User Interview: Hammer 33

Q&A with noted SimLeague Hockey user Hammer 33

We recently contacted SimLeague hockey user, Hammer 33, to discuss drafting players, setting lines, family, friends and the New York Rangers.

WIS

Who is Hammer 33?

Hammer 33

Hammer 33 is Jim. I am a 67-year-old grandfather who was formerly from Brooklyn, New York and now resides in Monroe Township, New Jersey since 2003 in an Active Adult Community. I am a retired electrical utility worker from the Con Edison Company of New York, where I worked 44 years as an emergency field supervisor. I served my Country in the US Army during the Vietnam War. My Wife Sue and I have just celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. We have four grown adult children who were all born in the month of February; our only Daughter was born on the 4th, and three sons, all born from the oldest to the youngest on the 17th, 18th, and 19th- a natural hat trick. Rounding out the family are three Grandchildren James, 7, Ella Rose, 4 and Ryan, 21 months, all thankfully not born in February. With all the activities at our Adult Community and grandchildren we are kept very busy playing golf, swimming, bowling and babysitting.

WIS

How did you learn about WhatIfSports.com?

Hammer 33

My youngest son John has a friend who works in the Commissionerís Office for Major League Baseball, and he told him about Whatifsports and thought he would like it; he in turn got me involved. My first team, in 2003 was all former Brooklyn Dodgers players from the 50s. I finished out of the playoffs but enjoyed the daily routine of checking scores setting up pitching rotations, bullpen staffs and lineups.

WIS

Which of our games have you played?

Hammer 33

I have played the Baseball SIM with over 61,000 games played, with 194 teams making the playoffs and 56 teams making the finals, and won 26 Championships. I am presently playing the Hockey SIM since February 2008, with 11 teams making the Cup Finals, and Iíve won 5 Championships. I will be returning to the Baseball SIM in the fall but will continue playing the Hockey SIM.

WIS

Besides simulation sports websites, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?

Hammer 33

In October 2007, my wife and I visited Italy for 14 days returning to the birthplace of my wifeís parents who came from a small village outside of Rome. We also have taken many Caribbean cruises over the years, to Bermuda, St. Thomas, Bahamas, etc. You name it, and we probably were there at one time or another. We also take monthly trips to Atlantic City; my wife loves the beach, and once a year we visit Las Vegas and see the shows and do a little gambling. My youngest son John and I collect baseball cards and sports memorabilia since the mid 70s.

WIS

What are some of your favorite hockey teams of all-time?

Hammer 33

Well for me there is only one team, the New York Rangers, who I have been a fan of for almost 60 years now, since seeing my first game in 1949. They are known in the New York Area as the Broadway Blues and the Blue shirts and are the longest running show on Broadway, as Casey Stengel use to say who can look it up.

WIS

Did you play much hockey (or other sports) growing up?

Hammer 33

Yes, I sure did, but we played roller hockey on metal skates in the streets of New York, trying to score a goal with a car bearing down on you was a challenge for both you and the goalie. We also played stickball in the streets, stoopball, man hunt, football and baseball. During the summer we would leave our homes early in the morning and return around dinner time. There was no such thing as camp. We lived on the streets and schoolyards, and our parents always knew where to find us. If you wanted to go swimming your uncle turned on the fire hydrant to cool off. In high school I played varsity baseball for two years as an outfielder and first baseman. I was a line drive gap hitter with no power. I then went on to play semi-pro ball for the Woodside Incas in the Queens Alliance League where I played mostly first base.

WIS

Which five people, past or present, sit at your dream roundtable?

Hammer 33

Hmmm thatís a very interesting question but my first guest would have to be my father, who was a medical doctor for 51 years before passing away in 1981, at age 78. He volunteered for the Army during WWII when doctors were needed even though he was deferred because he was married and had 4 children. He left not only his family, but his office practice and did not return for almost 4 years. He taught me about family, faith, country and how to lead my life.

My second guest would be Brother Michael, a Sacred Heart Brother from Mt. St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where my father sent me when I was expelled from two Catholic High schools in New York, Brother Michael taught me humility, discipline and knocked me on my ass a few times to emphasize it. He and the US Army turned my life around and I visited him often after graduating high school.

My third guest would have to be Andy Bathgate of the New York Rangers, my first and only favorite Ranger player. He was just poetry on ice, a smooth skater with a dynamic slap shot and an all around team player. He never raised his stick above his head when he scored a goal because when he was a young player he saw a teammate lose an eye when a player lifted his stick after scoring. Andy Bathgate was all class, a credit to the NHL and a true Hall-of-Fame player on and off the ice. His number should be hanging from the rafters at Madison Square Garden. Strangely, it is not; shame on the New York Rangers Organization.

