Hard-pressed for time this week, I’m doing the least journalistically responsible column possible and gazing deep into my navel to write about hockey pools.
It’s fantasy pool time once again, though I guess it’s always fantasy time for some sport somewhere, but hockey pools are my first love. In the pre-Internet days, I won my first-ever pool by going off the Top 200 scorers’ list by picking a couple of comeback candidates. Thank you, Ray Ferraro and Cam Neely.
I’ve partaken in pools for different sports over the years and have tried to back off, as I’d like to do other things. I do always to make time for the one contest for which I am commissioner – a pool of mostly old newsroom friends called the Nattering Nabobs. (FYI, it’s a Spiro Agnew reference about the press and far more clever than any of Trump’s “fake news” drivel.)
I won the first three years, but it’s been a long time since. Still, the others act like I still win this thing habitually; like the Habs, though, I’m living strictly on reputation.
Oh, I’ve come close. A few years ago I almost caught a rookie player in danger of blowing a historic lead but fell short on the final weekend of the season.
Last year, I was up by 60 points in February when the long, slow decline began and I fell back to second for good with a couple of weeks left in the season.
In between these two years, I finished dead last. Such is life in the pool.
I’ve tinkered with the formula over the years. After winning seasons one to three and listening to the sour grapes when I landed the first draft pick, the closet socialist in me decided to even things up by having a weighted draft, i.e. last place has best chance to get first pick next time, etc.
Nice idea, big mistake. The problem is you will inevitably have new players join your league, and the question of where they pick will turn into a bigger gripefest than the United Nations.
The worst part was, often having to Skype in for the draft, I’d have to listen to others trying to explain the process and getting things dead wrong. All I could do was scream at my laptop as people two time zones away blathered on, drinking more beer and making less sense.
I shouldn’t complain though. I once went to an in-person draft in the Lower Mainland where the commish had a friend phone in with picks all the way from Ottawa. This went on until nearly 2 a.m. – West Coast time.
Pools can become a gambling problem for those falling prey to daily fantasy pools. (If you want something with more journalistic integrity than this column, check out the Frontline doc, The Fantasy Sports Gamble.) Most pools though are a way to make the season more interesting, to feel like the sharpest G.M. in the world for a brief moment (I know that Sebastian Aho pick was a steal) and ultimately about camaraderie.
Some of us (like yours truly) live farther way now, and it sometimes feels like we should give up the Nattering Nabobs, but we just can’t. Because we just know this is gonna be the year, it’s just gotta be….