goes well, the NFTs can be resold to other fans. »
The success of Lipsweater’s NFTs may well depend on how well drafted its early entrants are. Doing it at the same time that the NHL is holding its own draft seems like a good fit.
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NFTs to manage a junior hockey team
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