Photo by Paul Malon
So you’re thinking about joining a hockey team, eh? Maybe you played street hockey as a kid, maybe you have a co-worker that plays, or maybe you play the NHL games on your Xbox and thought, “Hey, that looks kinda fun.”
Since the dawn of time, men have been suiting up in armor in preparation to destroy their opponent. It’s in our blood. Don’t try to resist your innate urge to play hockey. It’s perfectly natural. If you’ve thought about playing before but never acted on your curiosity, this guide is for you.
The first step is finding a rink. Most likely, you already know where this is. If not, I’m sure you’ve searched Google business listings before.
Ya know what? Let’s back up. Before you even get that far, you’re probably wondering…
- Is it too late for me to get started playing hockey?
- Will I be able to keep up?
- How do I get on a team?
- What equipment do I need?
- Why do they call it a “beer league”
These are real concerns. I understand them. I’ve been there.
Is it Too Late for Me to Start Playing Hockey?
I want to tell you a quick story about how Scott (a friend and former teammate of mine) got into hockey. These are his words, used with permission:
I started attending the Aggie hockey games with my son back in 2006 when he was just five. He was extremely behind with his speech, so we did everything we could to try and excite him and get him to talk. At the Aggie game, he spoke more than normal, so I signed him up for the kids club and had him pick a favorite player, which happened to be Jay McFadden, originally based on his number, 28. We actually got to meet Jay after the game and talk with him for a bit. Because Kenton actually showed some excitement and improvement in his speech, we continued to go. Kenton wanted to learn to skate, and I thought it would be pretty fun myself. Next thing, Kenton wanted to play hockey. I figured, “This actually looks pretty fun, why don’t we give it a try?” Next thing you know, I’m playing four-five times per week, watching all the hockey I can get, and even coaching.
Here is a dad who didn’t start playing until well after college. Scott’s a great player. In addition to playing, he’s the official photographer for the university’s hockey team. You can see his work on Rinkshots.com. Who knows what he would have been missing if he never tried playing? Point is: it’s never too late.
Will I Be Able to Keep Up?
No. But that’s OK. You have to start somewhere. The thing is, at the beginning you will see rapid improvement and that can be very motivating. The hard part is after a few months when your progress sort of plateaus when you are used to developing quickly.
How Do I Get On a Team?
First, go watch a game. Usually recreational leagues (or beer leagues) play late games. Like after 9pm. They’re free to attend and never crowded. Leagues are divided into different skill levels, identified by a letter. For example, A leagues consist of guys who have been playing since high school and probably played some college. C league is where you’ll start, but some bigger cities have several tiers; you’ll be able to determine which one you’ll fit into after watching a game. If you feel comfortable, talk to the guys after the game and ask them how to get started.
Most rinks offer a hockey basics, or hockey 101 classes. There will be people of all ages in the classes. Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t worry if you are one of the oldest.
Finally, every rink I’ve ever been to has something called a “stick ‘n puck” or “stick ‘n shoot” or “stick time”. In these open sessions, the ice is open to hockey players to work on any skill they want to develop. This is a good place to ask other players what team they play on and how they joined, or if any teams are looking for more players. It’s also a great place to practice between games.
What Equipment Will I Need?
This has been covered in a previous post.