World's oldest fantasy hockey pool? Calgary friends say it's theirs

A few Calgary high school buddies marked 42 years of a continuous fantasy hockey pool this week — what they believe could be the oldest in the world.

Retired schoolteacher Marc Lee has kept meticulous notes since starting fantasy league in 1976

Ed Fong, from left, Lang Ellison, Marc Lee and Brian Hagerman have been friends since high school. (Marc Lee)

UPDATE April 11, 2018: After this story was published, a fantasy hockey playoff pool organizer in St. Marys, Ont., contacted CBC News to say his group began in 1975. That's one year before the Calgary group started, making the Ontario draft older.

A few Calgary buddies since high school marked 42 years this week of a continuous fantasy hockey pool — what they believe could be the oldest in the world.

They're now 60 or older and still get together once a year to pick hockey players for a fantasy NHL playoff draft, only breaking in 2005 when there were no playoffs due to a league lockout.

There's no trophy — except an old hockey garbage can used as a joke one year — and it's called simply "the draft." The buy-in is a low $50, so the men play really for bragging rights and about three hours a year of hanging out with their buds.

"It's the only time we see each other sometimes," league co-founder Marc Lee told the Calgary Eyeopener. "A great group of guys. I really enjoy getting together, and that's the biggest part of it now."

'Embarrassingly long' history

The fantasy league's entire history, along with stats like "greatest marginal victory," are all recorded in a giant record book that Lee updates once a decade.

"It's embarrassingly long," he said. "For some reason, I love hockey stats. So yeah, I've kept the stats."

Marc Lee says this document proves his fantasy hockey pool started in 1976. (Marc Lee)

Lee, now a retired schoolteacher, loved hockey as a teenager. When he was in Grade 12, his dad called him up as a ringer for his office hockey pool. Eighteen-year-old Lee was inspired to start his own in 1976 with eight friends.

Four have stayed involved ever since.

"Marc was the key. He was the glue," friend Ed Fong said.

"He somehow got hold of everyone and we just kept on coming back every year, and for us, it was just getting together, seeing everyone and having a good laugh."

Lang Ellison, left, Ed Fong, Marc Lee and Brian Hagerman have been members of the draft since 1976. (Marc Lee)

A few years ago, the two got talking about whether they were the oldest continuous hockey pool ever. A news article in their favourite magazine, Hockey News, said the oldest was in Edmonton, started in 1979.

"I figured, they must know, the Bible of hockey," Lee said.

But he knew his had started three years earlier — and he had the record book to prove it.

Marc Lee publishes a record book each decade with stats from his fantasy hockey playoff league. (Marc Lee)

It's 72 pages long and includes original notes tracking the first draft.

"Big time, big time, it has changed," Fong said. "Because we were doing everything for a good 25 years manually. We had to depend on the paper, the Herald or the Sun, to get the stats on the teams.

"The key was we kept all the records to prove it was continuous and we kept on going every year and we kept stats, records of every year."

The magazine even published a follow-up article, dubbing them the oldest.

'The constant in our life'

Lee hopes the tradition will continue on. Fong's son joined this year, and Lee's eldest son, who played hockey in Europe, has been taking part as well.

His other son also played hockey professionally but had a prenatal class he had to attend at Monday's draft get-together.

"I don't see it ending because of how the family ties run deep," Lee said. "People come and go. The constant in our life ... has been that draft."

Lee will publish the next edition of their history booked in 2026, to mark the fifth decade of the league running.

With files from Donna McElligott and the Calgary Eyeopener.