Disclaimer: I have participated in exactly one (1) fantasy league prior to this; a baseball pool with a few friends in 2008, in which I missed the draft, forgot my password and overall did not participate.
In the twelve years I have lived in Canada, I have fallen in love with hockey, but have never participated in a fantasy hockey league. When Hooked on Hockey Magazine Senior Media Analyst and self-proclaimed Commissioner and Grand Dictator Kevin Sporka came around asking for participation to fill out our work pool, I threw my hat in the ring; I figured I could not call myself a Canadian citizen until I have participated in at least one fantasy hockey pool.
I’m cold as a match, ready to strike, so here I go…
Being new to this, I absolutely had no preparation. I didn’t do any mock drafts, I didn’t do much research: How hard can drafting a fantasy hockey team be? We’re really only playing for pride, and for the title of supreme hockey analyst within the Magazine. Maybe I should take this a bit more seriously. With draft day furiously approaching, I mentally rehearsed who I would want; needless to say, I spent a lot more time coming up with a name (must be a play on a player’s name, as mandated by Grand Dictator Kev) than I did thinking about who I wanted. In case you’re wondering, I honored my Venezuelan heritage by settling on “¿Comeau se llama?”
It’s draft day, and I am, to my surprise, not drafting last. I have absolutely no contingency plan and big dreams of ending up with all my favorite players; or at the very least, players that produce tons of points. My haul? Jonathan Toews, Shea Weber, Olli Maatta, Zdeno Chara, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jordan Eberle, Tyler Myers (still in Buffalo), Mark Scheifele, Pascal Dupuis, Justin Faulk, Jakob Silfverberg, Brian Elliott, Dustin Tokarski, and 2010 wonder draft picks: Mike Richards, Danny Briere, Alex Semin and Cam Ward (I might time travel from time to time). Not too bad, but many of my co-workers drafted much better.
Here lies a city on fire, singing along the arsonist choir, now here I go…
First match-up goes horribly, as expected. My rookie stripes show: 1-8-1, good enough to take firm hold of 13th place (out of 14). Did I draft horribly? Maybe this is a hobby that isn’t quite going to pan out. I’ll give myself two more weeks before surrendering to the inevitable fire sale, and maybe I can salvage a little pride. Second week results are a bit of an improvement, despite my team being unable to meet the minimum goalie start requirements, I somehow pull a more respectable 4-6-0, cementing my grasp on 13th place. Still no roster moves; I have faith, sometimes blind faith.
It started with a spark, and burned into the dark, now here I go…
Briere wasn’t working out, his career fizzled out like my first two weeks of fantasy hockey; I dropped him, and picked up Jared Spurgeon and Nick Foligno. What’s that? I have two extra roster spots? Why not add Alex Burrows, and Martin Hanzal; I don’t have to give anyone up. Week 3 is a slam dunk; my team rocks a 8-2-0 and I finally find myself in the win column; a place where I would find myself the following week on a 7-2-1 result, and the week after that with a 6-2-2 result. I am gathering momentum, but need something substantial to maintain it. Enter my first trade: I was to give up Zdeno Chara, Vladimir Tarasenko and Tyler Myers for Dion Phaneuf, Alex Galchenyuk, and Scott Hartnell. In retrospect, I sort of got fleeced; Tarasenko would thrive away from my team, but Chara had a lengthy injury, and Phaneuf was a good replacement defenceman. Momentum immediately halts, as my team stumbles to a 3-5-2 loss.
Oh sweet ignition be my fuse, you have no choice, you have to choose…
Hanzal doesn’t pan out, Dupuis gets injured for the season; Semin is absolutely pointless. I lose again, 4-6-0, 2-7-1. Trades don’t get answered; I have to lurk the waiver line: goodbye Dupuis, hello Brandon Sutter; arrivederci Alex Semin, bonjour Mikhail Grabovski; I think it’s just patch-work, but Sutter proves down the stretch to be extremely valuable when it comes to special teams. I finally pull off a win, 5-1-4; not very convincing, but I’m sputtering. I have to do something drastic; cue the TSN turning point:
Toews and Hartnell as a Hail Mary Package for one very large Russian: Evgeni Malkin. Trade is accepted; Malkin is mine. What?!
