If we were to build a big sympathy meter for all the people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, “fantasy sports GMs” would rank about as close to the bottom as it gets. Our pools feel more trivial than ever.
Still, I feel for one guy in particular in my main keeper league.
It’s a money league, and he had invested three years of his life into rebuilding his team. He tanked. He traded for draft picks. He tanked some more. He came into this year loaded with top-end keepers and picks. He loaded up and built one of the most dominant teams our league has ever seen. He was 87 games over .500 in our 16-team, 13-category, head-to-head league on March 12, 2020. The NHL wisely paused its season, and my poor buddy lost his masterpiece.
There’s a good chance he’ll never get it back, either. Even if the NHL resumes, we don’t yet know if it’ll still finish the regular season, and in fantasy hockey, it’s the final weeks of the regular season that serve as the playoffs.
In the days of isolation that followed, we begun discussing how to crown the league champ. Top team in the standings? Punt the season altogether and declare no champion? It’s still up for debate, but we’ve come up with a plan to pass the time and at least crown some sort of champion in 2020.
Introducing Fantasy Fantasy Hockey.
I can’t take credit for the idea. That goes to another guy in the league, a lawyer whose mind is always churning out plans. The pitch:
1. Bust out a copy of EA Sports’ NHL 20.
2. Create 16 teams, named after every team in our existing fantasy league, complete with logos chosen specifically to antagonize each member.
3. Using Zoom chat, hold a live, online draft in which every guy in the league builds a 23-man roster.
4. Simulate – and stream for every league member – a created season with the teams we’ve drafted. Every night, one head-to-head matchup airs for everyone to watch.
5. Allow trades which must be filed as “trade calls,” pretty much the way people used to do it in pools 30 years ago: you agree to a deal and have to contact the commish to tell him.
The draft goes down this week. We tried a simulation “broadcast” of a game between two teams as a test, and it was a smashing success. How starved are we for actual hockey right now? A couple GMs confessed to watching the whole game, an EA Sports sim, start to finish. And, said one GM, “I was riveted.”
And so begins our foray into Fantasy Fantasy Hockey. Could this whole thing simply be done the easier way with everyone managing a team on a console and playing online? Sure. But not every hockey pool has a tech-savvy demographic breakdown, does it? My league features a mix of millennials, Gen-Xers and boomers, ranging from their late 20s to their late 60s, some of whom are luddites. So the traditional online play doesn’t work for us. If you’re in that kind of hockey pool, full of people who miss the fun of managing a team and interacting with other GMs the old-school way, give it a try.
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