The NHL makes fantasy hockey possible. But does fantasy hockey make the NHL possible?


Commissioner Gary Bettman has a vision for his NHL. To take what hockey has in Canada and northeastern United States and make the sport relevant in all of North America. To compete on equal footing with the NFL, NBA, and MLBA. By adding teams to the sunbelt region from Florida to California and everywhere in between, while attempting to land a lucrative national television contract.


The southern teams have had a lot of success as well with Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Dallas, and Carolina all winning the Stanley Cup. As Bettman was awarding the Cup in Anaheim to thunderous applause I remember him stating "looks like hockey is alive and well in California!" While Carolina was in their two appearances in the Stanley Cup Final their fans were tailgating at the arena during every game day - all day and into the night the way they do for Nascar and football.


While this makes it clear that there are hockey fans in southern cities and all across North America they are fairweather fans. Where are these fans when times are tough for their team?


In the northern or "traditional" hockey markets, the fans are much more abundant, if not more committed. Fans in those markets are diehard fans of their team but, more significantly, are fans of hockey. So how can the NHL breed fans of "hockey" and not just casual fans who only follow their local team?


The answer is simple: fantasy hockey.


If you are reading this piece, chances are you belong to a hockey pool. Even if your fantasy team is horrible and is enduring a rebuild or coming off of an awful season you still check the boxscores daily and you have a vested interest in the NHL.


The best example I have ever seen for this is my father. A long time Leaf fan would watch if the Leafs were doing well. If not, then his interest was zero. Two years ago he joined my fantasy hockey league. Since then he has joined two more and plays weekly free pools on CBC and other sites. Now he watches a game almost every night. Now he watches a game on TV while simultaneously following boxscores on his laptop. Now he owns a jersey and shares season tickets. Now he is a "hockey" fan - more than just a Leaf fan.


All because of fantasy hockey.


The most successful pro sport league in North America is the NFL. The main reason why is gambling. Fans love to be in NFL pools and suicide pools etc. Because of this, the NFL enjoys major national broadcasting revenues. Fans love to watch games even if their home team is not playing, because they want to see how their fantasy squad or their picks are doing.


While the NHL makes fantasy hockey possible, fantasy hockey can fulfill Bettman's vision of the NHL. How can the NHL leverage fantasy hockey to be even close to as successful as the NFL? If this is the formula, how would you suggest the NHL executes? What would you do to grow fantasy hockey?



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shaun b said:

Great Piece You are right. What happened with your father is happening rapidly everywhere. First it's fantasy hockey, then maybe some gambling etc. Before long, another borderline fan becomes a full blown fan. Gold Jerry!!
June 01, 2011
Votes: +0

DuklaNation said:

... Surprisingly, only recently have networks/leagues realized the importance of fantasy leagues. More of their coverage is fantasy-centric now as opposed to a few yrs ago. Honestly, I find today's hockey mostly boring and only watch a handful of games or highlight internet videos to keep up with whats going on. If it wasnt for fantasy leagues, I wouldnt watch at all. Many of my friends are of the same mindset.
June 01, 2011
Votes: +0

Rad64 said:

Follow the NFL - NFL Network for free The NHL should be broadcasting the NHL network for free. Load it up with fantasy relevant shows like the NFL does. NFL network kicks ass. smilies/smiley.gif

I'm surprised at the piss-poor job TSN and Sportsnet do with regards to fantasy hockey.
June 01, 2011
Votes: +0

r22yu said:

Positions and Apps 1) Get Yahoo to update their player positions properly! The way they do it right now is a complete joke.

2) Get those fantasy management Apps out there for Yahoo, CBS, Fantrax, etc. Make sure they will report the scoring stats as your league has them set, and allow you to set lineups, makes trades, etc!
May 31, 2011
Votes: +1

Mauro said:

thoughts on making fantasy hockey and hockey in general better For the nhl to reap the rewards of fantasy status like the nfl does, it MUST change its scheduling process. They might want to think about shortenning the season(unrealistic financially, but it has merit) they need to settle in and take complete control of saturday night hockey...that has to be there night, as sunday is to football, but obviously there has to be a couple of other nights during the week because once a week isnt enough, but saturday night has to be hockey night for sure...every team must play....that works perfectly with head to head fantasy, something in my opinion that the nhl desparately needs to build on beucase the current format sucks....u need to know that each week will be similar from the other.....i personally also like the idea of having a mini tournament during the season where as teams advance during this time they are being awarded 3, 4, or even 5 pts for winning the tournament...that kind of keeps peole interested in seeing if there teams can advance in the standings further. I wouldnt mind seeing an extra round in the playoffs, perhaps like a wildcard round that is a best of 5.....and my personal favourite is having all the non play off teams pick twice in the first round, that way there road to rebuilding wont or atleast theoretically shouldnt be so long and painful. I actually have more ideas but i thought i'd through those out there
would love to hear some feedback on this.
May 31, 2011
Votes: +0

Pavel Nikiforovitch said:

I agree I started playing fantasy hockey in 2000. Before that, if the Blues were out of the playoffs, I didn't really care anymore. Since then, though... Right now, the Blues didn't even make the playoffs (again), but both my fantasy teams are in their respective playoff finals, so... :-)

And I am pretty sure I care more about my fantasy teams than I do about the Blues, too. Yes, when the Blues are doing well, the whole city of St. Louis is sharing my joy, while when my teams are doing well, I am the only way to cheer. However, if the Blues are winning, that's not really my achievement at all. I have done nothing to further their cause. While my fantasy teams' success is truly MY success, for it was I who drafted players, traded players and fiddled with the lineup. ;-)
May 31, 2011
Votes: -1

Tim said:

... If fantasy hockey is going to become more mainstreamed, many of its statistics ned to be more widely understood. It's kind of like how casual observes struggle with icing. There are stats like Goals and assists that people understand, but even assists gets interesting as some don't realize that two people can get an assist on a goal. Plus/minus is tricky for new observers, and thats not counting goalie stats. The GAA average and SV% needs to be explained to some, plus giving a baseline for what's average and whats above and below would be helpful as well.

Just my two cents for the moment.
May 31, 2011
Votes: +1
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