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Kenaston, Saskatchewan

© Kenaston Lions
Club Inc. 1984






The History of SuperDraft

Super Draft in a Nut Shell

Kenaston Hockey Pool originated in June of 1984 and has operated continually since.  The concept to take the office pool and apply the interest on a larger scale emerged to form the first ever hockey draft in the 1984-85 Regular Season.  The idea quickly spread and today we see many hockey drafts across Canada and the United States.  They range from large participant drafts with big prize money, such as Super Draft, to fantasy leagues and commercial drafts used as business promotions.

Super Draft operates both NHL Regular Season and Playoff Drafts each year.  In addition to those, Super Draft has operated a special 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympic hockey drafts. A number of Major League Baseball Drafts have been issued as well.

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Super Draft has provided local employment that benefits the community as a whole.  Our experience over the last 23 years has resulted in a very efficient process.  The administration of a draft involves a staff of approximately 25 people.  Each draft sees returning employees working at the same stations.  This consistency combined with our quality control checks virtually eliminates error. 

Net proceeds from Super Draft  pools and contract work are allocated to Kenaston Lions Club projects and National and Provincial charities

Interview by Sheridan Jewell

During a fax interview with Barry Firby, I asked him the following questions:

1. How did you come up with the idea?

For several years, a number of my friends and I had a local hockey draft, much the same as the Kenaston Hotel Draft of today. I also knew that small drafts of "officepools" were happening across Canada. During the spring of 1984, while seeding and having lots of time to think, I envisioned an expanded 'hockey draft' with invited participants from several towns - maybe 20-30 hockey nuts! As I thought more about it, I realized that the idea might have even greater scope, to include hockey fans from across Saskatchewan, and perhaps Canada. At the same time a Kenaston Swimming pool project was happening, and requiring fundraising. So I thought, can the hockey draft be a mechanism to raise money? But how?

2. How did you get the idea off the ground?

My greatest apprehension, and that of others was how can several participants select a team that will have different players? Won't everyone want the same NHL players? So, I did a marketing study using 5 years of previous NHL scoring statistics. A remarkable result develops when you are asked to predict 30 players as opposed to 20, 25 or 40. From season to season there were about 10-15 repeat top scorers. Another 5 or so players would repeat every year or two, and the balance, 10 or so, would change year to year. In addition, usually 1 or 2 rookies would make the top 30. If you used 20 or 25 selections, it would tend to be similar predictions. If you used 40 selections, more repeat selections would appear. So now we have a format, what next?

3. I realize the draft started in 1984, but what was the time span from when you thought of the idea to when it started?

I discussed the idea initially with Don George and we took the concept to the Kenaston Lions Club, realizing it would require the backing of an organization to become a reality. We secured a sponsor in year #1, LaBatt's Brewery, Saskatoon. They sponsored the initial posters (there is a framed copy in the Super Draft Office), and an advertising budget. I designed a logo, which was copyrighted. This has become the icon for hockey pools, much the same as "Kleenex" for tissue paper. The Kenaston Lions Club backed additional expenses to move forward. We went to Regina to secure proper gaming licensing. Remarkably, no other such project had ever been proposed, so there were no rules! We were granted a "raffle license" as if we were raffling a blanket. OK, now we have a contest, but how do we let people know?

4. What kind of process did you/the Lions Club have to go through to make the idea work?

Well, as mentioned in #3, we covered the bases to make it a reality. We decided that it was best to let hockey fans see a little NHL before they made their selections, plus the fact was with harvest, we felt it was too early to promote it in September, hence the October 31st deadline that is still in place today. Now it was about promotion. There were a number of marketing tools that were used to promote the contest.

  • We called it Super Draft, Saskatchewan Hockey Pool Championship, offering $1000 cash and a championship jacket to appeal to their competitiveness.
  • Lions members sent posters to family and friends.
  • We set up booths in shopping malls in Saskatchewan cities.
  • We offered a complimentary entry ($10) to people who would tell their friends, kind of a crude pyramid marketing scheme.
  • There was a sports radio show in Saskatoon, the Dane McKinnon Sports Talk, where I spoke as a regular to talk about drafts and Super Draft.
  • In subsequent years, we had promotions with NHL clubs. A number of times I was a guest on Oiler radio broadcasts.

