What Is Fantasy Sports: Hockey?

By Kacey Kroh, Abshier House, Abshier House

Like other fantasy sport formats such as fantasy football, fantasy hockey is a game comprised of a league or leagues that recruit members. Each recruited member receives a list of rules by the league creator (often called the commissioner) before the game can be started.

Since the game consists of members creating teams from real-life players and then pitting them against other members, after the rules have been given out, the members of the league start the game by beginning the draft process.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Aksonov]

Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Aksonov

After the draft process has completed, players follow their team’s individual player statistics from the current ongoing season, scoring their players according to the preset gambit created by the commissioner. You score only the stats your league uses according to the scoring system the league allows.

Since fantasy hockey runs on the same or similar rules as other fantasy leagues, leaguers from other sport formats have quickly adopted fantasy hockey into their regular sports lineup to span the gap between other sports’ seasons.

Before joining a league, you are given a list of league rules. The rules usually are created by the commissioner and cover several gameplay areas. The rules most leagues include are as follows:

  • League size — Most leagues consist of roughly 10 teams. Some leagues follow the NHL (National Hockey League) more closely and try to get as close to the 30-team maximum as possible.

    Smaller leagues are more manageable for beginners. If you are a hardcore NHL fanatic, then a larger more complex league may be for you; otherwise, a smaller league is highly recommended!

  • League season length — Some leagues may follow different length formats, such as daily leagues that follow the teams’ stats and perform player rotations everyday all through the season. Another variations is weekly leagues that follow the teams to the end of the NHL season but they only do weekly stat keeping and player rotations.

    Also available are express leagues that play for portions of a season. These leagues may play for only one day, one week, or one month, and so on.

    If you are a beginner make sure you are up for the time required to follow your league. The last thing a league wants is a member who doesn’t follow the game as closely as everyone else. Try an express league first to see if this is the game for you.

  • Cost to join — Some leagues are free to join where others charge to become a member. Leagues that charge offer some sort of winner’s pot at the end of the league’s allotted playtime. Leagues that are free usually offer “bragging rights” and, in some cases, a trophy to the victor.

    Sometimes leagues have stipulations in which the worst ranking player would have to perform some sort of embarrassing act or pay extra into the pot at the end of the season. If you plan on joining a league, it is important to be fully invested in the activity so that it doesn’t cost you your dignity or lighten your wallet at the end of the season.

  • Draft requirements — League draft requirements vary depending on the league you ultimately choose to join. There are team size requirements; salary allowances, player rotation options, available trade dates, and player pick orders that determine how the league performs its draft.

    Beginners should look for a league that has a small number of allowed team players. If you are a beginner, try finding a league that does not include the bench or player rotations.

  • Scoring system requirements — There are many variations on how to score your players or team within the many different leagues available. The most commonly used systems are the win/loss and points systems in which all players will be scored in individual categories and either receive a win or loss for the category or will receive a point value corresponding to the stat category. All wins/losses or points are totaled at the end of the season, and the person with the best record or highest point totals wins the league.

    Pay attention to the scoring system your league uses. Point systems can sometimes be harder to follow. If a league uses the point system, then look for a league that assigns single digit points to the different stat categories.

  • Statistical scoring requirements — Stat scoring is based on real-time statistics that occur in every game played during the season. If your player does well in a stat category, they get a point or points (provided your league uses the point system), and if they do poorly, no points are given.

    If your player does well in a category using the win/loss system, the player will receive a win in that category, and if they do poorly, they receive a loss. The league you choose will decide which categories are scoreable and which are not.

    The most common (standard) leagues score on 16 statistical categories that are listed as follows:

    1. Points (Goals + Assists)

    2. Goals

    3. Assists

    4. Plus/Minus (+/–)

    5. Penalty Minute

    6. Power Play Points

    7. Game-Winning Goals

    8. Face off Won

    9. Shots On Goal

    10. Hits

    11. Blocked Shots

    12. Wins

    13. Goals Against Average

    14. Save Percentage

    15. Shutouts

    16. Hat Tricks

    Beginners should look for leagues that follow only some of the stats as opposed to standard leagues that follow all of them. Usually leagues that follow the top 5–10 statistics are easier to follow.

Some other more interesting twists on the game can be played in which you follow only one player per stat category. You could also follow the standard 15–18 players, but score on only the goals made category or other single stat category.

Eliminating stat categories is a great way to simplify the game. By combining smaller stat categories with an express format, you will be able to play a quick league and more fully understand the game before getting too heavily involved with a full NHL season.