“Do you still run that playoff pool you like so much?” Paddy asked.
“You mean the one I started in 1968?” I asked in turn.
“I guess so,” he said.
“No,” I lamented, “I haven’t run that one since 1995. But there’s still a version of it being run in Charlottetown. I introduced it there in 1975 and they’ve kept it going. I still think it was the best pool ever.”
“Do they still call it the Lyman MacInnis pool?” Paddy asked.
“I think so,” I replied. “They may have the words ‘chartered accountants’ in it because originally the participants were all chartered accountants.”
“Tell me again what got you going on it,” Paddy prompted.
“It happened like this, “I told him. “In the spring of 1968 I had just joined Coopers & Lybrand in Toronto. Now you’ll recall that the 1968 NHL playoffs were the first involving expansion teams, and they were really bad teams. One of my colleagues, a CA by the name of Graham Wright, and I were talking about that and I commented that the playoff games involving expansion teams would be so bad that only the team owners would be interested in them. As soon as I said that, the idea hit me.”
“What idea, to have a pool?” Paddy asked.
“No,” I said, “the idea to have a pool based on team ownership, just like ownership of the expansion teams was constituted; meaning that pool participants would draft a team of players.”
“But didn’t pools like that already exist?” asked Paddy.
“Not really,” I told him. “In any other pool I’d ever been involved with you simply picked players. And you could take as many as you wanted to from any one team, which meant a player like Bobby Hull could be picked by any number of people, and, even if you picked Hull, you could still take his teammate Stan Mikita in the next round..In my pool, players would be drafted, which meant that once a player was selected no one else could take him, and you couldn’t take a second player from the same team.”
“How did you determine the number of participants and the number of players?” Paddy asked.
“I arbitrarily decided that there would be ten ‘entrants’ in the pool, and although each entrant could have as many ‘shareholders’ as they wanted, only one shareholder would be allowed to draft. He could, of course, consult with other members of his group. As mentioned, I decided that each pool team would draft one player, and only one player, from each team that was in the playoffs. There were four expansion teams and four of the so-called ‘original six’ teams in the playoffs, so a total of eighty players were drafted, eight by each entrant.”
“Did you have to pick particular positions?” Paddy asked.
“No,” I said, “one player, any position, from each team.”
“What was the scoring?” was Paddy’s next question.
“One point for a goal or an assist,” I replied. “But if you drafted a goalie it got a bit more complicated. A shutout was worth three points; one goal against, two points; two goals against, one point; three goals against was a wash; four goals against and you lost one point; five goals against and you lost two points, six or more goals against and you lost three points. If your goalie was credited with a goal or an assist, then you got those points.”
“What if the goalie didn’t play the whole game?” Paddy asked.
“You had to accept the combined performance of both goalies,” I explained, “so although you named a goalie, you really were drafting the team’s goaltending stats.”
“How did you determine the order of the draft?” Paddy inquired.
“In the first year,” I said, “we put ten playing cards, from the ace to the ten, face down in the middle of the table and drew for the order. Ace went first, deuce second and so on. We then reversed the order for the second round and kept that order for all the rest of the rounds.”
“Why didn’t you reverse it each time?” Paddy asked.
“One of my colleagues at Coopers was a mathematics whiz named Martin Gungl,” I told Paddy. “I explained my scheme to Martin and asked him what the fairest way to draft was. He took out his slide rule (no computers in those days), did some calculations, and said that the fairest way would be to reverse the order after the first round and leave it that way for the balance of the pool, which is what we did.”
“You said ‘in the first year,’ did you do it differently in subsequent years?”
“No, we still reversed and stayed that way after the first round,” I explained. “We simply didn’t use the playing cards. The first round was determined by the standings of the entrants in the previous year’s pool. The entrant that finished last drafted first and so on up the ladder until the previous winner drafted last.”
“Did you ever change the format?” Paddy asked.
“Once, but only for a few years,” I said. “While Wayne Gretzky was at his peak, two pool entrants could draft him: one for his goals and another for his assists.”
“Why do you think it was the best pool?” Paddy challenged.
“The one-player-from-each-team concept, combined with the rule that a player can only be taken once,” I replied. “That meant that entrants didn’t have to try to guess how far teams would advance, and there are two advantages to that. First, it kept entrants in contention longer, and it reduced the luck factor because you chose players based on their potential individual performance rather than trying to guess how far their team would go. Also, the scoring is straight-forward and simple.”
“Didn’t you also have some quirk that gave everyone a chance to win something right up to the very end of the playoffs?” Paddy asked.
“I didn’t think it was a quirk,” I defended myself, “I think it was a stroke of genius.”
“Okay, Genius,” Paddy prodded, “what was it?”
“The entrant whose draft position was the same as the last digit of the time the last goal in the playoffs was scored got their money back. Say the last goal was scored at 18:58. Then the entrant who drafted eighth got a refund.
“Why don’t you run it anymore?” Paddy asked.
“A reflection of the times,” I said. “Most of the hockey fans I know don’t want to take the time to draft, they just want to pick, and they want to do it online. Running the draft took time. We usually spent about three to four hours and we all had to be there.”
“Pity,” Paddy said as he got up and left.
“Yes, a pity,” I silently agreed.