My fourth guest would be my Aunt Flo. She was my motherís youngest sister who lived with my mother and father and helped to raise us when we were children. She was Rosie the riveter during WWII and later on was sent to Washington D.C. to work on the task force that broke the Japanese code that led to the end of the war. She was awarded a Citizen Medal of Honor and Certificate personally by President Roosevelt for her efforts in decoding the Japanese code. Ironically we did not know this until after her death a few years ago, when her son showed us her medal, certificate and a picture taken with President Roosevelt. My cousin stated that my aunt felt others gave more to the war effort, and she did not want to bring attention to herself when others lost husbands, sons and daughters.

My fifth guest would have to be President John F. Kennedy; I admired him, voted for him and feel that if he had served his two terms of office, we would be living in a better world today. It was a terrible tragic day in November 1963 when he was assassinated. I believe we lost our innocence, and the world changed, but not for the better.

WIS

What players did you admire most growing up?

Hammer 33

Well there are quite a few. The best player I ever saw was Bobby Orr. He changed the face of the game. He was electrifying when he picked up the puck and skated up ice. Bobby Hull, with the curved stick and booming slap shot probably caused more goalies to retire or put on a mask. Wayne Gretzky, smooth skater and great passer, performed magic on ice. Andy Bathgate played on weak NYR teams, but always gave his all and had a great slap shot. He was a leader on or off the ice. Mario Lemeiux, another great player, made everyone around him better; he would have broken all the records if he would have stayed healthy. George ďRedĒ Sullivan wore # 7 before Rod Gilbert, a Ranger captain in the 50s. I was at a game where he was knocked unconscious, blood coming from a wound on his head after being hit at center ice. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher to the hospital and to everyoneís amazement returned in the third period with a broken jaw and 30 stitches and scored the tying goal in a 3-3 game. Old time Hockey at itís best.

WIS

What is your favorite sports moment?

Hammer 33

I have two. The first is when the Brooklyn Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees in 1955 to win their only World Championship.

The second is the 1961 baseball season, the greatest baseball season in my lifetime. I attended about 55 Yankee Home games. My boss at work was an usher at Yankee Stadium, and four of us from work would buy General Admission, 50 cent tickets, and he would sit us in the right field box seats, most games in the first row next to the Yankee bullpen. Roger Maris talked to us many times during the season as he got to see and know us during the season. Every now and then he would toss us a ball or two. When he hit #61 that Sunday in October we were in right field about 10 rows in front of where the home run landed. I will always remember how he ran the bases like it was any other home run and how the fans cheered him when he came out to his position in right field. He tipped his hat and said thank you. The New York Press and a lot of fans were hoping he would fail, but he broke that record with class and dignity. I am a die hard Mets fan, and this Yankee story is my favorite sports moment.

WIS

What is your favorite WIS moment?

Hammer 33

Winning my first Baseball SIM Championship and just recently winning my first Hockey SIM Championship. I would be remiss in not thanking the HOFís who taught, guided and instructed me along the way.

WIS

If you had the power to replace Gary Bettman as commissioner, what is the first thing you would try to change?

Hammer 33

Thatís easy, take off the damn helmets. Let me see their hair flying in the wind as they race up and down the ice. Helmets have caused all these stick fouls today. Eliminate the helmet, and institute game misconducts and a five minute penalty for any stick infraction; fighting, let them fight. Get rid of the instigator penalty. If players fight give a five minute penalty and 10 minute misconduct; call automatic icing. Itís too dangerous for the players today to get injured. Widen the ice surface six feet. Open the ice up. Let talented skilled players show their skills; get rid of that God awful trap. Make it illegal; and eliminate this sideshow of overtime and shoot outs during the regular season. If a game ends in a tie, itís a tie. Overtime is for playoffs.

WIS

Build your all-time dream hockey team:

Hammer 33

Well I know I will be leaving out some of the greatest players who played this wonderful game, but my favorites would be:

Forwards: Bobby Hull, Mike Bossy

Center: Mario Lemieux

Defense: Bobby Orr, Doug Harvey

Goalie: Jacques Plante

WIS

With SimLeague hockey and baseball, what are your general strategies for building teams? What is the most important thing to keep in mind while drafting?

Hammer 33

In Baseball, I always tend to go with pitching and defense before selecting offensive players. Good pitching will stop good hitting. I try and build a strong bullpen to go along with the starters.

In Hockey I always draft a team that is strong defensively, so I start by drafting high percent rated defense men, high percent defensive forwards and a quality goalie. Then I see what I can do with the offensive players looking for high percent shooters. The regular season is quite different from the playoffs, and I see strong defensive teams tend to go further in the playoffs And always remember to draft players who play significant amount of games.

WIS

Which coaches, past or present, do you draw on for inspiration?

Hammer 33

Well in Baseball, it would have to be Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Walter Alston and Joe Torre. In Hockey, thereís Toe Blake, Al Arbour, Scotty Bowman and Emil Francis.