Perhaps the greatest boom was in 1986 - year 3 of the draft, when I brokered a deal with The Hockey News with full page ads across North America. This put us out in front as the world's largest hockey draft, gaining us international status and securing a broad base that continues to be the core of the draft.

5. Any other interesting information......

Super Draft proves that anything can be accomplished with the vision and a well calculated plan. The draft has provided employment, pride and a legacy for the community, not to mention the finances which have built the swimming pool, arena renovations, Kenaston Place, the Heritage fund, and several other projects. In addition, there have been countless charities that we've supported over the years.

Super Draft Story with Don George - Chairman

I questioned Don George as he is an original member of the Super Draft committee and has been the Chairman for the past 10 years. Don would like to add the following:

Barry Firby mentioned Oilers broadcasts. Don remembers the hour long talk shows before the Oilers home games. Barry was asked to be a guest on these for a couple of years during the Oilers playoffs in the 1980's. They would phone between periods to get an update on Super Draft. In those days, Oilers playoff games were carried by a number of radio stations in Western Canada. This gave us great exposure.

Besides the local charities and community projects, Don would like to mention that we have done some special things like:

  • We have sponsored a child through Children's Wish Foundation.
  • We have helped send children to the Toronto Children's Hospital.
  • We gave a donation to Ronald McDonald House.
  • In 1992, we gave a donation towards the purchases of the first MRI in Saskatchewan at the Royal University Hospital.
  • Last year, we donated to the Center of Care at City Hospital for Breast Cancer.

Don's greatest memory of Super Draft, over the years, was the different ways that people chose to enter the draft, including scrap paper. The one that sticks out in his mind the most, was the guy who put his entry on toilet paper!


Super Draft from The Beginning (stories as told by all Super Draft Managers)

Submitted by Carol Lewis

I was the first office manager of the Kenaston Super Draft. Actually there was no one to manage as I was the only employee at the time. We had a phone line set up in our basement at our house and entrants could only phone on Wednesdays and Fridays. On those days, I would go into a spare storage room in our basement, sit at my extra kitchen table, put Shawna (who was two years old at the time) up beside me and I became the 'voice of Kenaston Super Draft'. There was no computer or fax and all the data was entered in Saskatoon and sent to me in a paper copy that I added to a huge binder. When entrants called I had to find their stats in the binder.

This was a great experience! We had 917 entries the first year with phones and we couldn't believe the tremendous number of people that were playing our draft. I guess we had no idea where things would go in the years ahead. All of the Super Draft meetings were held in our recreation room and were filled with optimism and ideas to improve the draft-maybe even get the number of entrants up to 1000!

When I think back there were some moments that really stood out. There was a young man from the eastern United States that would phone at exactly the same time every Friday. Bear in mind that this was way before there were phone 'bundles' so long distance calls were expensive. He would spend a few minutes asking about his team and then would go on to tell me about his weekend, his family, and his hobbies and on and on. Sometimes his calls would last up to an hour. I think he was a teenager so his parents must have been thrilled when they got the phone bills. Another older man from Minnesota decided that he should fly here and take me out for supper. After I explained that I had a husband and a little girl he seemed to change his mind. Oh the power of being a long ways away on a phone line!

As I mentioned, the Super Draft Hotline was in a storage room in my basement. There were piles of boxes and extra furniture and Shawna's toys and clothes that were out of season. One day, Garth called me from the Credit Union to say that CFQC television was coming in two hours for an inside look at the Super Draft Office. YIKES! Not only was the "office" a mess but I was down with a dreadful cold and flu. I dragged myself out of bed and went into "Mr. Clean" mode. I hauled everything out of the room, hung curtains, covered my table with dark tablecloth to make it look like a desk, hung maps on the wall and anything else I could find that looked professional, threw in some old office equipment on stands (typewriter that didn't work) and prepared to meet the press. I even got a real Super Draft call during the interview making it seem even more like a regular office. After the cameras and lights left I crawled back into bed and stayed there for the next two days. In spite of my croaky voice and the fever everything went well and we were on TV that evening.

