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Way back with Wayne: The Origins of Fantasy Hockey

My father, Wayne, has been a life-long hockey fan. He loves to watch it, he loved to coach his kids in it, and he loved to play it. In this segment, I pick my dad’s brain about the progression of hockey from a fan’s perspective.

Many of you reading this are probably like me, you are absolutely obsessed with playing fantasy hockey. You delve hours into research before, during, and after each season just so that you can get an edge on your fellow Fantasy GMs and finally get bragging rights, and likely having your name immortalized on a trophy along with some cold hard cash. With so many different ways to play Fantasy Hockey and how much depth and complication can be involved with them, it’s crazy to think about how far Fantasy Hockey has come in a few decades. Luckily for me, my father has been participating/running the Cook Cup playoff hockey pool for 35 years and is the perfect candidate to get an idea of the climate of Fantasy Hockey back in the day.

When did you participate in your first hockey pool?

It was 1980, I get a call from a friend, Dave, saying, “Would you be interested in getting into a hockey pool?” At the time, everything I did was hockey. I watched a lot of hockey, I ran a men’s league in Niagara Falls, so of course I said yes. At first, it was called the Frigeault cup, but I took over the pool after the first 3 years and it would eventually be changed to what we know today as the Cook Cup.

What were the rules?

Pretty much the same that they were today, but the cost was $20, you picked a team of ten players with at least one goalie. Same scoring system as today as well: 1 point for an assist, 1 point for a goal, 2 more points if it was an overtime game winning goal, 1 point for a goalie win, 2 more points if your goalie got a shutout.

Who bought the heavily coveted Cook Cup trophy?

I did, 6 years after it started just to add a little bit of fun to it.

What was the state of fantasy hockey?

Well, 1979-80 was the first year that Wayne Gretzky entered the NHL and pools were not a known activity at the time.

How do you feel fantasy hockey was sparked?

Hockey was changing. Leading up to the 1970s, the NHL doubled the amount of teams in the league, and with the introduction of the World Hockey Association (WHA), the NHL kept on expanding. By the mid-70s, the league had 18 teams. The WHA was formed in the early 1970s and all of the big guys went there. Howe, Hull, Gretzky, and more went there; players were getting paid big money. When the WHA folded, 4 teams were absorbed into the NHL and the big players came back.

Also when the Broad Street Bullies came in and curved sticks came in. Stan Makita and Bobby Hull introduced the slap shot. Goals went up, more points were in the league. Hockey changed, it wasn’t Rocket Richard outskating everybody, it was a booming slapshot that could bring home the goals. There was originally the Big 6, then slap shots came in, then curved sticks, then they doubled the teams, then Broad Street Bullies won the cup on brute roughness with the likes of Dave Shoalts and Bobby Clarke. Then the WHA came in and was trying to get off the ground and be much bigger, Gretzky was taken by the Oilers, Howe was there with the Winnipeg Jets, Bobby Hull was bought out as well. They were trying to bring big names with big money, they lasted for few years but folded, then the NHL bought out the WHA and Gretzky came in and won all of those cups. There was a lot going on with hockey, and it was very exciting for the league and the fans.

How did you do scoring?

NEWSPAPER. It was a process, first round was just crazy, try to count for 20 people, every night. You would spend 3 hours figuring out the numbers, you would do a first round update, second round, etc. It was a monster job. Colin (Wayne’s second eldest son and my brother) introduced and it was a lifesaver.

Was there any controversies?

Well we used to do trades up until the final buzzer of the last game of the first round. I remember one guy was right down until the end and traded away Denis Savard to Max (Wayne’s father, my grandfather). They were pretty well out of it and they were in the second period, and Chicago was losing 4-1 to St. Louis Blues. Max traded two St. Louis guys for Danny Savard. Savard was a really good player of his day. Chicago ended up rallying and tieing the game in the 3rd period and winning in overtime. Trading had to be cut off due to illegal trading, two guys colluded and one of them traded all of his good players for one guy’s bad players, and were in it for just the money and not the fun.

My dad is wealth of knowledge when it comes to hockey from a fans point of view, so feel free to ask questions for him in the comments below!

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  1. AvatarSherry McCormack

    Wow…I don’t know where to start. Wait! Yes, I do!
    I’m a Canaussie. (Canadian living in Australia with dual citizenship). We have a hockey league here that I love even more than I love the Oilers (I’m from Edmonton). We have an inordinate amount of competition (read: angst) between the fans of each of our 8 teams. There is a movement afoot to try to get past the hostilities and grow our league across the nation. I would like some advice to start a Fantasy AIHL League to ramp up the interest and get it through that, yeah, the guys are great, but it’s still the game we all love. I need to keep it simple and low on maintenance (not a great deal of time available). As well, we only play 28 games so the rules may have to be adjusted.

    Do you have any suggestions?


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