revolution

 

There are hockey pools... and then there are fantasy leagues.

 

There are thousands of people out there who are content with joining a run-of-the-mill pool, whose self-esteem and personal happiness aren’t tied up in the performance of their team. You know the type... twenty minutes before the office draft, they can be found frantically trying to print off last year’s stats from NHL.com. During the draft they say things like, “I thought Marian Hossa plays for Pittsburgh,” and then they try to draft Joe Sakic, not realizing that he just retired. In other words, they don’t take their fantasy hockey all that seriously... not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Then there are the rest of us – and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of us. Driven by unfulfilled dreams of becoming an NHL GM, we spend untold hours trolling the internet for the tiniest scrap of information that could potentially impact our fantasy team – even in the middle of August. Our draft lists undergo more revisions than a federal tax bill, and our wives and girlfriends frequent sites like this. Some may say we have too much time on our hands (and they’re probably right), but those people obviously haven’t experienced the thrill of a last-minute empty net goal that secures a much needed victory.

 

As a certifiable member of the fantasy hockey obsessed, a few years ago I set out to create a league that only a true geek could love. Is it over the top? Absolutely. But it’s a whole lot of fun, and that’s what fantasy sports are all about. So for all you commissioners out there, here are some ideas to inject some fantasy into your fantasy league.

 

 

1.  The Basics

A Clear Rulebook: On the surface, this one may not have a high excitement factor. But history has shown that few fantasy leagues remain fun for very long without a clearly defined set of rules. The more ambiguity you’ve got, the sooner you’re going to encounter a dispute that sucks the joy out of the game and perhaps even threatens to derail your league. So nip this kind of trouble in the bud by putting a good deal of thought into your rules from the start. Think through the scenarios that are likely to crop up, and make sure they are adequately addressed. Don’t forget to include rules governing how rule changes will be handled. If you need help getting started, Dobber’s got a variety of keeper league rulebooks here. Or if you’re truly bored, have a read through my 15-page manifesto here.

 

League & Team Identity: The first thing any team needs is a name... and I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a real life squad called Mike’s Team. Encourage your GMs to put some effort into coming up with a creative team name, and then take it to the next level with team logos. Most online hockey pool services allow teams to upload an image, and having a proper logo adds a sense of realism. Those who are graphically challenged can usually find a willing helper from within the league, or even in Dobber’s forum.

 

 

2. Virtual Reality

Deepening the Fantasy: When it comes to establishing team identity and league culture, team names and logos are just the beginning. Take the next step by encouraging your managers to name their farm teams, team captains and home arenas. Use the logos and Photoshop to create jerseys for each team. Many of the GMs in my league have fantasy managers and coaches for their teams, and our commissioner is the fictional King Theo (as in Fleury, perhaps soon to be fantasy hockey’s first playing commissioner).

Player Awards: Recognize the best performances of each season with fantasy awards, voted on by the GM’s at season’s end. In my league, we’ve got awards for MVP, best forward, defenseman and goalie, best goon, best rookie, breakout player of the year and more. After our first season, we named all the awards after the original winners. Who will win this year’s Ovie Award, the Dion D-Man of the Year, and the Kane is Able Young Gun of the Year Award? Time will tell!

 

Trophies: It’s always more fun when there’s something on the line. In many leagues, cold hard cash ups the ante. We decided to keep money out of it, so instead I paid about $25 to commission a couple of trophies: the Theoren Fleury Memorial Trophy for the regular season champ, and the Mark Messier Trophy for the winner of our playoff pool. The winner gets to keep the prize on their shelf till next year, and because we’ve got GMs as far away as England, these trophies do get around.

 

 

3. Communication

Websites: One of the first decisions to be made when starting a league is choosing a website to host it. Though there are many fantastic online fantasy services during the season, there are few good options for keeper leagues that operate year-round or those that involve farm teams. The good news is, in this day and age when everyone and their dog is an amateur web programmer, chances are there is someone in your league who would be willing and able to maintain a league website. Whether it’s a very basic site that simply houses your rosters during the off-season, or a full-on professional quality site complete with high end graphics, blogs, feeds, calendars and more, a league website is an excellent way to more fully engage your GMs in the league and keep things cooking in the off-season. You can even add Dobber’s ramblings to your site, if you’re crazy enough to share his insights with your opponents. Check out my league site at www.leagueheadquarters.com, and if you’ve got a site to show off, post your URL in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

 

Message Boards: Trash talking is an essential part of any fantasy sports league. What’s the fun of winning if you can’t rub it in your buddies’ faces? If you’ve got a website, most web hosts offer free, easy-to-use message board services. In about 20 minutes you can have your board set up, and the barbs will soon be flying. A great way to pass the long summer!

 

 

4. For the Truly Insane

Media Division: Okay, this is where I really go over the top. Understand that, had I followed my dreams, I would’ve pursued a career as a hockey writer and taken aim at a gig at The Hockey News. Instead I went in a different direction, and I’m forced to use my fantasy league as my outlet for what could have been. That being the case, I introduced the GFHL media division a couple years back. Our writing team (by which I mean me) produces a variety of online content dissecting the goings-on of our league. Season previews, midseason reports, weekly recaps, draft previews, players to watch... I’ve produced all these and more. The guys in my league seem to enjoy them; perhaps they’re just humouring their crazy friend, but I have enough fun writing them that I’d probably do it even if no one else bothered to read them. So, if you’ve got a repressed sports journalist in your league, set them loose as your beat reporter and see what fun they stir up.

