With the World Juniors upon us and the Olympics on the horizon, UFF Sports has unveiled Ultimate Fantasy International Hockey (UFIH) as their governing body for revolutionary dynasty leagues based on international events.
Essentially the UFFS version of IIHF, that includes the Ultimate Fantasy World Juniors (UFWJ), which is hosting its Inaugural Draft this weekend where 10 countries will be selecting 25-man rosters — giving value to every player in this year’s World Junior Championship tournament — plus 5-man protected lists for the dynasty element in addition to potential returnees.
Pending NHL participation and providing there are no COVID cancellations, UFIH will also be hosting franchise auctions in early January for senior men’s and women’s franchises that will compete in the Olympics as well as the annual world championships. Those franchises, branded as countries, will mirror the real world 1-to-1 by drafting full 23-player rosters for the Olympics, along with protected lists for potential future Olympians.
UFFS is excited to be launching women’s hockey, which will feature a Futures Auction for the Top 50 female prospects not on Olympic rosters (between the ages of 15 and 23) — followed by Open Market scouting for other rising stars and hidden gems from all around the world.
“I’m passionate about bringing fantasy gameplay to women’s hockey and generating another revenue stream for these amazingly talented female athletes,” said UFIH commissioner Andrea Charanduk, who played CIS women’s hockey followed by a pro stint in Slovenia and is among the 10 founders for UFFS. “The Olympics have always been the biggest stage for women’s hockey — it doesn’t get any bigger than that — so this is the perfect opportunity to launch the fantasy side. We hope it is a huge hit and brings that much more exposure to the women’s game through our platform.”
There is also the NFT side, with UFFS in the process of bringing on more hockey players as Digital Athlete NFTs to help them earn revenue from fantasy gameplay for the first time ever. That is another innovative aspect of the UFFS platform — which has partnered with the Professional Hockey Players’ Association — and the women will be welcomed and promoted in the same manner. If their contributions to UFIH countries result in revenue for those franchises, the women will be rewarded for their fantasy stats as Digital Athlete NFTs.
“We’re creating a sign-up portal for athletes on our UFFS site, making it easy to become a Digital Athlete NFT,” said George Bachul, who is overseeing the NFT department as director of business development for UFFS. “We’re looking forward to having women’s hockey players join the UFFS team. We can do all kinds of collectibles but the shining stars of this platform are the 1-of-1 digital version of our athletes. They generate revenue for the athlete and the NFT holder in a variety of ways, including from fantasy gameplay. That utility is what sets UFFS apart from other NFT projects.”
UFIH also plans on expanding to men’s under-18 tournaments — likely starting with the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August, if not the U18 worlds in April — and those franchises will be affiliated with the under-20 UFWJ countries, so the top prospects can star for the same countries as they climb the UFIH ranks. All the way up to the Olympics, assuming those countries also purchase senior men’s franchises in that upcoming auction.
Tentatively scheduled for the weekend of Jan. 8-9, the 10 women’s franchises would be auctioned on Saturday, Jan. 8 followed by the 12 men’s franchises on Sunday, Jan. 9.
Minimum bids for the UFIH Franchise Auction will be the same as UFWJ at $500 USD, with minimum increments of $50 USD. All franchise payments would be due by Jan. 28. That is a tight timeline, with only three weeks from the franchise auction to the deadline for payments and branding as countries, so interested franchise owners should be planning ahead.
UFIH is also targeting Jan. 28 for the Women’s Futures Auction, with the Women’s Draft taking place on Jan. 29-30, while the Men’s Draft would occur on Feb. 5-6. The Open Market for women’s scouting could begin on Feb. 1.
The women’s Olympic tournament is slated to start on Feb. 3, with the men’s tournament commencing on Feb. 9.
UFIH gameplay will be similar to UFWJ with a Total Points format for the inaugural Olympic tournament — awarding payouts to the gold, silver and bronze medallists, plus player awards for MVP and top forward, defender and goaltender. The UFIH leagues, including UFWJ, could transition to pool play in the preliminary round and a Head-to-Head format in the medal round for future tournaments once the UFFS gameplay engine is deployed. That would involve a playoff draft prior to the medal round for the franchises advancing to the quarterfinals — filling their empty roster spots with replacements from the eliminated UFIH franchises, then maintaining full rosters by adding players from defeated opponents following the quarterfinals and semifinals. The franchise that advances could add players from the franchise that they eliminated in that system, staying within positional limits.
“That way the players advancing in the real world tournament are also advancing in the UFIH tournament,” said Larry Fisher, Head of Hockey Operations for UFFS, elaborating on those future plans for the evolution of UFIH leagues. “If Canada advances, some of the eliminated UFIH franchises will have players from Canada and those players would then be available to the advancing UFIH franchises. They would be replacing players that were already eliminated from the real world tournament — if Austria didn’t reach the quarterfinals, the advancing UFIH franchises would be replacing their Austria players and filling those empty spots.”
