Bio: It would probably be difficult and long-winded to do a detailed bio on all four partners individually, so let’s talk about how the partnership came together instead.
All four have been lifelong, diehard hockey fans, but Donny was probably the first to have his hands into fantasy sports — especially hockey.
In 1997, Donny joined a Yahoo public league and spent a few years playing around with those and truly gained a passion for fantasy. In 2002, he started his own 12-team keeper league using the Yahoo platform. It was tough back then because keeper leagues weren’t a household thing and everything had to be done manually. A couple years later, the league expanded to 16 teams, this is around the time Paul joined. Both the guys are lifelong friends and competitors, and this only added to it.
Paul decided to leave the pool in 2012 for personal reasons and the league ran until 2013. Sometime in 2013, Paul confronted a group of guys — which included Donny — about a new idea. The idea was a Salary Cap Dynasty League, where GMs signed players to their own contracts. This pool used the Fantrax platform and brought forth a lot of fine hockey management details — none of them seen before. Through many hours and disagreements, Redraft Liiga was formed (formally known as The Hills Finest).
In what was about 2017, Dylan joined the pool by taking part in the first-ever expansion draft and immediately wanted more responsibility. He began taking control of a lot of the record keeping and cap charts. Only adding to his newfound love of fantasy hockey.
Kyle, being a college friend of Dylan’s, soon followed suit and joined us a year later. It didn’t take Kyle long to show his attention to detail and talent evaluating abilities. In less than a year, he turned what was a tire-fire team into a perennial powerhouse.
It was during that season, Paul, the brainchild and commissioner of the league, decided it was time to step down and move on. Donny, along with a small group of others that included Kyle and Dylan, decided to take on the commissioner/management roles that Paul once held. They take great pride in that after eight years of fantasy hockey and some turmoil, the pool is still running and going strong.
Donny, during his many hours spent in the Twitter-verse, seen the UFF Sports post and soon after approached the other guys about “an opportunity”. Which brings us to now.
A brief message from all the owners:
Donny — Fantasy has always been a passion of mine and my biggest hobby by far. That along with folk/alternative music, tattoos and a joint. I currently participate in four dynasty fantasy hockey leagues and I’m commissioner of one of them, but don’t mention that to my girlfriend Brianna or our two dogs — they don’t share my passion. Oh yeah, I kinda like them too haha.
Two fantasy rules I live by: 1) Don’t draft/trade unless you’re high. 2) Don’t draft/trade with your heart, unless you’re high :) Go Habs!!
Paul — Along with fantasy hockey, cheap whiskey often accompanies me with cigarettes while watching games, followed by chill beats afterward from the CBC Afterdark program (check it out 8-12 eastern time every weekday night). Go Leafs and Rock Republic!
Kyle — Fantasy hockey and watching/playing sports definitely occupy a great portion of my time. This past season, I participated in three keeper leagues, and now myself and Donny have just taken over another. Growing up, I competed in local minor, school and AAA hockey leagues and I’m now involved in a recreational hockey league.
As a professional, I have completed a diploma in business management, a BBA honours degree, and now work in finance for Newfoundland’s health care system. Other hobbies include traveling our province, spending time at my cabin, hunting/fishing, and watching my favourite TV shows (Big Brother Canada and HIMYM).
Dylan — I was already a huge hockey fan, but my love and knowledge for the game has grown greatly since I’ve gotten involved in fantasy hockey. You can usually catch me unwinding after a stressful day with a Bud Light or drink of Screech and a game on TV with some Johnny Cash playing in the background.
QUESTION: Awesome job on the bios, fellas, but one thing jumped out at me — you are all from Newfoundland and Dylan even admits to being a bit of a Bruins fan, yet none of you mentioned fellow Maritimer Brad Marchand among your favourite current players. Is Marchand universally disliked — dare I say hated — in the hockey world? I know he’s from Nova Scotia, not Newfoundland, but there was lots of love for Crosby and MacKinnon — both from Cole Harbour, N.S. — so why no love for Marchand?
ANSWER: Dylan — Well Larry, first thanks a lot for the recognition you gave to our bios, much appreciated! I didn’t list Marchand among my favourite current players mainly because while I have a great fondness for the Bruins, I simply wanted to spread the love for my favourite players across multiple teams and there just wasn’t any room left for him. But I really like Marchand as a player. I think he brings a lot to the Bruins and is a damn good hockey player.
The other three don’t exactly feel the same way I do, to put it lightly. Kyle can’t stand him but would love to have him on his own team, Donny doesn’t like him at all, and Paul is quoted as saying: “There’s only two people I hate in this world — and he’s one of them.”
