Fantasy Hockey League Disputes, they've become the stuff of legends.


Back in 2007, shortly after hoisting the Cup with his Anaheim Duck teammates, Dustin Penner signed an (ill-advised) offer sheet with the Edmonton Oilers. This was so long ago that Penner was actually considered an impact player for the Ducks, and to say that then-Ducks’ GM Brian Burke took exception to the Oilers’ tactics would be an understatement.


After trading barbs with Oilers’ GM Kevin Lowe through the media, Burke went all schoolyard on him, challenging him to a barn fight in Lake Placid. Actually, Burke issued the challenge by sending Lowe a message through his buddy Glen Sather, the NHL equivalent of asking the kid next to you to pass a note to the guy behind him.

When Gary Bettman inevitably got wind of the showdown, he missed a golden opportunity to turn it into a pay-per-view spectacular that could have generated enough revenue to avoid the lockout of 2012, and regrettably pulled the plug on it with threats of lengthy suspensions. Something about the integrity of the game. Pffffttt.


One of the least fun aspects of being a commissioner, whether in real life or in fantasy, is dealing with disputes between rival managers. Whether the arguments arise out of shady trade dealings, skirting the edge of the rules, or questionable in-game strategies, when two or more owners are at each other’s throat, the wise commissioner must diffuse the situation before it engulfs the league. It takes a delicate touch.


Here are a few strategies to help you navigate these tricky waters, listed in ever-widening circles. Because there’s such a wide range of disputes, and every league is unique, I’ll let you decide which is most appropriate for dealing with your next controversy.


Commissioner as Benevolent Dictator: One option is for the commissioner to act as an independent mediator. Let both sides present their case, review your league rules, think through the precedents that you may be setting, and make a binding decision. This is often the easiest way to put out small fires, but be warned: when you go this route, you could be setting yourself up for some serious vitriol. The “loser” in this situation may not look upon you too kindly, and others could accuse you of acting out of self-interest. It is critical that you set aside any interest that your own team might have in the outcome of the case, and act in the best interests of the league. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.


Strike a Committee: To distribute power and ensure you’re not blinded by self-interest, you might consider creating a committee of three owners to review the situation with you. This may be a permanent panel, or it may be assembled and dissolved on a case-by-case basis. Whether you actually give them voting rights in the matter or just use them as a sounding board is up to you. It’s essential that you pick the right people for this task – managers who have little at stake in the dispute and a proven ability to look at things clearly and without bias. You may open yourself to charges of favouritism, but if you choose owners who are well-respected within your league, hopefully you can avoid this danger.


Democracy Rules: In a major dispute, you may need to involve the entire league in the process by giving everyone a vote (except those involved in the dispute of course, though their votes would just cancel each other out anyway). The difficulty is that, depending on the makeup of your league, the result may not be what is best for the league or the fairest result. Self-interest will inevitably creep in; what affects one team invariably impacts its closest rivals, which no doubt changes the way some people vote. Nevertheless, if the issue is big enough and will impact the rules of the league going forward, it may only be fair to let everyone have a say.


Call for Reinforcements: One of the best things about DobberHockey is the community that has formed in the Dobber forums. You will never find a greater collection of combined fantasy hockey wisdom anywhere on the net. Take advantage of it by soliciting unbiased opinions. Describe the situation in detail and post a poll to gauge the temperature of this community of experienced managers and commissioners. If the poll is decisive in one direction or the other, you probably can’t go wrong by following the collective advice of the forum members. If the result is tight, you’ll have to make your own decision, but at least you’ll have some ammunition to back you up.


And if all else fails, rent a barn and let them settle it like men.


What’s the worst dispute you’ve ever had to resolve in your league, and how did you solve it?

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