 

Fun with Photoshop: The miracle of photo manipulation software makes possible all sorts of imagery to extend the fantasy. Put that team logo to good use by stitching it onto the jersey of your star player. Better yet, celebrate your championship with an image of your team captain hoisting the trophy as your desktop wallpaper. The only limit is your imagination.

 

So, how about you? Are you running a hockey pool, or a fantasy league? I’m always looking for new ideas to take it to the next level, so please share your comments below. If nothing else, it will reassure me that there are others out there as insane as I am... at least, I hope there are.

 

Glen Hoos is the commissioner of the Global Fantasy Hockey League (GFHL), GM of the Angels of Harlem, and graphic designer for DobberHockey (forum alias 'elevatemysoul'). He has a very patient and understanding wife.



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Comments (16)add comment

alexmullen4180 said:

alexmullen4180
... I am in a keeper league that's still fairly new. We're only going into our third year and some of these things are just great ideas that we need to make it better. It is an additional challenge because we have about half our league spread out all over and keeping up communication with some of them isn't easy during the off months. Its a 20 team keeper league on yahoo.
http://hockey.fantasysports.yahoo.com/league/points_league
August 19, 2009
Votes: +0

Rollie1967 said:

Rollie1967
18yrs and still running Ive been in basically the same keeper league for 18/19? years now...and I thought it was'in-depth', but with the internet now some of these leagues are INSANE! now I might have to find another one to get in on the crazy smilies/grin.gif
August 15, 2009
Votes: +0

elevatemysoul said:

angelofharlem
Trophies Mr. Mellow, I got the trophies at a trophies/awards store in my area - the kind of place where kids' sports teams and schools would buy their trophies. They have a big selection of hockey trophies for a very reasonable price, and you can get your league name, etc. inscribed on the plate.
August 15, 2009 | url
Votes: +0

mr.mellow said:

mr.mellow
... Dobbs, where do you get the trophies from?
August 15, 2009
Votes: +0

ZarlyZalapski said:

ZarlyZalapski
... Our 14 team keeper league:

Proud of ya! - www.proudofya.com
August 15, 2009
Votes: +0

phoenixzen said:

phoenixzen
... Great article. I'm happy to say the keeper league I participate in incorporates all of the suggestions. Our commissioner puts in alot of work. Another suggestion I'd like to make that I think adds to my keeper league is that all the GMs are required to have a messenger program (we use yahoo messenger). We also have boards to post but it's not quite like trash talking and cooking up trades through messenger.

http://www.dynastyhockeyleague.com/
August 15, 2009
Votes: +0

Oilers rock 99 said:

Oilers rock 99
a great form for hockey pools http://hockeygenius2.proboards.com/index.cgi

this site lets us add or update any topic we want and its completly for free check out the trade history, each team has its own area that they can creat any therad they want

My team is "Top Guns"
our points are 1 point for goal/assist .2 for pim .1 for shot
goalie= 1for apearance -1 for loss 2 for win 3 for shutout 2 for assist 10 for goal

check it out its a good way to keep everyone intrested espically in the offseason!!
August 15, 2009
Votes: +0

elevatemysoul said:

angelofharlem
... Nice looking forums you've got there, cj4aday.
August 15, 2009 | url
Votes: +0

elevatemysoul said:

angelofharlem
... Thanks for the kind words boys... it's just gratifying to know I'm not alone!
August 15, 2009 | url
Votes: +0

gdon said:

gdon
I understand completely I too do all the above. I just spent the summer revising our record book. A 22 page excel spreadsheet with all the stats.

getting guys to name fantasy managers and coaches helps in the weekly writeups as well. It all adds to the fun I think. Good article (and since I spend so much time on the computer my wife never gets a chance to find sites like you mention above. smilies/grin.gif )
August 14, 2009
Votes: +0

cj4aday said:

C.J
... I just checked out your league Glen and saw that you use Simple Machines as your forum.....which is another great choice and free to boot. No annoying ads and it has alot of features that make it a great choice as well.

I have always been a vbulletin guy even before fantasy hockey so I knew how to use and customize them easily so it made it an obvious choice for me, but Simple Machines was right up there other than that.
August 14, 2009
Votes: +0

cj4aday said:

C.J
... smilies/cry.gif Sorry, second league should be:

Hellfish Hockey - http://hellfishhockey.ca/
August 14, 2009
Votes: +0

cj4aday said:

C.J
... Spend a little money and get a forum that is reliable and comes with a community that can help you out in regards to customization. I run one league and help with another and we use Vbulletin....dont cheap out and settle with forums that have ads running all over them!

If you are serious about your league the little extra money will be well spent since you and your members will be using the forum year round for communication, drafts etc.

In The Crease - http://inthecrease.ca

Hellfish Hockey - http://hellfish.ca
August 14, 2009
Votes: +0

Szmutko said:

Szmutko
... As a member of Glen's league, I can personally vouch that all the extra effort he puts into our league is extremely appreciated. I look forward to each of his weekly updates... also he is exhibit A for me to prove to my wife that I am not the only guy who spends this much time on hockey fantasy leagues...
August 14, 2009
Votes: +1

tmlpowerplay said:

Excelsior
... Loved the article. We have a very good commissioner in our league who does a lot of the things you are suggesting.
August 14, 2009
Votes: +0

Dean Youngblood said:

Dean Youngblood
Great Article On so many levels I can relate to this article. Very well written and entertaining. I am the commissioner of our keeper league and you've gave me lots of good ideas to keep us enthusiasts entertained and to get those who aren't as "hardcore" as I a little more involved. Well DONE!
August 14, 2009
Votes: +0
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