Long-run­ning pools like the In­nocu­ous League and Fran­chise Boys are fu­elled not just by pas­sion for hockey, but by friend­ship

The Hockey News – Ultimate Pool Guide - - Vintage Fantasy Leagues - BY GUSTAN KOUMANTAROS

LAST YEAR, THN FEA­TURED a story about the Orig­i­nal Six fan­tasy league, which dates back to 1979. It got great feed­back. This year, we show­case two more pools.

Dur­ing the fall of 1978, Greg Wil­liamson, along­side Bob Mil­loy, Rick Wal­lis, Lloyd Jo­hansen, Bob Favelle and Je Fos­ter, started a keeper league in which teams re­tained play­ers year-to-year, like an NHL fran­chise. The six fan­tasy freaks, based out of greater Van­cou­ver, dubbed their ver­sion of an orig­i­nal six the “IHL” (In­nocu­ous Hockey League). “We didn’t re­ally have a word for the ‘I’,” Wil­liamson says. “So it was inane or in­nocu­ous or id­i­otic.”

The IHL, which has ex­panded to 13 teams, plays a bal­anced weekly head-to-head sched­ule. The top seven squads make the playo s, and the fi­nal­ists bat­tle in a two-week match for the Skobot­ski Cup, named af­ter made-up hockey leg­end Bobby Skobot­ski. Deemed the hard­est tro­phy to win in sports, it’s also the heav­i­est, weigh­ing 60 pounds. “The Skobot­ski is pretty awe­some,” Wil­liamson says. “I used to work as a mill­wright’s ap­pren­tice, so I built it out of cold steel. It’s a bar­rel about two-and-a-half feet long, with a cup-shaped fit­ting on top and han­dles welded onto the sides. It’s ugly, but it’s beau­ti­ful.”

Dur­ing a two-week fi­nal one year, Bill McDow­ell, well ahead of Rob Ser­raglio (de­fend­ing cham­pion at the time), took it upon him­self to visit Rob’s house while Rob was at work. “Part of the deal with the tro­phy is when you win it, it has to be promi­nently dis­played in your liv- ing room, just to kind of tick o the wives,” Wil­liamson says.

McDow­ell, who fig­ured he’d al­ready won, took the Cup from Ser­raglio. Not only did McDow­ell end up los­ing to Ser­raglio in the fi­nal, but, as “pun­ish­ment for his sins,” he is now re­spon­si­ble for putting the win­ner’s name on a plaque on the tro­phy ev­ery year.

De­spite the oc­ca­sional con­tro­versy, the IHL has al­ways been about fun. “There’s no en­try fee, there’s no money won at the end of the sea­son, it’s all about brag­ging rights and bulls---,” Wil­liamson says. “We’re just a bunch of old farts hav­ing fun, with hockey and friend­ship as the ba­sis.”

This same mea­sure of ca­ma­raderie and friend­ship marks the re­la­tion­ship of Nick Malandruccolo, Joe DiTo­maso, Louis Cortina, Joe Laranjo, Paolo Zac­cheo, Johnny Pal­le­ria, Steve Karam­i­nas, Clau­dio Masella, Gi­a­como D’Agostino and Mike Tem­pone. They make up the Mon­treal-based NHL Fran­chise Boys, a league into its 20th sea­son. “We had no no­tion of other pools,” Malandruccolo says. “We de­cided we’ll try to get a few people that were in­ter­ested and com­mit­ted to a fran­chise pool where we get to keep a cer­tain amount of play­ers ev­ery year.”

On their web­site, nhl­fran­chise­boys.com, you’ll find a de­tailed record of stats, trades and free agent sign­ings. You’ll also find a lengthy con­sti­tu­tion, which is “thicker than most com­pa­nies’ prospec­tus and fi­nan­cial re­ports,” as Zac­cheo puts it.

The Fran­chise Boys play for money, but that hasn’t got­ten in the way of what has be­come an im­por­tant part of their lives. Their shared pas­sion has kept this band of broth­ers to­gether for years. And the bond comes in handy as each mem­ber en­dures ups and downs in his per­sonal life. The day af­ter mak­ing his fi­nal moves for sea­son 13, Karam­i­nas su ered a stroke. “Ev­ery­thing stopped then, it didn’t mat­ter what hap­pened,” Malandruccolo says. “That’s when we re­al­ized this is not just friends play­ing. This is fam­ily.”

Karam­i­nas re­cov­ered and the hockey fam­ily is as tight as ever, so tight that noth­ing can get in way of the pool. Cortina’s daugh­ter is get­ting mar­ried this fall. Her orig­i­nal date was Oct. 1, but Louis had her change it to the 15th, so as not to in­ter­fere with draft weekend. Now that’s ded­i­ca­tion.


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