WIS

Focusing on SimLeague Hockey now, are there any players in specific that you like to put on your team?

Hammer 33

The usual suspects on defense are Arbour, Harris, Smith, every now and then, Awrey and Daneyko. Goalies I have used are Jacques Plante, Marty Brodeur and Alex Connell. I donít have a favorite, but I have had success with all of them.

WIS

Are there any players in specific that you feel consistently under or overachieve?

Hammer 33

A couple come to mind: Joey Johnston, Bobby Schmautz and Wendall Clark, especially when you team them up with Gretzky or Lemieux. They have overachieved for me, and I have had a few underachievers, especially Trottier, Bossy, Park and even Bobby Orr. SIM Hockey is a lot like SIM Baseball, I have had no success when I had Mantle, Williams or Whitey Ford on my teams. I guess the SIM doesnít like Superstars past or present.

WIS

How do you go about setting your lines?

Hammer 33

I make sure to have one high percent rated forward with each line, with a couple of high percent shooting forwards, or center. I set my lines all on conservative, and defensemen on rarely shoot. Unless you have a high assist or scorer, then I set that group on; it lets forwards take the majority. I never use aggressive, as I found out you will get players injured or you will turn the puck over, and your opponent will get better scoring opportunities. Occasionally I will change lines to medium as the season progresses.

WIS

Do you make transactions during the season? Why or why not?

Hammer 33

I rarely make any transactions during the season. I take my time drafting a team and try to eliminate the need to go to the waiver wire. You have to remind yourself it costs you 10 percent in transaction fees. I think a better way to go is to try and make a trade. If I get stuck with an under performing team, I will ride it out see why it isnít working and then adjust accordingly for the next team I draft. I know other owners have been successful with trades or the waiver wire, but I have had no success in either the baseball or the hockey SIM.

WIS

Who are the users you respect and who challenge you the most?

Hammer 33

There are many owners I have had the pleasure of playing against and learning from over the past five years. I will probably leave some out, but I apologize in advance:

In Baseball, when I first started the owners who helped me were jcurry, mojolad, sford, 7Yankees7, grizzly_one and ligapelota. I won my first Championship against jcurry who taught me almost everything about the baseball SIM. Many times we crossed swords in championship games.

In Hockey, well I have been playing only six months and without the help of Zero1940, Chuckinrlp, Jakyll and Puckmonkey, I would still be looking for a playoff team. Zero1940 helped me put together my first playoff team, taught me how to set lines and the dos and doníts. Chuckinrlp taught me tendencies of the SIM and guided me to certain players who could help defensively or offensively. I won my first Cup beating Chuckinrlp, but he and Zero1940 have pounded my butt a few more times than I care to remember. If it wasnít for owners like those mentioned no one would be successful. When other owners are not successful these owners step up and help them understand why their teams are not performing and then help them become successful. The only reason I have been successful is because they took the time to help me. For that, I am grateful.

WIS

What is your favorite aspect of SimLeague hockey?

Hammer 33

I think being able to draft anyone you wish, be the manager and general manager all rolled into one and waiting and watching for the results to be posted and either attain the thrill of a victory or the agony of a defeat. It makes the days go by, and it is something to look forward to. Another added bonus is the friendship you develop with other owners, not only here in the USA and Canada, but overseas as well. The camaraderie has been great. We seem to all get along and challenge each other to join other leagues to play against one another. Itís all in good fun, and thatís my favorite aspect of playing SIM hockey, besides beating Zero, Chuck and Puck every chance I get. LOL

WIS

If you could change anything about SimLeague hockey and/or the site, what would you change?

Hammer 33

Well we just had another update version 3.2 I believe, that took into account rewarding players with high assists. I think the shadowing player feature could be better addressed to give you more options. I also would like the SIM hockey to mirror the baseball SIM when you play an opponent in the playoffs. The baseball SIM gives you a breakdown of the team you are playing by game results played during the season. You can click on any game, review the box score and see who pitched well, who was the offensive star, etc, a very valuable tool during the playoffs. Another feature would be when the teamís season is completed, its stays on your team center for a while. In the baseball SIM team center you can click on a feature called hide teams not playing, and only active teams will be in your team center. This clears up your team center screen and makes it more manageable.

WIS

If you were in one of our games, which sport would you play? At which position? And, how much would you cost?

Hammer 33

It would have to be baseball. As mentioned I played two years varsity baseball and three years semi pro ball as an outfielder, first basemen. I was a very good fielder and a good line drive hitter with no power, my batting average was near .370, with only three home runs, playing for the Woodside Incas in 1964. I would say maybe a Ron Fairly of the 60s Dodgers would be close to accurate. I would probably cost 4.2M to 4.5M.

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