With Maatta and Dupuis gone, Malkin and Sutter make my favorite team the best-represented squad on my team. I need to patch my goaltending, and some more offence: waiver wire gifts me Kyle Turris and Evgeni Nabokov at only the cost of an injured Dustin Tokarski. I got caught up in the hype and picked up Zemgus Girgensons. Yikes.
Bid farewell to yesterday, say goodbye, I’m on my way…
A close 4-6-0 against the league leader followed immediately by a 7-2-1 win, and the second half of the season begins. Starting off with a 5-5-0 draw, the season begins to shift in my favor, but it takes a while as I spend the following four weeks alternating between wins and losses: 5-4-1; 4-5-1; 8-1-1; 3-6-1.
I threw it all away because I had to be what never was…
A key trade brings Ryan Miller, Michal Neuvirth and Paul Stastny to my team, providing some much-needed relief in the make-or-break goaltending category; I bid farewell to Brian Elliott and Alex Burrows, while waiving Jakub Silfverberg, plus I reacquire Tyler Myers, fresh off his trade to Winnipeg; one man’s trash…
As the playoff push begins, my team starts to show its full potential: 8-1-1, 7-2-1. As I settle into the top of the league, I have several important match-ups coming up, some against Supreme Dictator Kev and our very own Editor-in-Chief Igor Burdetskiy. I lose to the boss, beat the commissioner: 4-5-1, 5-4-1; I am now firmly in fourth place.
Looking for a dime and found a quarter…
The playoff push begins in magnificent fashion; I emerge victorious against the third-place seed (7-2-1), followed by a narrow victory against the last-placed team (6-4-0) to end the season. My team has seen many changes, and as a rookie fantasy GM, I am playoff-bound against the 5th seed.
Pay no mind, now ain’t that something?
After nervously pacing for a week, I move on from the quarter-finals after a very opportune Tampa Bay Lightning loss to the Detroit Red Wings; I have a very convincing win in the first round of the playoffs, with a dominant 8-1-1 showing against our Tampa Bay Contributor Lauren Berg. Luckily, my policy of diversification across the league was enough to overcome her two-team strategy (she was absolutely deadly when the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers were on fire, there was no beating her). Yet I was about to learn this season’s biggest lesson:
F*ck it all, I came from nothing!
Our fantasy pool made a slight miscalculation; where I thought as the #4 seed, I was entitled to play the #6 seed, while the #1 played the #7, instead I played Lead Editor and my best friend Steve Auld in the semi-finals, who happened to also be the #1 seed. I learned a humbling lesson, losing in magnificent fashion (0-10-0). As I was getting absolutely thrashed by his team, Steve and I were sharing a pitcher. Fantasy sports are just that; fantasy.
In the real world, sports can be very cut-throat; but there is nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. Even fierce competitors take time to have a drink with one another or party together from time to time. An office-wide fantasy pool has brought out the best trash talkers, and a sense of camaraderie like no other. If you have the chance of sharing in something you love with your office (which also happens to be the subject of our venture), there is very little to dislike.
I’m something from nothing. You are my fuse.
When researching the history of our fantasy pool at Hooked on Hockey Magazine, Supreme Dictator Kev (he loves the moniker) couldn’t really recall who won last season; but he did remember the fun they all had, enough to come back this season and include me. As the season comes to an end, I look back at my fantasy team’s successes and shortcomings and issue a challenge to our staff here at HOHM: next year, let’s do it even bigger. Go easy on me, though, I’ll be in the middle of my Sophomore Slump.
P.S: I’m super proud of my third place finish. Losing to eventual champion Steve makes it even better. It’s almost as if I won by proxy.