Friendship is at the heart of this yearly tradition
Twelve friends are spread out all over the globe, but all come together once a year to draft a fantasy hockey team and poke fun at each other – friendship at its finest.
Hong Kong, New York, Toronto, Edmonton, and Calgary – these are the drafting locations for the Calgary Drunk League, or CDL, a fantasy hockey league between friends where bragging rights stand in the forefront.
I started this league back in 2002, fresh out of high school. Now, nine years later, the CDL finds itself stronger than ever with 12 hockey nerds vying for a ridiculously sized trophy - the CDL Cup - and a cash prize at the end of the season.
This day – usually the last weekend in September to coincide with the start of the NHL season – brings us all together, regardless of where we might be in our lives.
Through job transfers and school placements, some of our friends have left Calgary in search of new adventures.
For 30-year-old Todd, the draft has been an online affair for quite some time now. After spending the previous three years in London, England, he has moved to Hong Kong. He logs onto Skype from the other side of the world and we are greeted with the sound of him eating breakfast, as it's 10 a.m. over there.
Connor, a doctor in training, clocked out early and ran home from a Long Island, New York hospital to make sure he was online at 9 p.m. eastern time.
Geoff, who moved to Toronto last year, is on the 401 and nearing his apartment. He calls me in a panic to let me know he will be logging in shortly.
Dave, who's in Edmonton, is busy with his summer hockey wrap-up party that he can't get out of, but he has supplied me with an in-depth list of certain players to select in specific rounds.
He logs in for rounds 13 through 15 before logging out in a disgruntled fashion, as he is disappointed with the results of his team. However, the rest of us have no sympathy for him. We set this draft date months in advance — if he can't commit, tough luck.
Emerson, a professional baseball player and longtime friend, is at his first live draft in three years. Last year he drafted from a dugout in Puerto Rico as his game was caught in a rain delay.
These are the lengths we go to because it's more than a draft, it's more than sport — it's a way of life for us.
Now, sitting in my friend's basement in southwest Calgary with computers hooked up throughout the room and cheat sheets scattered all over the ping-pong table — it has become a staging ground for pizza boxes and draft sheets — the draft is ready to begin.
It starts at 7:20 p.m. – 20 minutes later than we had hoped because of late arrivals. Being the commissioner, I start things with a short speech.
This year is a tad different as our defending champion has decided to "go out on top" and retire as champion of the league, bringing our team numbers from 13 to 12.
"Welcome to the CDL draft," I begin. "Congrats to Graham for winning last year, way to luck out."
"Good riddance," I add with a sarcastic undertone.
With a month left in the season last year, Graham had done little to manage his team effectively. His players simply caught lightning in a bottle and he ran away with the championship becoming the first two-time winner of the CDL.
Other memorable moments arise throughout the course of the night. The new Torontonian, Geoff, picks a player so far off the radar of scoring relevance that he garners a palpable level of jeers from his fellow managers.
"In the seventh round I select...Andy McDonald," Geoff says over Skype.
"Does he even play in the NHL anymore, Geoff?" asks Matt, who is trying to hold in his laughter.
Dead air from Toronto.
Geoff immediately regrets his pick but can do nothing but suck up his pride and move on. He would later exclaim that he was frazzled by everyone yelling, "Hurry up" and simply picked the first name he saw.
He will be ridiculed for most of the year and most likely for many years to come – all in good fun of course, unless McDonald surprises all of us.
The draft would last just over three and half hours, which is nothing compared to the seven-hour draft of 2002. After nine years of doing this, we've become a lot more efficient with our time due to at least half of us needing to tend to other commitments – kids, partners, work.
This draft isn't really about who gets who though. It's about the friendship bond that has been formed through the game of hockey and how this bond is sustained no matter where people end up in the world.
Whether Todd is cheering on his team from the middle of Asia where hockey is far from the spotlight, or Connor is checking his stat updates in between saving peoples lives in the city that never sleeps, we remain connected.
That is what friendship is all about.
When Derrick Newman is not writing for The Calgary Journal, he spends his time on his blog, www.thesportsroundup.com, talking mostly about the Calgary Flames and the NHL.
- By DERRICK NEWMAN