NHL Should Embrace Fantasy Hockey More. Deal With DraftKings.com Is A Good Start.

Big news this week on the fantasy hockey front. The NHL has partnered with Draftkings. Draftkings is a daily fantasy sports website where you can compete head-to-head or against multiple other players. From the press release:

“Hockey fans will be able to take part in free to enter daily sports fantasy games on DraftKings.com for a chance to win numerous prizes, including trips to premier NHL events – 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®, 2015 NHL® All-Star Game, 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ and 2015 NHL Awards”

Per the details of the announcement, Draftkings will have ad placement on multiple NHL platforms. We can all expect to get really tired of Draftkings commercials by the end of the season, but at least it’ll give us a break from the same Enterprise commercial the NHL has been showing for the last four seasons.

This move should be good for not only hardcore fantasy fans, but the NHL as well. Fantasy sports increases your brand awareness because people learn who the players on teams are. When you look at how the NFL has embraced fantasy football, and the way that fans now know players on every team in the league, it’s not hard to see how it’s helped to grow their game.

Aside from the NFL, sports leagues have failed to properly embrace fantasy players and the revenue they can generate from growing the market. The NFL realized early on that cultivating the fantasy fans would lead to not only a more knowledgeable fanbase, but also more recognizable stars in the league.

Often times when people ask why hockey isn’t more popular you’ll hear sports pundits state that it’s a faceless sport. That outside of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin nobody knows any hockey players. How even star players are only on the ice a third or half of the game. But football players are only on the field for half the game right? So why don’t more people know hockey players?

As fantasy players we all know third and fourth line players on teams we don’t follow and maybe only watch once a season. That’s because playing fantasy sports makes you a more knowledgeable fan. You not only learn who is playing for what teams, but also the strengths and weaknesses of players. You learn to appreciate the guys who do the small things like winning face-offs because you see their value on your fantasy team and can mentally associate that player with how they fit on their real team.

While some people aren’t big fans of fantasy sports because they don’t like rooting for players who aren’t on their team, it’s very easy to disassociate your fandom from player and a team. Everyone who isn’t a Ducks fan hates Corey Perry. But when he’s on your fantasy team, you still want him to score. And when he doesn’t score, you can hate him for not scoring, just as easily as you can hate him for scoring against your team. It’s part of the fun of fantasy sports.

The NHL partnering with Draftkings is a great move and I hope to see more fantasy coverage from the NHL network in the same way the NFL and their network have made fantasy coverage a big part of their game day coverage.

When you’re watching the NFL’s fantasy coverage you’ll see them announce how many fantasy points a player scored that day. That would be such a great thing to see from the NHL as well. They already have a partnership with Yahoo on their fantasy page. If the NHL Network would begin running actual fantasy leagues through NHL.com like the NFL is doing, it would go a long way to improving fantasy hockey across all sites.

It would be nice to see the NHL start unifying fantasy hockey scoring as well. For years now fantasy football has had two scoring types, Standard and PPR. Also, every week in football is a head-to-head matchup. Fantasy hockey has too many league types and scoring systems across the multiple sites that run games. There are Standard Roto leagues, Limited Start Roto Leagues, H2H Points, H2H Categories, etc. All of these leagues can have different scoring categories as well. Some leagues counts Penalty Minutes, while others don’t. Goalies sometimes score in three categories and other times score in four. All of this causes confusion for beginner fantasy players.

The NHL needs to create their own fantasy hockey site and hype it the way the NFL does. Make the rules and categories for the standard league simple and easy to understand for new players. You’ll see more fans interested in more players, and learning more about the game. It’s a win-win for fans and the league. Let’s hope that his deal with Draftkings is just the beginning of more fantasy coverage from the NHL.