Take the hockey pool plunge

Deadline for inaugural Vernon Morning Star hockey pool entries is Wednesday.

Know the difference between Corey Perry and Katy Perry? Realize that Patrick Kane outpoints Evander Kane, no relation?

If so, then you are fully qualified to win some sweet prizes in the inaugural Morning Star Hockey Pool. Deadline for the free online draft is Wednesday 4 p.m., when the 97th NHL season of play begins.

They have added a Beat The Expert section to the pool. I happen to be the so-called expert, likely because I took home a 52-inch TV, an Okanagan Spring beer fridge and a few Alexander’s Beach Pub gift cards for going coast to coast in the SUN-FM hockey draft a few seasons ago.

All entries who end up with more points than me will be entered into a draw for a special prize.

The pool’s grand prize, however, is a 50-inch big-screen TV. Second prize is a recliner and third prize is a sound bar for surround sound. All three of the main prizes have been donated by City Furniture.

The pool consists of 26 boxes. You simply pick one player or team from each box to fill out your team’s roster.

There’s also a box featuring the seven Canadian teams. Pick the team you think will end up with the most points based on wins and losses. I would stick to the Montreal Canadiens. My beloved Oilers are still in rebuilding mode but will outpoint the Canucks.

The pool is open to everyone 19 and over and can be found at www.vernonmorningstar.com (click on the Contests tab where you’ll be taken to the page to select and register your team).

For the record, I started investing money in hockey pools 30 years ago. Haven’t kept track if I’m up or down, but I’m driving a 2006 Toyota Corolla with powerless windows so you do the math.

It is believed that a group of Toronto lawyers started the very first hockey draft in 1976 for fun. A night out if you will.

Nanaimo posties Tom Meek and Mark McQuilken, former Keg fastball teammates of mine, read about the attorneys and began what is believed the first pool on the Island. I first tossed $25 into a playoff pool there in 1980.

“I was taking business courses at Malaspina College and both McQuick and I read the same article and figured we could get something started here,” said Meek.

The idea soon spread around town and there were three or four hotel pubs running pools where entry fees were as high as $1,500. If you were good, and lucky, hockey drafts were a decent part-time job.

Women in Manitoba, who weren’t allowed in the men only pools, started their own. I interviewed school teacher Katie Cook one year about how she jumpstarted a ladies only pool because her hubby wouldn’t allow her and her friends to enter his.

Your best strategy at the draft table is to let your fingers do the talking and pick the No. 1 slot. They used to split up Wayne Gretzky into two players. Gretzky goals. Gretzky assists.

In today’s lower-scoring era, there are only a handful of players capable of pocketing 100 points so you want a pick in the top-five. Of course, injuries play a big factor as does luck. Even Pat Lett won money in a playoff draft last season.

And as we begin the incredible nine-month hockey season, let’s remember the former greats like Gordie Howe, who is in ailing health.

Hockey broadcaster Harry Neale, speaking at the B.C. Junior Hockey League’s 1995 all-star game banquet in Penticton, mentioned how he pretended to be Howe playing street hockey as a kid in Sarnia, Ont.

Neale had the honour of coaching Gordie with the World Hockey Association New England Whalers.

Said Neale: “Howe turned 50 and led our team in points, scoring and powerplay points, but not shorthanded goals because I wouldn’t let him play when we were shorthanded…He had an absolute love of the game and he kept those burning desires going until 54. He loved to practise; he never took a day off.”

Stein skates with Red Wings

Retired Fulton phys-ed teacher Marty Stein, a Red Wings’ scout, played in Detroit’s annual Alumni and Celebrity game in Traverse City during training camp.

Stein, a UBC Thunderbird grad, wore No. 8 on Team Red and had a blast. Former Vernon Viking teammate Ken Holland played net for Team White.

“We beat Ken’s team 12-8,” said Stein. “Ken stood on his head. Even he was laughing on how the puck just seemed to hit him. My linemates were Kirk Maltby and Joe Kocur. Not bad company.”

Team Red also had Jiri Fischer and head coach Mike Babcock, while Team White boasted d-men Jeff Finley (Vernon product), Mark Howe and Chris Chelios.

A sellout of 4,000 attended the charity classic with 42 special jerseys auctioned off before the second period faceoff.

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