Regardless of the gameplay format — Total Points or Head to Head — every player at the Olympics will have value in UFIH. And the women will be that much more valuable to the UFIH franchises since they will own those gameplay contracts upon drafting the women whereas the men’s gameplay contracts will mostly be leased from franchises in the NHL-based Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League (UFHL), the AHL-based Ultimate Fantasy American Hockey League (UFAHL), and the 100-plus scouts who have registered more than 4,000 male hockey players on the UFFS platform. The UFIH franchises will have first dibs on the female players, aside from the Futures Auction prospects who will be available to scouts and UFIH franchises as eligible bidders.
With the Futures Auction, if a UFIH franchise emerges as the winning bidder, they can add that prospect to their protected list ahead of the Women’s Draft. If a scout is the winning bidder, their prospect could still be selected by a UFIH franchise in the Inaugural Draft and leased to a protected list. If there are no bids on some of those 50 prospects, they would remain eligible for the Women’s Draft as a potential selection for a protected list before being available on the Open Market following that draft.
For the Open Market, featuring the best of the rest from the women’s game, the youngest birthdate will be Sept. 15, 2006 to mirror the men’s scouting cutoff. And no retired players can be registered, with future plans for a Women’s Legends League to draft those all-time greats with simulated gameplay based on their career statistics.
“This could be a huge boost for women’s hockey, especially if the players embrace and endorse our platform,” said Fisher. “There has never really been fantasy hockey for the women’s game — certainly not on the dynasty level. UFFS is changing the game. This is the future of fantasy, with plans to mirror the real world in every sport at every level without any duplication.
“We couldn’t resist the Olympic appeal and didn’t want to wait another four years,” added Fisher, “but these UFIH franchises will also be utilized for the annual world championships, providing gameplay every year instead of waiting four years for the Olympics again.”
UFWJ Reveals Franchises & Flags
Meanwhile, the UFWJ franchises have revealed their country names and flags ahead of the inaugural tournament for the Ultimate Fantasy World Juniors. Here is a look at those 10 brands, listed in the draft order for all 30 rounds of this weekend’s Inaugural Draft:
OWNER(S): Seven Seas Blockchain Sports, Alex Muchinsky (Mooch) and Thomas (Tommy) Cordon
GM/STAFF: Jeff Rea and Mik Portoni from Draftin Europe as co-GMs
OWNER(S): Jope and the Bachul family
GM/STAFF: George Bachul as GM, with his son Kevin Bachul as assistant GM
OWNER(S): Dean Millard, Craig Button and Ian Constable
GM/STAFF: Craig Button as GM, with Dean Millard and Ian Constable as assistant GMs
OWNER(S): Jeremy Plamondon, Mike Mohr and the Leblanc family (Alex and his father Jeff)
GM/STAFF: Gabe Foley as GM
GM/STAFF: Rob Love, Ed Palumbo and the EP Rinkside team
OWNER(S): CanWest Fantasy Sports Group, Curtis Johnson and twin brother Chad Johnson (former NHL goaltender)
GM/STAFF: Curtis Johnson as GM, Harrison Fallow as assistant GM, Chad Johnson as advisor
OWNER(S): Dale Hardy
GM/STAFF: Dale Hardy
OWNER(S): Six-man ownership group featuring four professional athletes from three different sports:
Dan Esposito — former NFL player with Philadelphia Eagles, part of NFL alumni association
Dave (The Hammer) Schultz — NHL record-holder for most PIMs in a single season
Brady Kramer — drafted by Montreal Canadiens in 1991, captained Providence College
Matt Oglesby — decade-long career in National Lacrosse League (1996-2005)
Andy Weintraub — no pro experience as an athlete but friend of the aforementioned four
Luke Shonwise — late addition to ownership group, familiarity from UFHL Eliminators
GM/STAFF: Group effort, roles to be determined.
OWNER(S): Crown Sports, Tieran and Ireland Charanduk
GM/STAFF: Arnie Entz from Pipeline Prospects and UFHL Royals as GM, Jason Melnyk as assistant GM
OWNER(S): Joseph Perez, along with Gumpa Sports & Entertainment Group (Rob Conte, Paul Ceccomancini, Nelson Martins of UFHL Godfathers, UFAHL Enforcers and Wise Guys Prospects scouting agency)
GM/STAFF: Gumpa Group overseeing hockey operations
Those 10 franchises will be drafting the following 30-man rosters for the UFWJ tournament, which starts alongside the WJC on Boxing Day (Dec. 26):
5 Protected List (any position)
Join our UFFS Hockey Chat group on Telegram: https://t.me/UFFSHockey
Join our UFWJ group to talk all things World Juniors: https://t.me/TheUFWJ