When is a hockey pool not just a hockey pool? When, after 40 years, it still embodies the UCC hallmarks of friendship and tradition.
When this unique UCC alumni hockey pool celebrated its 40th anniversary last April, all 15 members came together at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina to conduct their annual draft in person, travelling from Toronto, Halifax, Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, London and Paris. The men, now age 55, walked in a procession to the draft table carrying the hockey pool cup and wearing their official jackets.
“It was magical,” said Jeff Howe ’82, the hockey pool’s commissioner. “It was like time stood still.
Hearing us chatter in the elevator, it was like we were back in Grade 10 again. It was remarkable to see 15 people from all over the world get together in the spirit of friendship.”
The pool started off casually, like so many groups do. It was 1979 and Howe, a Grade 10 student,
wanted to participate in a playoff hockey pool, because it was something his older brother, Steve, was doing and it sounded like a lot of fun. Howe mentioned it to some friends and they gathered at lunch hour on April 10, 1979 in the Lower Dining Hall at the Upper School to form eight teams and draft 10 players apiece. Each team paid an entry fee of $5: winner take all. Howe recorded the picks, tracked points and updated his fellow players daily. As expected, it was great fun.
The following year, the participants were eager to have another pool, and a few other friends joined in. Through the remainder of their UCC years, members gathered at school or a friend’s dining room table at playoff time to choose players and take part in the pool.
Forty years later, they’re still going strong. The hockey pool has become an integral part of the lives of these alumni, all but one from the Class of 1982. Many things have changed over time, but this connection has been a constant. Each year, on the Wednesday the playoffs begin, the 15 men on eight teams hold their playoff draft at 5 p.m. EDT. Those who are based in Toronto head out afterwards to watch the first playoff game of the season. Those who are far flung call in to say hello and participate online. All these years later, Howe is still the commissioner – and is committed to the role for life! The players have largely remained constant.
Not only has the hockey pool become a tradition: it has developed its own traditions. There’s a cup for the winner, the top similar in look to the Stanley Cup, with the name of each year’s winner engraved on the base. There are pool jackets similar to those worn by Hockey Night in Canada broadcasters during the 1970s, with each player’s winning years stitched onto his jacket. There’s an official logo and even an official constitution, written on parchment-like paper in the same script as the United States Declaration of Independence.
“On the tenth anniversary, we met at Christian Griffin’s house for the draft and it was a black-tie event – but with jeans, I think,” Howe said. “We knew we had something special.
“We all put the draft in our calendars and look forward to it. It’s about friendship, stories, tradition and competition. There’s nothing like it.”
Members of the hockey pool are John Cook, Mark Eagles, Christian Griffin, Jeff Howe, Bob Latimer, Bruce McDonald, John McKinlay, Dave McIntyre, Warren Melrose, Phil Richmond, John Sinclair, Innes van Nostrand, Ben Webster, Pete Wilson and Tim Wilson.