24 April, 2014


With Its All Star Game the NHL Goes Fantasy

Eric McErlain, influencing hockey in a big way again

Customarily I’d glance over word of a revamped NHL All Star game with all the excitement of an online tutorial on wallpapering. But word from the league today of the 2011 All Star game in Raleigh going the route of Fantasy League selecting got personal for me: credit for the idea sure seems to belong to my buddy Eric McErlain, the godfather of hockey blogging.

The game’s formally being identified as ‘The 2011 All Star Fantasy Draft’ format.

Here’s the skinny on what the league announced today for the game:

  • Balloting for the game begins on November 15 and runs through January 3. Fans will vote digitally, again.
  • The league will provide a list of 100 candidate players; fans will vote for their top 6 (five skaters and a goalie) — but do so irrespective of conference affiliation. No East vs. West with this year’s game. Fans can also write in a player’s name.
  • The NHL’s Hockey Operations Department will select 36 players to join the 6 chosen by fans, forming a 42-player All Star pool. Hockey Ops will also select 12 rookies for participation in a skills competition All Star weekend. The resulting 54 players will select two captains per team. These captains will then select their rosters during a draft on Friday night, January 28.
  • The first pick in the draft will be determined by a coin flip. That’s pretty dull. A single shootout attempt against an All Star candidate goalie boasting the best numbers, perhaps, carried out by the two primary captains — with the first pick being the prize — would have added fun to the evening. Really, if you’re turning the All Star game into a Fantasy league exercise, is a shootout profaning in any way? Anyway, the draft represents the heart and fun part of the revamped All Star game: the captains will choose their sides just as in shinny games of our youth (when you didn’t simply toss sticks in a pile and alternately flip them to the two sides of the ice). The 12 rookies in Raleigh will be broken into two six-man teams for the skills competition.

Back in 2008, while blogging for AOL Fanhouse, EMac, reacting to the KHL’s All Star game format and wondering how the NHL could learn from it, wrote this:

First off, I’d keep the voting the same way it is now, with fans voting five skaters and a goalie from both the Eastern and Western Conference. But once you get those results, all other bets are off. Next, you match your two designated team captains with the coaches who have won the honor of coaching a team based on the best record in each conference.

“What comes next is a live draft aired between periods of the NHL Winter Classic. Working together with the designated coaches — for sake of example, we’ll say Claude Julien is matched with Ovechkin and Todd McLellan is paired with Crosby — the team captains will draft their All-Star teammates . . .

“Can you imagine the tension? What happens if Ovechkin wins the coin toss and gets to draft #1? Will he submarine Crosby and select his countryman, Evgeni Malkin, or will he snub Malkin in favor of snagging Pavel Datsyuk? The possibilities are endless!

Just a wee bit of parallel with what the NHL is doing in Raleigh this year, don’t you think?

Washington’s hockey community has long had a great deal to be proud about by virtue of the achievements and influence local bloggers have had while covering the Caps and the league. Now, though, we’re looking at a case where the most important blogging figure among them has actually inspired a revolution of one of the NHL’s prized marketing events with his creative thinking.

Just last month I sat on a panel on hockey blogging with EMac at the Capitals’ Fan Convention, where he was rightly acknowledged for pioneering NHL blogging. A month later it surprises me none that he’s still blazing new, fan friendly paths for our sport.



One Comment

  1. OvieTracker wrote:

    I love the Fantasy League format for choosing the All Star teams’ rosters. It will make for some interesting discussion about who the captains pick and why, who gets favored and who gets snubbed. Why not add a little drama and tension to provide some spice to the game and stoke the fans’ interest in the game?

    10 November, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink