Let’s Hear it for Strat Hockey (Replay Zone – May 2013)

By Jeff Polman
May ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict.
Let’s Hear it for Strat Hockey!
Believe it or not, baseball isn’t the only Strat game I play. Back in 1980, I even completed a full season of basketball to be able to enjoy Magic and Bird, and the Lakers swept the Atlanta Hawks in the finals with many, many dazzler passes.
But I’m here in this Stanley Cup month to talk about my second favorite Strat board game, which would be hockey! I opt for the advanced version as opposed to super advanced, because otherwise I find the power plays way too time-consuming. Hockey is a fluid game, and once you get the instructions down, Strat’s recreation does a real fine job of capturing this motion with a minimum amount of chart-checking. A center wins the face-off, passes to a wing who takes an outside shot, which rebounds off the goalie’s stick, which flies out to the opposing defenseman, who takes another outside shot, that rebounds to the opposing winger who buries a rebound shot and SCORE!!
Because you have to reshuffle the action deck after each of the first two periods, It may take me twenty minutes to play a hockey game instead of the typical ten or fifteen I can finish a baseball game in, but it’s more than enough time to get a sense of hockey’s graceful motion and sudden, breathless sniping.
I created a 72-game-per-team schedule a few years ago after my Bruins won the Cup and began a "Best of 2010/2011" league with the top eight teams in each conference. It was fun, but once new baseball cards were released it quickly took a back seat. (Don’t hold this against me; I frequently set up and begin Strat leagues and set them aside, kind of like books piled up on my night table. I think I just really enjoy starting fresh seasons.)
Many years back (around that Magic and Bird time), I played a mini-season and normal-length playoffs with one of the Great Gretzky years (those Oilers were insanely good), and Mike Bossy’s Islanders team went all the way, so it was fun to get the Hockey Hall of Fame set recently and think about what I could do with them. It didn’t take that long:
Bangor Bashers
GOALIES: Patrick Roy, Bill Durnan
STARS: Phil Esposito, Rod Langway, Ray Bourque, Yvan Cournoyer
Brattleboro Flatlanders
GOALIES: Hap Holmes, Bowse Hutton
STARS: Marcel Dionne, Lanny McDonald, Bobby Orr, Henri Richard
Helena Sheets
GOALIES: Glenn Hall, Jonny Bower
STARS: Wayne Gretzky, Denis Potvin, Mike Gartner, Clark Gillies
Madison Cheese Blades
GOALIES: Gerry Cheevers, George Hainsworth
STARS: Bernie Federko, Eddie Shore, Borge Salming, Jari Kurri, Johnny Bucyk, Pat LaFontaine
Rapid City Rushmores
GOALIES: Frank Brimsek, Vladislav Tretiak
STARS: Steve Yzerman, Maurice Richard, Guy LaPointe, Michel Goulet, Jean Ratelle
Bismarck Silos
GOALIES: Eddie Giacomin, Tiny Thompson,
STARS: Steve Shutt, Mike Bossy, Jean Beliveau, Bob Gainey, Scott Stevens, Gil Perreault
Halifax Harbormasters
GOALIES: Terry Sawchuck, Clint Benedict
STARS: Mario Lemieux, Joe Mullen, Paul Coffey
Quebec City Frontenacs
GOALIES: Ken Dryden, Harry Lumley
STARS: Bernie Geoffrion,, Bryan Trottier, Larry Robinson, Bill Barber, Syl Apps, Jacques Lemaire
Thunder Bay Thunderclaps
GOALIES: Bernie Parent, Roy Worters
STARS: Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Serge Savard, Dale Hawerchuk
Saskatoon Potashers
GOALIES: Jacques Plante, Turk Broda
STARS: Rod Gilbert, Dave Keon, Brad Park, Peter Stastny, Toe Blake
Yukon Goldpanners
GOALIES: Chuck Gardiner, Georges Vezina
STARS: Guy LaFleur, Darryl Sittler, Frank Mahovlich, Bobby Clarke, Larry Murphy
Medicine Hat Gassers
GOALIES: Gump Worsley, Alex Connell
STARS: Mark Messier, Denis Savard, Gordie Howe, Sid Howe
What a league! Eighteen players per team (three lines worth) and no injuries. Naturally, because of my start-a-new-project fetish, I haven’t gotten that far in the season, but with all of the great defense, the games have been very tight and low-scoring.
If you’re not as crazy and motivated as I, the actual format of the Stanley Cup playoffs makes it a perfect vehicle to use for with any hockey season replay. You get a great feel for each team involved, can finish the games in a manageable amount of time, and don’t even have to trouble yourself with the Columbus Blue Jackets of the world.
Of course, I realize hockey is not one of many people’s top two favorite sports in this country, but from a Strat-O-Matic perspective (and I’ve yet to dabble in Strat football) trust me when I say that they nail it.
Coming in my next column: two very cool announcements…