The tiny Saskatchewan town that made its hockey pool into a big business
Super Draft drew 5,000 entrants and helped the community of 400
Kenaston, Sask., was a small town with a big pool.
Not a swimming pool — although it had one of those, too — but a hockey pool called Super Draft.
"There's a lot of people involved in drafts at the office, in their hometown," said draft organizer Barry Furby, whose day job was farming. "It gives them a chance to put a little more challenge into it and win some good-sized dollars."
The draft started in 1984 and by April 1988, when this story aired on CBC-TV's Countryside, it attracted 5,000 participants for the season and had earned $200,000 for the town.
"It's grown through word of mouth, mostly," said Furby, explaining how Super Draft got so big.
Some $60,000 in prize money was available to be won, with $10,000 for the first-place winner.
"Entrants pay $30 and select a team of 30 NHL players," explained reporter Erv Fehr. "At the end of the regular season, the players' scoring points are added up."
Benefits for everyone
Kenaston was a village of less than 400 people, but it had the amenities of larger towns: a pool, an arena, and a hockey rink, all up to date with improvements thanks to proceeds from Super Draft.
It had also helped in other ways.
"We've sent a couple of our local children to the Toronto hospital for some major operations," said Furby.
Everyone in Kenaston pitched in to make Super Draft a success.
Local people volunteered to work the phones, taking entrants' draft picks from across North America.
High school students gave up their lunch breaks, spare periods and even some holidays to stuff envelopes about four times a year.
"They helped our school out with curtains and stuff so we're helping them out," said one of five teenage girls gathered around a table.
Others had different motivations.
"Nothing else to do in a small town like this," said a boy in a Boston Bruins hat, eliciting laughter. "My friends are all here, what else are you supposed to do?"
For two exchange students from Mexico and Spain, it was a novel experience.
"This is different, because where I live it's a big city," said one of them. "So we never can do this."
The Super Draft committee had recently added a new team member: a computer.
"We can give people daily updates of where they're standing," said Furby, as an office worker on the phone told a caller they were in first place with 2,937 points. "Those people in the running are very excited on a daily basis after every night's playoff game."
With the computer's instant tally of the points, participants could call in for instant updates.
The success of Super Draft, with its annual operating budget of almost $500,000, had led to other organizations thinking they could duplicate it.
"The service clubs have looked at our success and think it's easy money," said Furby. "Throw an ad in the paper and make yourself thousands and thousands of dollars. But that hasn't really been the case."
Super Draft's volunteer network, mailing lists and logistical expertise weren't easily copied — and Furby didn't want to share any secrets with other towns that asked straight-up how he did it.
"You have mixed emotions on those," he said. "You like to be helpful, but they're also competition. It's a competitive business right now."