Time to jump in the hockey pool

Office hockey pools heat up with the coming NHL season.

Grab your favourite beach towel, a comfy chair, some pretzels, a beverage or two, and dive into the pool. Yes, it’s hockey pool, or draft, time folks.

Thanks to free pools all over the Internet, more fans than ever are buying magazines to learn the difference between Corey Perry and Katy Perry in hopes of winning a fairly decent prize.

Some schmuck I know well took home a big-screen TV and an Okanagan Spring beer fridge for winning the SUN-FM hockey draft last year. All the major sports networks in Canada and the U.S. offer free entries into their online contests so there is a hockey pool smorg out there to be digested.

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.

For the record, 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 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.

You should know the difference between Patrick Kane and Evander Kane. You should be aware that Sidney Crosby is one concussion away from being a sports writer. You should realize Teemu Selanne once played for the original Winnipeg Jets so is way past his prime.

Have fun and don’t forget to tip your server.

Kesler going semi-nude

You female Vancouver Canuck fans will be happy to hear that forward Ryan Kesler will appear semi-clothed in the upcoming ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue.

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, IndyCar racer Helio Castroneves, snowboarder Louie Vito, boxer Sergio Martinez, marathoner Ryan Hall and paralympian Jeremy Campbell are the other male athletes featured.

For male readers, the chosen female athletes include Spanish golfer Belen Mozo, Team USA soccer keeper Hope Solo, gymnast Alicia Sacramone and hockey player Julie Chu.

More than 20 athletes will appear in the magazine’s third “exploration and celebration of the athletic form.” It hits newsstands Friday.

Last year, golfer Camilo Villegas, who was a huge fan favourite at the Predator Ridge Skins Game in 2008, appeared in his familiar Spider-Man pose with nothing but his putter.

Volpatti one-punches Winchester

Vernon will likely have two Canucks to cheer for extra loud this season.

With Kesler and Mason Raymond on injured reserve,  the 12th and 13th forwards appeared to be a battle between Mike Duco, ex-Viper Aaron Volpatti and Vernon’s Andrew Ebbett. Duco was Friday sent to the Canucks’ farm team in Chicago.

Volpatti one-punched Brad Winchester when challenged by the Shark off a faceoff late in the second period Thursday night, while Ebbett centered the second line.

The pride of Revelstoke, Volpatti did miss an assignment on one San Jose goal, but has been leading the Canucks in hits almost every preseason game he’s played.

Ebbett, with his fifth NHL team in two years, hasn’t had an extraordinary preseason but has shown flashes of his excellent playmaking abilities. He and rookie Cody Hodgson are centres hoping to pick up Kesler’s minutes when the season starts.

The Canucks are listed at 5-1 favourites to win the Stanley Cup. Boston is 8-1.