An Email Interview with Billy Morrison: Creator of the “Hockey Hardware” Tabletop Game

Photo from Niagara Independent

Everyone out there knows the popularity of fantasy sports these days as it seems like either everyone is playing it or they know someone who is involved with it.

One such player is Billy Morrison. Morrison grew up playing and loving fantasy hockey. With that said, he wanted something different.

As such, Billy created Hockey Hardware: The Original Game. Billy was kind enough to tell us about how the game came to be, how he got into hockey, and more.

PH: Growing up, how did you get into hockey?
BM: I grew up in a hockey family, so it has always been central in my life. At a very young age, my dad taught me how to skate at the Virgil Arena in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

I did not start playing ice hockey right away, but I often tagged along to cheer on my brother at his games. On Saturday nights, we would always watch Hockey Night in Canada, and get in as much ball hockey and mini sticks as we could.

I have always had a passion for hockey, and that passion has been a big source of inspiration for creating Hockey Hardware.

PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team (s)/player (s)? How about now?
BM: When I was young, I switched through a number of teams for different reasons, including the Montréal Canadiens, the Buffalo Sabres, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. But on October 5, 2003, I landed with the Ottawa Senators after going to an exhibition game that they played in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Although the Sens lost 5-1 to the Sabres, they won me over and I’ve been a Sens fan ever since. I still have my game ticket from the old Jack Gatecliff Arena, which was built in 1938 and demolished last year.

PH: At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to be involved in hockey as an adult?
BM: Always. Hockey has been a pillar in my life on and off the ice.

There was never a light switch moment. It has been a deeply embedded and a lifelong passion.

Today, I play hockey in multiple adult leagues, I watch as many hockey games as I can on TV, I am a subscriber to multiple hockey magazines, I manage my fantasy hockey team daily during the regular season, and I go to as many hockey games as I can.

PH: What inspired you to create the fantasy hockey tabletop game Hockey Hardware: The Original Game?
BM: Hockey Hardware was inspired by my passion for hockey, fantasy sports, and games.

I was getting ready for bed one night in the Fall of 2018. As part of my nightly routine, I checked my phone to see how my fantasy hockey team was doing. Suddenly, the idea hit me like a body check into the boards: the world needs a fantasy hockey tabletop game. 

Any plans to sleep that night were immediately iced, as I jumped out of bed to scribble down my game concept. The ideas kept flowing, and by morning, I knew I would call this game, ‘Hockey Hardware’.

Five years later, after much personal investment and countless hours of researching, designing, play testing, and developing, the Hockey Hardware prototype was finally ready and it was time to begin thinking about how to fund the game to bring it to life.

PH: How did you go about creating the rules for the game? Did you pull from fantasy hockey or anything like that?
BM: While the core concept of Hockey Hardware has not changed since Day 1 more than five years ago, the specific rules of the game have changed a lot through play testing with family, friends, and strangers, collecting constructive insights and feedback, and making edits along the way. The first iteration was far from perfect, but it’s been refined many, many times since, to become the solid, near-ready prototype that it is today.

The concept for Hockey Hardware was born from the fantasy hockey league that my brother, Alex, manages. It is called the ‘BDRD Fantasy Hockey League’, and we play it on the Yahoo Fantasy Hockey platform. BDRD is short for ‘Bar-Down-Roof-Daddy’, which is a hockey phrase that’s used to describe a perfectly placed shot that hits the crossbar and scores.

BDRD is competitive with 14 very dedicated team managers. Every person in the league has a team that they draft at the start of the year and manage on a daily basis.

Our teams play weekly head-to-head match-ups and compete for a number of different skater and goalie stat categories. The usual skater categories we compete for are goals, assists, penalty minutes, hits, blocks, shots, etc.

And that is where the core concept for Hockey Hardware was born. Except in Hockey Hardware, there is no team management.

You are the player competing against other players to be the best in different stat categories. Essentially, the leader in each stat category earns a trophy card, and the player with the most trophy cards at the end of the game, wins the game.

PH: What are you looking to provide game players with Hockey Hardware: The Original Game?
BM: Hockey Hardware is a very fun and entertaining game that is made for hockey fans but it’s designed so anyone can play, have fun, and win. No hockey knowledge or experience is needed as the game is a combination of luck and strategy.

For hockey fans, Hockey Hardware offers another great way to enjoy hockey with your family and friends on a Saturday night with hockey on TV in the background, or while you are up at the cottage on a rainy day, or when you are in a hotel with your teammates and parents at a hockey tournament. 

It is also a great way to extend the hockey season. Hockey Hardware can be played year round, which can help fill the empty void created by the long summer off-season.

It is also mobile, so it is pretty easy to play anywhere there is a surface area. The game design is structured as well, so you can pause and pick-up wherever you left off if you cannot play the full game in one sitting. 

For gamers not familiar with hockey, Hockey Hardware can be used as an engaging, fun, and entertaining tool to teach more about hockey. The dice use different hockey stats, while the game cards resemble different hockey actions.

Hockey Hardware can also help grow hockey by increasing accessibility. In addition to being an affordable source of hockey entertainment, Hockey Hardware can be used as a stepping stone to help introduce more people to hockey and bring them closer to the sport through tabletop gameplay. Through this process, players of Hockey Hardware may eventually convert into new hockey fans and help grow hockey interest overall.

PH: After you created this game, you started a company called Face-Off Games. Does this mean that you are going to develop other hockey-related games?
BM: Hockey Hardware is FACE-OFF GAMES flagship game product, as well as its first and only game product at this time. Once it is successful, I do have other ideas I would love to work on to expand this game and create other new games.

Currently, my full focus is on making Hockey Hardware successful.

PH: Why are Canadians so passionate about hockey? How are they able to sustain that passion for their entire lives?
BM: Hockey is a massive part of our Canadian culture. It is deeply embedded in our national identity and psyche.

It also unites the country when it is showcased on the international stage. For example, just about every Canadian can tell you where they were when Sidney Crosby scored ‘The Golden Goal’ at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Further, hockey is a source of pride, community, family and friendships, personal development and overall well-being. Many Canadians are in close proximity to hockey through some aspect of their lives on or off the ice, and major hockey events like the NHL playoffs, the PWHL playoffs, the Olympics, the World Juniors, the World Cup, etc. help sustain that interest and bring us closer together. 

Hockey is also one of Canada’s greatest cultural exports. As a Canadian, I am very proud and excited to see interest in and passion for hockey growing across Canada and in the US, Europe, and beyond. The world is a better place with more hockey, and Hockey Hardware is poised to play a role in helping grow this great sport!

PH: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us hockey fans?
BM: Hockey Hardware is currently LIVE on Kickstarter until July 14 at 7pm EDT. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform, and the goal of our Kickstarter campaign is to raise enough funds to get the game manufactured and bring it to life for hockey fans.

Kickstarter uses an all-or-nothing crowdfunding model, which means Hockey Hardware must reach its funding goal by deadline in order to receive pledges to move the project forward. 

Every pledge of any amount helps Hockey Hardware get closer to its funding goal. Learn more about Hockey Hardware and please make a pledge today by visiting this link.

Patrick Hoffman

Patrick covers the NHL for Inside The Rink. He has previously covered the league for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave, WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

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