As for why they don’t like Marchand, I think a couple things can be attributed to that. The first being Donny is a Habs fan and Paul and Kyle are Leafs fans. While the embers of that rivalry burn hot across the country, it seems to be amplified in Newfoundland where most of the province over the age of 20 is either a Leafs, Habs, Bruins or Blackhawks fan. The second factor would be his licking incidents in last year’s playoffs. However, no hatred of players in this ownership group is greater than our desire to build a competitive fantasy hockey team.
QUESTION: According to QuantHockey, a total of 29 NHL players have hailed from Newfoundland over the years. Any favourites or childhood heroes from that list? Any prospects on the rise that stand out as future NHLers from Newfoundland? I believe Dawson Mercer is from Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, as one name that immediately comes to mind. You guys almost have to target Mercer is the UFHL Entry Auction for some homegrown talent, right?
ANSWER: Kyle — Newfoundland has most certainly accounted for some very good NHLers over the years. This question is extra special for me because the first-ever NHLer from Newfoundland, Alex Faulkner, grew up in the same neighborhood as myself. Faulkner played well before my time (in the early ’60s) but growing up as a passionate kid to the game of hockey and living in the small community of Bishop’s Falls, Alex was a role model for myself and many others.
In addition, I think we could all agree on some of our favourite NHLers with Newfoundland roots. Danny Cleary, the first Newfoundlander to win the Stanley Cup, Michael Ryder, Newfoundland’s all-time points leader, and honourable mentions: Teddy Purcell, Ryane Clowe, Colin Greening and enforcer Darren Langdon.
In terms of future Newfoundlanders in the NHL, Dawson Mercer, expected to go in the middle of the first round this year, is the current frontrunner. And let’s not forget last year’s draftee Alex Newhook (selected 16th overall by Colorado in 2019).
As for the UFHL Entry Auction, we will weigh our options. Does that mean we will for sure go all-in on the hometown kids? The answer is most certainly not. Our management staff here at Rock Republic is committed to building long-term success, leaving behind sentimental value that we may have for players on our favourite teams, league favourites, and now bidding on a local top prospect.
QUESTION: Is hockey trending up there? Are the Newfoundland Growlers — the Leafs’ ECHL affiliate and 2019 Kelly Cup champs in their inaugural season — helping grow the game on the rock? Have any of you made it to a Growlers game?
ANSWER: Paul — I feel that hockey has always been trending in Newfoundland, but more so in recent years when the Ice Caps came back in 2011 and became successful. Even back long before the Caps, with the Leafs’ farm team being in the province, it was always a big hit.
Locally, there’s the Herder Trophy, which is just incredible ‘beer league’ hockey and I say that with all respect. People are paid decent in some cases and the hockey is great. The winner gets to compete for the Allan Cup, which is a national tournament of provincial Senior AAA champions.
All in all, hockey has a prominent role in the province, kids are enrolled at record numbers every year and it’s still played on streets and schools around the island.
The Growlers have been an incredible story. The inaugural season was a huge hit and it’s incredible hockey to watch as well. I’ve only managed to see two games, but I was super proud when Adam Pardy got a trophy over this head before retiring. He’s a beauty.
Check out this video for more on Newfoundland’s fondness for hockey: https://www.facebook.com/sportsnet/videos/10155042483991496/?vh=e
QUESTION: Kyle was the only one to tout his hockey playing days — does that mean he is the best player among your ownership group? Are the other three willing to concede that? Did the rest of you also play growing up or become beer leaguers in the present? If so, what positions? And any NHL comparables for your own playing styles — for example, Paul lights the lamp like Kessel, I can only assume?
ANSWER: Donny — To be completely honest, I’m not 100 per cent sure because I haven’t had a good opportunity to see Kyle play too much, but he has had the most successful hockey playing career — playing midget AAA as a youth. He also was also a provincial champion in broomball, where he played in net. As for Paul, he’s a phenomenal athlete and is pretty damn good at whatever sport he chooses to play. A real star at ball hockey and excellent skater on the ice. Aside from hockey, Paul has had a real lucrative career in indoor volleyball. At the university level, he has won multiple individual awards while playing for the MUN Seahawks in St. John’s and continues to play the Senior Newfoundland circuit at a high level. We have been teammates in multiple sports most our lives, we have won provincial volleyball championships on both the high school and senior level. Having said all that, I guess we are all beer leaguers in some regard.
As for style of play, Paul is shifty, fast, tenacious and hard on the puck. Imagine a slower Phil Kessel with a lesser shot but backchecks and plays defence or a Nick Suzuki even. Kyle, on the other hand, is Paul’s worst nightmare — a polarizing defensive defender who kills penalties and whose No. 1 job is to stop you from scoring. Picture Brayden McNabb in L.A. Myself, I’m more of a winger, the net front, choppy skater type who likes to grind it out. I’d like to say I model my game after Brayden Schenn, but that would be an insult to the player. Dylan is more of that energizer guy, I see the Zach Hyman type. Just chasing everything down, like a dog on a leash and on you like glue.
