“Pools were always happening,” says Huw Cawthorn, general manager of Officepools.com, the most popular fantasy sports website in Canada.
“People were always doing pools so with the Internet it has just made it easier.”
All four major professional sports leagues now provide their own fantasy websites for fans to capitalize on the growing trend.
Cawthorn says May’s success in selecting her team is indicative of the unpredictable nature of hockey pools. Anyone can win.
“Picking players who are reliable and consistent is important,” he says.
“But you can pick the best player, and he gets hurts and gets no points. It can totally throw people off. That’s what makes it exciting.”
Cawthorn estimates that 1.2 million Canadians participate in sports pools every year, with more than 600,000 logging on to Officepools.com.
He says playoff hockey pools are more popular than regular season pools because of the condensed time frame. For a small fee, the website keeps track of statistics and standings for participants.
Two of those online “poolies” are Chris Wilson and Luke Banks. They take part in a more complicated hockey pool that combines both the regular season and playoffs.
Each says they spend way too much time researching information on players.
“I wake up every day and check the stats,” says Wilson, who even found time to log onto the Internet while traveling through remote parts of South America in the fall, just so he could check on the players in his pool.
Banks says winning isn’t the most important thing about hockey pools, although he does admit he’s in last place.
He says it makes NHL games more interesting.
“For me I don’t care about Nashville at all,” says Banks. “But I have a few players in my pool who play for Nashville, so I’ll watch because they can get me points.”
Wilson agrees about the appeal of pools.
“It’s not about winning money, it’s about competition and camaraderie,” he says.
“I love talking hockey with Luke or my brothers. It’s always good conversation and it’s really more like a hobby.”
May says she gained an appreciation for hockey pools last year, not only because she won, but because of the excitement.
“It did make it a lot more interesting because the Sens were out,” she says. “It was fun watching players on teams that I wouldn’t have been cheering for.”
May says she’s not sure if she’ll keep the same height-related strategy for this year’s pool, but the champ doesn’t seem overly concerned.
“I feel some pressure to repeat, but I haven’t thought about it much yet.”