By the next year Super Draft had expanded to a space bigger than my basement and I retired. I continued to work during the drafts doing data entry and verification. Once I went to work at the school full time, I decided that I would hang up my draft entry fingers. I still go in to help with the phones during the draft entry. It is amazing how many of the people I talked to from my basement storage/office, still phone in to play the draft after all these years. I am very proud of my connection to Super Draft and all the wonderful things that the Kenaston Lions/Super Draft have accomplished.

Submitted by Janice Blackmore

I worked for Kenaston Super Draft from the fall of 1986 until we moved in April of 1988. The main draft office was set up in a space in the Kenaston Cafe building. Monday mornings were very busy, towards playoffs. I would answer approximately 135 - 140 phone calls, giving the stats to the draft players. At the time, I recall there were just over 5000 entries which were updated in Saskatoon and sent out in a huge flip binder with the computer printouts.

I truly enjoyed my time working for Barry Firby and the Committee. (Ralph Mills was a daily visitor)

Submitted by Carrie Zdunich

I worked as manager at the Super Draft office from 1988 - 1995, replacing Janice Blackmore. In those years the office was located in the current "Victorian Country Floral Design" space.

Computer service history:

  • Originally computer services were supplied by W.H. Black & Associates of Saskatoon, which included data entry of the teams, player statistical updates and team standings. The computer program was developed by Walter Black specifically for Super Draft.
  • It did not take very long before the organizers felt that it was time and that we were ready for the community to take a larger role in the data entry process. In the first year, Kenaston people traveled to Saskatoon to do the data entry under the direction and supervision of Walter Black.
  • Following that trial run, data entry operations were moved to Kenaston.

Over the years, as the needs of the draft evolved and with the direction from the organizers, Walter Black streamlined many aspects of the computer program which of course improved the operations/service of the draft.

This was a typical set-up for the regular season and the playoffs:

  • Mail processing was completed totally by volunteers; during those times the number of entries received via mail was HUGE. Any given morning, there were eight to twelve guys busy confirming that each submission had a complete name, address, a correct number of player selection, and a method of payment.
  • Two telephone coordinators processed all entries that were received via phone by volunteers. (Set-up was in the lobby of the skating rink.)
  • Two fax coordinators processed all entries that were received by fax. Four finance personnel completed all financial transactions. Eight computer personnel completed data entry and verification. (Set-up for these jobs was in the lobby of the curling rink.)

Over the years, the number of entries really varied and although I cannot remember specifics, I think it would be safe to say a typical regular season would see between 5000 and 7000 entries, with the playoffs between 6000 and 8000.

Kenaston was now in command of an international hockey draft with operations completely administered from beginning to end by the community of Kenaston. Each draft began with the school preparing the initial entrant mailing, followed by entry processing, data entry by volunteers and paid staff, a phone in "hot-line" service to provide weekly player updates in the regular season and daily player updates in the playoffs. It was pretty amazing to see a community so committed to a project - two drafts a year, for so many years. Everyone worked very hard, the volunteers, the coordinators, the data entry people. It truly was a community event.

The best part and my most favorite memory was "draft time" with Karl Greggerson cooking breakfast for everyone at the skating rink each morning.

Submitted by Veronica Zazula

I worked as the office manager for Super Draft from 1995 - 1999. When I started in 1995, the draft was still being run out of the skating/curling rink. We set up the phones in the skating rink lobby and all the administration/computer work was done in the curling rink lobby. It was during my time that we were able to move from the curling rink to the new hall and that was exciting for everyone. If felt like we were working in another country - it was so bright and airy - just a wonderful atmosphere to work out of.