QUESTION: That doesn’t really matter when it comes to fantasy hockey, but is there a consensus on who the best fantasy player is among you guys? Who has won the most titles over the years in the leagues that you are all in and can attest to? Any big rivalries between the four of you from other leagues and how do you set those aside for the greater good of Rock Republic?
ANSWER: Dylan — Well, I think it’s safe to say that I rank last out of the group by far. Not everyone can be a Wayne Gretzky or Mark Messier or even a Jari Kurri of fantasy hockey team building, but sometimes you need a Kevin Lowe to really shore things up. I think everyone has unique attributes that make them the best. Paul is very good at icing a competitive fantasy hockey team each and every night as well as knowing when to strike while the iron is hot in regards to the trade value of players. Donny is the prospect guru out of our group. He has his sights set on the young guys like no one else at Rock Republic. Kyle is the newest out of the group to fantasy hockey, but he has an incredible work ethic when it comes to creating a contender in whatever league he is in and he is always trying to find ways to make a trade happen with someone.
As for who has the most trophies, I would have to say Donny just based on the fact that he’s involved in so many leagues, but while Paul was running the main league that myself, Kyle and Donny are involved in outside of UFFS, Paul had an absolute juggernaut. Kyle has only seen one full fantasy hockey season to completion but took a perennial cellar dweller to the finals in his first year. That’s where the biggest current rivalry comes into play. The winner of that final was Donny, so I’m sure there’s still some unfinished business there. The oldest rivalry is Donny and Paul since they have been buddies for a long time and have always been competing for titles. Then you have me and Kyle. We’re the two young guys. We’re good buddies, went to school together, and even lived together with many fantasy hockey conversations coming up during that time. However, this group knows the importance of winning and we won’t have any problem putting our rivalries aside to stay competitive in this league.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate a bit more on your individual roles for the UFHL franchise and how that will work as an ownership group? It is a pretty unique setup in the present — four co-owners for one fantasy team — but that is commonplace in the NHL and could be the way of the future for the UFHL. It obviously helps from a financial standpoint in sharing the costs, but any concerns over staying on the same page with roster construction? I mean, Donny is the GM but how many Habs is he allowed? Paul and Kyle are both Toronto fans, yet I don’t see a single Leaf? Dylan seems to be getting his way with a couple Flames and even a couple Bruins — shocking that a Habs-loving GM with two Leaf lovers as assistants would allow any Bruins. Are you guys also putting aside NHL allegiances for the greater good of Rock Republic? Or are those Bruins on the trade block?
ANSWER: Paul — I would tend to believe, and I don’t remember it being discussed at all, but no player on any team is more liked in the fantasy world for that reason. Yes, you may see better opportunity with a player coming through the Pittsburgh system as opposed to Arizona for example, but players are evaluated on their upside and what we believe to be top-end potential.
I’m a Leafs fan and couldn’t care less if we have either one on our team — Bruins or Habs. The goal is to put together the best team year in and year out to try to win. End of story.
As for the makeup of our ownership group, Donny is obviously the lead hand and the overall in command, and we’ve all come to realize that. He communicates with us daily and provides updates and any trade/signing information that need be available. He also makes sure to listen to all opinions before pulling the trigger on a move.
Personally, I’m strictly an advisor so to speak. I do no paperwork, I rely on my senses and trends I’ve seen in the past to help me make decisions to pass onto Donny and the boys. Both Dylan and Kyle are also good young hockey minds. Dylan takes care of Excel sheets and various smart computer people things. And I would say that Kyle is very similar to myself in that we listen and advise. And when the time comes to draft, you need not worry that all of us will be working to find the best players we can, so there are no wasted picks.
QUESTION: You guys have been very active — and proactive — when it comes to your protected list. Rock Republic clearly got the jump on everyone else in that regard. Well played on your part — getting all those top prospects on the cheap while you could within the rules — but are you still looking forward to acquiring more prospects following the scouting auctions this summer? What are your thoughts on the scouting side of the UFHL now that it has launched?
ANSWER: Kyle — Indeed! As an experienced management staff here on the Rock, we saw an opportunity and we didn’t waste any time on filling those holes. Early in the year, we noticed a high supply of young talent in the Free Agency market and demand was somewhat low — resulting in some cheap but valuable assets to add to our franchise’s future. Prospects like Martin Kaut, Gabriel Vilardi, Max Jones, Morgan Frost, Cayden Primeau … the list goes on. In a league of 31 teams, adding this many quality prospects will give us many options going forward. At the time, filling specific needs wasn’t the main goal. Instead, adding the best talent was our first step and now we will use our deep roster to build a team that can be very competitive for years to come.
