Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hockey pools hurting our economy

While employees ponder trades, GNP gets grosser

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How about more time producing stuff, less time studying Nashville Predator Pekka Rinne's stats?

MARK HUMPHREY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

How about more time producing stuff, less time studying Nashville Predator Pekka Rinne's stats?

I don't pretend to be an economic genius, but I think I have figured out why Canada has a hard time competing with global powerhouses, such as Japan.

The problem -- and get ready to slap your forehead in jealousy because you didn't think of this first -- is office hockey pools.

It's the only thing that makes sense. For instance, in Japan, office workers will spend their day doing productive activities, such as inventing cool new computerized devices, singing the company song or performing group calisthenics to ensure they are in peak physical condition; whereas, in Canada, your standard employee spends the bulk of his time poring over NHL statistics and wondering whether it would make good economic sense to trade Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne for Anaheim Ducks right-winger Corey Perry. (Answer: No, it would not.)

The economic point I am making is that, instead of contributing to our gross national product, which is getting grosser by the minute, Canadian workers such as myself are expending their mental and spiritual energies pretending to be NHL general managers and monitoring the statistical performance of professional hockey players who make more money than we could ever dream of, not that we are bitter about this.

This genius economic theory occurred to me last week when a group of co-workers gathered near my office cubicle to discuss how our fantasy hockey teams were making out in the early days of the new season.

When I floated the idea that our national obsession with hockey-pool teams is a key reason we are getting roughed up by countries such as Japan in the global economic marketplace, my colleague Gerald, who typically writes hard-hitting editorials about non-hockey-related topics such as the chaos in Syria, suggested if we journalists devoted the same daily passion to the things we were writing about, our fireplace mantels would most likely collapse under the weight of all the Pulitzer Prizes we would end up winning.

This made a lot of sense to me, even though I currently have a far greater chance of winning a (bad word) Pulitzer Prize than I do of winning our office hockey pool. I hasten to mention this is not my fault. I am not one to point fingers, but the truth is I am languishing in the basement of our pool because of one key factor, by which I mean Murray.

Regular readers will know Murray is one of our outstanding business writers and has the misfortune of sitting near me. Most years, on the night we journalists get together to drink beer and draft our teams, I am sick or have another major journalism commitment such as sleeping on the couch, so I always pressure Murray to pick my team for me.

Generally speaking, this is a genius move on my part, because Murray, along with being the nicest person you have ever met, is also extremely knowledgeable about hockey. But this year something has gone horribly wrong. While Murray's team is off to a hot start, the guys he picked for me are playing more like the Vienna Boys Choir than NHL stars.

As a respected journalist, I am doing my best not to let this damage my long-standing relationship with my buddy Murray. For instance, the other day, while Murray was trying to conduct a sensitive business interview over the phone, I showed him how grateful I was for his help via the technique of repeatedly poking him in the back with a rolled up newspaper and then scuttling back to my cubicle.

Some journalists would have reacted by strangling me with their phone cord. But, fortunately, Murray is not "some" journalist.

Of course, it could have been much worse for him. If we lived in a global economic powerhouse such as Japan, I probably would have poked him with a sword.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2013 A18

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