Friday, July 28, 2006


Freelance writing is a cruel mistress.

Locked away for the past week, with no outside contact other than concerned phone calls from friends, I've been pounding out nearly 20,000 words of material for the 2006-07 McKeen's Hockey Pool Yearbook (here's a look at last year's edition).

Toronto native Iain Morrell has published the magazine since 1994, and I've been picking it up at the newstand almost every year since then. McKeen's Hockey was one of the first organizations I started contributing to, back when I wrote WHL scouting reports based on what I'd seen at Kamloops Blazers games.

Now, fantasy publications are obviously not at the high end of the sportswriting scale, but I've always liked the book. While not flashy, McKeen's offers the most indepth player-by-player info you can get anywhere.

Want to know how Denis Arkhipov fared in Russia last season? They have had someone there watching him, and, yup, they'll have that. Or how about Anze Kopitar's first full Swedish Elite League season? Yes, it's there, too. Wondering what went wrong with Rostislav Olesz in Florida last year?

You get the idea.

Team-by-team reviews, stats, scouting reports, prospect analysis and, why, even fantasy projections.

The funny thing is, I think like a lot of hockey junkies, I've always read the magazine and thought: 'I could have done that better.' (Although I think that's a pretty common reaction for everyone when it comes to sportswriting.)

This time around, a lot of the writing was in my lap and it was a tougher go than I'd expected. Trying to juggle that kind of word production, make it high-quality and informative, provide info that will be valuable two months from now, meet a tight deadline and still work fulltime at TGAM?

It's impossible for me to judge my own work, but I hope those that pickup the magazine when it hits shelves in early September like what's there. The small staff work their tails off to put out a quality product, and often it's competing with offerings from far larger media outlets.

For my money, it's the best fantasy guide out there.


At 7:46 a.m., July 28, 2006, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

I agree, it's one of the best fantasy guides out there and I highly recommend it. More importantly, I find it to be an invaluable research tool for my website and my columns. It's better than THN's Yearbook for its detailed descriptions of each player, and I can't wait for this year's issue to hit the newsstands. And no, I'm not saying that because I used to write for their website a few years ago. Hey, James, any advance word on when this puppy will be available?

At 9:11 a.m., July 28, 2006, Anonymous lowetide said...

I think it's even better than that. I don't even know how to play fantasy hockey (isn't it all kind of fantasy?) but McKeens does a very nice job of laying out a team's "state of the organization" report. They seem to do it late enough to catch all the important summer stuff, their projections are within reason and they offer an exceptional resource for fans who want to see if there was any indicators for giant steps forward (Fernando Pisani: "impressive development in strength and skating have opened his NHL door."

Plus they had the gumption to project Mikko Luoma over a full NHL season and that's got to involve more than a slide rule and a calculator. :-)

At 9:47 a.m., July 28, 2006, Blogger Iffy said...

Hey James - I'm a big fan of your blog. Nice work!

For anyone interested, I've got the predictions from McKeens, Forecaster, and THN from last year in a spreadsheet for the top 200 forwards and 80 defencemen. Also included are pre-lockout stats and last year's salary numbers. I haven't done it yet, but a statistical analysis might make a good buyer's guide / consumer report type blog post.

Not to good with HTML, so here is the link:

Look under the Superdraft2005 table for "Expert Predictions".

At 8:39 p.m., July 28, 2006, Blogger ScottyWazz said...

Joy, I get to go against Mirtle when writing Fantasy Hockey articles. I'm sure that'll turn out well.

At least I still have a week until all my deadlines are due.

At 6:01 a.m., July 31, 2006, Anonymous Zanstorm said...

McKeen's is best. I use it every year!


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