Hey, everyone. It’s Dan Mount and we are just under a month away from the start of the 2013-14 NHL season. Today is the first of a two part article on fantasy hockey. Part one will focus on what is fantasy hockey and why you should play it Part two, which will come out early next week, will focus on who to draft and a few players to watch. If you like (or don’t like) what you read, please leave comments below or on my Twitter page at @DanMountSports.

What is fantasy hockey?

It’s a lot like fantasy football or any other sports, where statistics are used to create a lineup of players that try to earn the most points as possible a la fantasy football, basketball, etc. You can play it a total points, rotisserie or head-to-head leagues. (There are some places that do daily leagues or Express leagues, which last less the length of the whole season.) Leagues are usually set up into a starting lineup of two or three centers, two right wingers, two left wingers, three (or four defensemen) and two goalies. There is usually a bench of about four-six deep.

The first fantasy hockey league was started by Jay Arbour, the son of legendary New York Islanders head coach Al Arbour, and future New York Rangers general manager Neil Smith. The league involved New York hockey broadcasters Sam Rosen and Howie Rose among others.

It isn’t like fantasy football where you only have 16-17 weeks of playing, but it’s not like the spring and summer grind of fantasy baseball and its 162-game slate. It’s like the 82 games of the NBA season. Scoring can happen in multiple ways. (Some include penalty minutes and faceoff wins.) Most go by goals, assists, points, plus/minus and goalie stats like saves, wins and shutouts.

Also fantasy hockey is growing in popularity as NHL.com has its own fantasy section and Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog is starting to really cover fantasy hockey in its ramp-up for the new season. I’ve seen some articles on it in the past, but they are really starting to try and tap into that market.

Reasons to play

First off, it gives the casual fan a chance to be educated about the sport. There’s usually someone in a person’s circle of friends that is a rabid hockey fan. One of my good friends was dating a girl that got into hockey because he was so into it. (They eventually got married and she’s been in a league I’ve been in for years.) It gives the casual fan more information on the game, and that there are more stats of importance than goals and assists.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve been in a league for over a decade with some of my old friends from my alma mater of SUNY Oswego. One’s Joe Yerdon of ProHockeyTalk.com (on Twitter @JoeYerdonPHT) and WDAY Fargo Sports Director Dom Izzo (on Twitter @DomIzzoWDAY) I’ve been in the league for years and it’s one of the signs that hockey season is nearby. The guys at Dobber Sports did a fantastic piece on why people should start playing and the main reason is because of friends and family.

I also posed the question to the guys at Fantasy Hockey Fanatic. “Why should someone start playing fantasy hockey?” This is what they came up with.

 

That’s a pretty straightforward answer. One doesn’t know the joy of playing fantasy hockey until one laces up the cyber-skates and gets out there. Any fan of hockey will get into it once they give it a shot. I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the league and its players because of fantasy hockey. I was a more-than casual fan, but fantasy hockey really turned me into a rabid fan.

That’s it for this week, but don’t forget I'll have a fantasy hockey primer on draft strategy and what players you should take if you do decided to take the plunge. Until then, I'll be putting in my research for this year's draft.

Dan Mount is an NHL columnist for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.