Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hockey pool isn't just fun -- it's helping the economy

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It's a traditional rite of spring throughout this great semi-frozen country of ours.

Every year at this time, as the NHL's regular season draws to its inevitable end, Canadian guys of my gender turn off their big-screen TVs, climb off their couches, dust the taco-chip crumbs from their souvenir hockey jerseys, walk out of their dens, scratch their heads as they try to remember how many children they have and what their names are, then march outside to squint in the blinding sunlight and see whether their lawns are still buried under two metres of snow.

Then, after filling their wheezing lungs with cold, fresh air and reassuring themselves nature's time of renewal is safely underway, they slowly turn around and slink back into their musty dens, where they slump down on their battered couches, switch on their gigantic TVs and, with an emotional farewell wave to their loved ones, prepare to spend the next two months eating grease-containing snack foods, swilling beer and watching the NHL playoffs.

It could not possibly be more Canadian, unless we slathered our bodies in maple syrup, moved our dens into the local Tim Hortons outlet and asked the Toronto Maple Leafs to join us, provided there was enough room in our garages for their golf clubs.

In spring, it is the sacred duty of every Canadian male to shutter himself in his den for the duration of the NHL playoffs. We do not do this because we are insanely devoted to our national game. No, we are willing to shun our families and watch hockey 24 hours a day because, otherwise, our nation's economy would grind to a screeching halt.

I say this because I have come to realize the driving force behind our economic engine is the ubiquitous office hockey pool, wherein middle-aged, overweight guys like me expend all our mental and spiritual energies pretending to be NHL general managers and monitoring the statistical performance of professional hockey players who earn more money per season than all the world's oil-producing nations combined.

It makes sense if you think about it from a purely economic perspective. Sure, on the one hand, instead of engaging in productive work involving spreadsheets and databases, your standard Canadian worker spends the bulk of his day poring over scoring statistics and trying to determine whether Jonathan Toews is ready to bounce back from a mysterious injury in time for the Blackhawks' first-round series against the St. Louis Blues.

On the other hand, consider the vital contribution hockey-pool participants make to our economy. For example:

1) Along with souvenirs bearing the logo of his favourite team, your standard Canadian worker will spend roughly $13,487 on hockey magazines to ensure he has the up-to-the-minute information required to pick the most productive players for his fantasy team;

2) When the guys in an office hockey pool gather in a public watering hole to conduct their draft, they will reinvest approximately 50 per cent of their annual net income in beer and barbecue chicken wings;

3) In return, if everything goes as planned and their fantasy players make it all the way to the Stanley Cup final, the pool winners have a shot at winning, and this is a ballpark figure, somewhere around $50.

What I think I am saying is office hockey-pool participants, like drug addicts, end up putting a lot more cash back into the economy than they take out, which is good news if we ever hope to overtake non-hockey-playing superpowers such as Burundi in the global economic marketplace.

So my message to every guy within the sound of my voice is both simple and patriotic: Drop whatever you are doing, especially if it involves a power-point presentation, park yourself on the couch in your den and start shrieking at the referees on your TV screen because there is no (bad word) way that was goalie interference.

Do this because you are a red-blooded Canadian and, if it means standing on guard for the economy by becoming obsessed with a fantasy hockey team, ignoring your loved ones, and eating your weight in chicken wings, then that's just what you are going to do.

Of course, there is a slim chance I'm totally wrong about this, and we may, in fact, be sending our gross national product down the toilet.

But look at it this way: Even if we bring the economy to its knees, no one will notice until the playoffs end sometime in June. And by then, football season will have kicked off.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 16, 2014 A2

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