In terms of scouting more prospects, we are far from done. We have a yearly budget and although we were busy early on this season, don’t be surprised to see Rock Republic make a couple more big splashes this offseason. We are still undecided on whether that will be through scouting or via trade.
QUESTION: How are you enjoying the overall UFF Sports and UFHL experience so far? You have a ton of combined fantasy experience, so what attracted you to this platform? What aspects or concepts do you like most — something that may be different from your other leagues?
ANSWER: Donny — Oh man, the experience has been fantastic and beyond positive. As I was saying in the UFFS group a few weeks back, the level of professionalism that this league has is unmatched and how everyone just seems so excited to be a part of this thing. On top of that, the management team in charge seem to be very switched on and have a solid vision and a plan in place to make it all happen, but at the same time they are all very approachable and don’t mind asking for help or suggestions. That’s key in making things work because there’s always tinkering. It’s all very exciting and promising.
Most the other guys are pretty active fantasy guys, but myself personally, I’m involved in 5-8 leagues on a yearly basis and that ranges from Dynasty salary-cap leagues or Yahoo public’s to box and bracket pools. But UFFS offers a different element, implementing the crypto and blockchain technology. It has been something I’ve always wanted to learn more about and combining that with my favourite pastime made it a no-brainer. For all of us, it was an investment opportunity and a chance to learn something new, while doing what we already love to do!
Jonathan Marchessault-Sebastian Aho-Mikko Rantanen
Sam Bennett-Christian Dvorak-Jake Virtanen
Dillon Dube-Gabriel Vilardi-Jordan Kyrou
Max Jones-Casey Cizikas-Dylan Gambrell
Brady Skjei-Charlie McAvoy
Mario Ferraro-Jeremy Lauzon
Ben Hutton-Vladislav Gavrikov
Extra Skaters: Jake Evans (F), Kurtis MacDermid (D), Jarred Tinordi (D)
Protected List: Troy Terry (F), Morgan Frost (F), Ryan Poehling (F), Martin Kaut (F), Jaret Anderson-Dolan (F), Isac Lundestrom (F), Joey Anderson (F), Jonathan Dahlen (F), Christoffer Ehn (F), Victor Mete (D), Nic Hague (D), Lassi Thomson (D), Trevor van Riemsdyk (D), Andrej Sustr (D), Cayden Primeau (G), Marcus Hogberg (G), Cal Petersen (G)
Rock Republic could become the team to beat in the Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League. This ownership group, headed up by Donny, has stockpiled a ton of young talent and has a head start of sorts in building for the future, though Rock Republic will need to reach the cap floor going forward. That is their challenge for next season, but with four experienced fantasy players combining their expertise, this franchise is well on their way to contender status.
The current roster is clearly trending up — led by a potent top line and a terrific goaltending pipeline — and Rock Republic is boasting the brightest future on paper as of today. The other franchises will gradually catch up when it comes to filling out their protected lists with top prospects, but good on Donny and the gang for taking a proactive approach prior to the trade deadline and roster freeze. They have set themselves up for success as a result.
This ownership group puts in the time and the effort — as evidenced by their bios as well as their answers in raising the bar for this Meet the Owners profile series. I loved the shout-outs for Danny Cleary, who was an unsung hero with the Oilers before going on to win the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008, and for the Allan Cup, which I’m very familiar with from covering the Lloydminster Border Kings earlier in my career — highlighted by their championship in 2007. I honestly forgot that Alex Newhook hailed from Newfoundland since he played here in B.C. during his NHL draft year, but I can attest to his talent and I’m anticipating a bright future for him too. And I’ll admit that I had never heard of Alex Faulkner, so chalk that up to learning something new every day. The Kevin Lowe reference was pretty clutch and timely too, considering his Hall of Fame induction.
All in all, Rock Republic is an easy franchise to root for — their ownership group is every bit as likeable as Cleary during his Oilers’ tenure, that is the team I grew up rooting for (before becoming an unbiased media member) — and I can totally see them developing a fan base across Newfoundland. They know what they’re doing and it shows in the small sample size to date. Rock Republic is investing in their future and piecing together a potential dynasty for the years to come. I fully expect them to emerge as a force to be reckoned with in the UFHL!
[UFF Sports] offers a different element, implementing the crypto and blockchain technology. It has been something I’ve always wanted to learn more about and combining that with my favourite pastime made it a no-brainer.
— Donny T.
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