We had approximately 25 people working on the administration end and so many volunteers handling the phones or helping out in whatever area was needed. Telephone entries were checked for accuracy before coming over to the administration end. Mail entries were received for a few days after the phones were cut off and we had a " mail table", this was where all the entries were checked. Each entry had to go through that check to make sure that they had picked the proper amount of players, name and addresses were verified and payment was accurate. From there, these entries went to the "finance table". This was where actual numbers were assigned to each entry, payments were processed and they were bundled together in groups of fifty and sent on the computer gals for data entry. These girls had to enter all the data, print off the teams and again they were checked back to the original form to catch any final errors. It was a very good process and virtually there were no errors at the end due to all the checks along the way. Another big change during my term was the change we made in the computer end. A company in Saskatoon used to supply the computers, set up the program and so on. We came to the point that everything was done in-house in Kenaston. It had some growing pains in the beginning, but in the end, the change proved to be the best thing we could have done.

One of my favorite parts of the job was the rapport I built with the people who worked the draft and the people that played the draft and the people that played the draft. We weren't "on-line" at the time so people used to phone in to check their team stats. I had a great time talking to the cab driver from Montreal, the fireman In Kelowna and everyone in between. In some ways it was kind of sad when the hockey season was over, I wouldn't be talking to some of these people until the next hockey season.

One of my favorite memories was when we were still working in the curling rink and we had a fellow stop in off the highway to use the bathroom. You have to visualize twenty or so women working away with piles of paper, computer data happening, etc. He looked around as he was leaving and then stopped and asked if we were having a bake sale or something!!!! I thought twenty women were all going to throw something at him. You should have seen the look on his face when I explained that we were actually processing the entries for the Kenaston Super Draft. He could not believe it and he actually had the nerve to make a comment about how he never thought a bunch of women could be doing something like that!!!

It was one of the best jobs I have ever had and I enjoyed it so much. It is truly amazing how an idea that started out with just a few guys from the Lions Club, dreaming up a little draft, to a whole community pitching in to make it one of the best and most respected drafts in the country.

Submitted by Susan Fjeldstrom

I was the office manager for Super Draft after Veronica left, until the fall of 2006. When I started, the main office was in the Kenaston Cafe' building and then it moved over to the current location in the Lions Club building. During the actual draft time we operated out of Kenaston Place, our town hall. When I started, we had just changed to a new Customer Database program and we were entering the data from the entry forms online through the internet. The draft remained steady throughout the years I was office manager, with the exception of the NHL lockout year.

I would just like to say that Super Draft was a big part of my life and a priority in my life. The people I would talk to and meet is something that will always remain with me.

My favorite memories of Super Draft are all of the drafts from beginning to end, especially all the people who worked with their heart for Super Draft.

Submitted by Terri Sieben

I started working as office manager for Super Draft in the fall of 2006. The draft operates out of Kenaston Place, which it has for the past several years, and the main office is in the Lions Club building. We employ 24-35 casual employees each draft, and Sheridan is my favorite employee/volunteer! (as per his survey) In addition, in the past years I also had the pleasure of being a 'staffy', so on some level there is a tone of familiarity. I always had enjoyed 'draft time', learning the pronunciation of the players and getting filled in on their stat's from the veteran draft ladies. I must admit it is pretty impressive to have a room full of women discussing almost every aspect of the game.

During my term as Office Manager, there have been small and significant changes, yet the learning curve seemed steep at times. With the ever changing technology, phone calls on a daily basis are few and far between. All entrants can view their teams, ranking and create a buddy list online. Our website also keeps our clients updated with deadline dates, winner history and the player frequency reports. A new data entry program was introduced in Regular Season 07/08, as with any new program, a few bugs to work through. Our phone, fax and mail entries seem to continue with a consistent number of entries. Of course there is the ongoing competition between the phone and fax ladies as to whom has more entries. We all know Mail Centre Rules!

I also would like to add, I TRULY enjoy everyone involved with our Super Draft! Everyone contributes with such personality and commitment; I am honored to be involved!

Approximate Revenue to Date: $11,000,000.00.

Approximate Prizes Awarded: $4,500,000.00

Approximate Charity Funds: $3,500,000.00


© Kenaston Lions Club Inc. 1984

Kenaston Super Draft would like to thank you for your
continued support of our Hockey Pool.

In Support of Saskatchewan