April 25, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Brad Marchand (63) reacts during the first period in game seven of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Fantasy Hockey...gear up guys!

Well, it looks like it’s that time of year again. The beginning rumblings of the ‘fantasy leagues’ have already started for football. It’s just a matter of time till the hockey leagues start up. Last year was my first attempt to be in one. It was twenty bucks to join in, and our commissioner had asked several co-workers at my job to jump in. I was asked with a little bit of reluctance. My hockey knowledge was practically zero, but I was known as the “in house evil genius”.

I joined the league four days before the draft. I had the night off, and was doing a lot of obscene number crunching to try to figure out who my best options will be. The morning of the draft, my boss calls me. Got an add-on party for fifty people in the afternoon, can I come in and handle it? No problem, get to work and start getting stuff together. About an hour in, my boss tells me there is a second add on party and it’s for friends of someone important in the company. My offical motto at work is “Shut up. Make it Happen.” Ok, looks like I’m going to miss the draft.  The league had an auto-draft policy for those of us who missed it.

Well, now it is time to see who I got for my team. The only team I have ANY knowledge on are the Boston Bruins. I check my roster. The only Bruin I was given was Nathan Horton.  OK, not so bad. The next day, I’m back at my work and my hockey guru is working about twenty feet away. I head over to his area and I tell him flat out. “Look bro, I’m might be a genius, but in matters hockey, I am rather stupid.” I gave him my roster and he starts looking at the team. A manager asks me for something, I turn around to assist them when my guru/brother lets out a loud “Ko-pee-tah!”

I look at him if he has lost his friggin’ mind. He has seen this look on my face before and gives me the ten second run down on Anze Kopitar. He looks at my  forwards. He’s happy to see I got Horton.  He looks at my defensemen, makes a few comments that I took for gibberish ( that I now know are hockey stats), and then whistles low. Kev looks at my goalies. I got Smith from the Coyotes, Lehtonen from the Stars, and Quick from the Kings.  He tellls me to essentially dump almost all my D’s replace them as best I can and try to find a few more Bruins.

If I can trust Kevin with my life and my integrity, I’m pretty damn sure I can trust his instincts on hockey. I do EXACTLY as he tells me to do. First two D’s I pick up are Garrison and Phaneuf. I make a minor trade for Chris Kelly and I pick up Rich Peverley. While I’m ok with the numbers, I don’t fully understand how to use the interface for team management and I blow the first two games of the season.  At the end of the second week, I’m second from last in the league. (I had promised myself that the goal was to finish anywhere above last. The rest of the league had me figured as the bottom feeder, and I wanted to surprise them.)

Some of the ‘owners’ love constant communication. Some of the ‘owners’ want to trade non-stop. Since I did not know many of the other players in the league, and was trying to avoid looking foolish by making non-sensical trades, I just kept my head down and skimmed the talent off the free-agency and waiver pools. I made some mistakes and learned as I went. But mid season I was 6-6.  It wasn’t enough to get me into the playoffs, but I was slowly earning the respect of the other owners.

At mid season I had to do the hardest thing I had ever had to do as a fantasy hockey owner. I had to let one of my Bruins go. Nathan Horton had gotten another concussion and it was looking like he might take the path of Marc Savard. It really felt like an ‘Ol’ Yeller’ moment. I was letting go of the guy that had pulled it out for the Bruins in the clutch so many times, and I was kicking him to the curb. I told Kevin that I felt like I was betraying the nation.  He told me two things. One, that he forgave me, and secondly, as an owner I had to make these kind of choices to win.

OK, time to pony up. Hard choices we’re made. I went from making one change/add-drop per week to about twelve.  I picked up Ference, and went agressive on forwards. Players that had two bad weeks were gone. The league thought I had lost my mind, and we’re giving away players they didn’t like to get players I was willing to give away. The season progresses…. Top 6, Top 5, and boom goes the dynamite, I am in 4th with a 12-9 record just in time for the playoffs. I am taking on the league commissioner in the semis.

I get my team ready to go. I pick up Holtby as an extra goalie, and set myself up for success. I then proceed to work a sixty hour week and completly forget to play them. I go down hard. I did end up winning the consolation bracket and finished third.  It was one of those U.S. takes the gold, Canada takes the silver, and Sierra Leone takes the bronze moments. I had done pretty well and had earned the respect of my fellow owners. I have already been asked to do it again next year, and looking forward to more butt kicking and name taking. Hockey, its a hell of a drug.


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