Finding a hockey team can be challenging and competitive in its own right. Many teams are made up of players who have been friends or teammates for a while or who have established relationships. Having played on many teams in the last 13 years, I have identified five key areas to focus on when you are looking to find and play on a beer league hockey team.
As a general rule, playing pick up and being around other beer league players in person is the best way to get on a beer league hockey team. Take advantage of opportunities when they are presented to you. Interact with them on social media, be a sub, talk to league officials and forming your own team are ways of getting involved.
In the sections below, I will help you leverage these strategies in order to help you identify and join a Beer League team that you can play with.
1. Frequent Pick Up Hockey Games
Pick up hockey games can be a great place to find, meet and socialize with potential future teammates. While you will quickly size up the skill of the players and determine if you can hang with them, it can take some time integrate socially with them and gauge their interest and participation in league games. Because the skill level varies greatly in pickup, there are a wide range of leagues represented at any one event.
Wear a jersey that has your name on the back. This is a good way for other players, both on your side and the other side of the bench, to identify with you and know your name on the ice. It also helps to have a true light and a true dark jersey for pickup. Avoiding mid-tones and neutral colors is one of the great un-written rules of pick up.
Here are some practical examples of the kinds of players who attend pickup games:
Older players – these players may play in “Over 30” or “Over 40” leagues that may be more interesting to older players. Sometimes older players will avoid the general 18+ beer league teams due to age differences in the players as well as the skill level of younger players. These leagues may be more relevant for older players as opposed to the standard D-A beer leagues. Usually these have a more diverse set of skills per team, but tend to have more older and more mature players.
Players on existing teams. These players vary in skill level, but it is not uncommon for multiple players from the same team to be at the same pickup game. Sometimes they play together but I’ve learned that many times they like to play against each other.
New players. While some new players can feel intimidated by pick up hockey, a lot of them cut their teeth there (no pun intended). This can be an excellent way to connect with lower league teams if you are a lower level player. Many lower level players attend pickup for the skate or to try to improve their skill level.
Casual players. These players usually are just there to play pick up and are not really interested in playing in league play for one reason or another.
Highly skilled players. If you are a new player especially, these are great friends to have. Not only do you get better when you play with and against better players, but they are generally more helpful and supportive of others. They may know other players at your level who are looking for players on their team.
2. Join Local Hockey Related Groups on Social Media
Many cities, leagues, and even teams will have some kind of social media presence. Seek out these groups or accounts and follow or like them. They can be a valuable resource for putting yourself out there as a new player. This can be especially helpful for a player who has recently moved into a new area in terms of getting to know other players.
It also helps you learn the team names and the leagues they are associated with. In the case of an area with a large number of rinks with teams and leagues, it means you could be on a number of different groups or pages.
Sometimes these teams have their own individual social media presence that you can follow. This is a great way to stay in touch with a team. I was once able to get on a team by being as follower to that team’s twitter account and occasionally engaging with their posts to the point where there was a pre-existing comfort level when they were looking for players.
With this you need to be careful however. Social media is a powerful and yet sometimes artificial environment in terms of getting to know personalities and players. Keep the conversation related to hockey. Don’t get sucked into social or political issues, controversy or any kind of internal drama. Maintain a proximity, yet a distance to make sure you’re engaged in the team, but not necessarily the other stuff.
3. Contact League Commissioners
League commissioners are busy people. They have many teams at many different skill levels to coordinate schedules, rosters, referees, collect team fees, collect player fees, and monitor situations.
This is on top of working with the existing players and captains who are contacting them constantly about individual team or game items. Remember that being a beer league commissioner can be a relatively thankless job. So the easier you can make their lives, the better response you will get from them.
The best way I have found is to send an email with your contact information. Be sure to have specific information about your team including the skill level you are interested in forming your team under as well as any people you already have committed to playing for you.
This will help them with planning for a new team. They may also be familiar with some of the players on your roster (beer league hockey is a small world) and can help locate players who align with your existing roster.
But do not hound or otherwise bother commissioners or they may not get back to you or let you languish. Remember that to you this is a game, but to them it is their job. Have your ducks in a row and be sure to research the league for the proper people to contact.
Of all the methods, this should be considered the “longest” of long shots. Many times being put on the “sub” list is just a black hole.
4. Become a Sub for an Existing Beer League
As the season grinds on, there are greater and greater opportunities as a sub, or substitute, player. People can’t make games due to scheduling. Sometimes a game is at 11:30pm on a Sunday night and some players don’t like playing that late on a “School Night”. This opens the door for subs to play.
As a sub, you have the opportunity to skate and play with teams and get to know their players. This allows you to create a rapport with the players on that team and that can open doors. Maybe not that season but in future season when they may be looking for someone to replace a player who is not returning.
It also gives you the opportunity to network not only with teams but other subs as well. You should treat these as opportunities to ingratiate yourselves with these teams and players for the future.
Being a reliable sub is a good way to be seen as a reliable player – and captains love those. It makes their job easier. It’s far easier to manage a game with reliable players than it is to constantly be looking for sub skaters or, even worse, a sub goalie.
As a sub, you can play for a variety of leagues and teams. This gives you a wider opportunity to play and find a game by being able to play for one team for a game, and then be able to play for another team in the same league the next. This is not at all taboo and is, in fact, pretty common.
5. Form Your Own Team
For many players, forming your own team will be a last resort. Forming a team makes you, by default, the captain of the team. Suffice to say, that being a team captain requires organization, communication, and diplomacy. In some leagues, it can also require a great deal of up-front money making you a part-time businessman.
Aside from the leadership aspects of forming your own team, you can leverage the other strategies in this article to find players to join your team. Typically speaking, you can find a collection of people to fill out a roster using all of these methods collectively.
- Post on social media hockey groups (especially if there are ones centered around pickup hockey) that you are looking for players of your skill level and to have them message you with information. Avoid getting sucked into the trap of replying to comments as that can quickly get political.
Encourage people to contact you separately and privately so you can engage them in conversation to learn what position they like to play and get a feel for their personality. As best you can on social media anyway.
You will inevitably see people in these groups looking for teams. Try to get them together to form your team. Take the lead and reach out to these players. Ask them to be patient and work together to get started. This makes the commissioner’s job easier when you approach them with a ready made team. All they have to do is put you on the schedule (if there is enough room).
- Recruit at pickup games. This may be the BEST place to try to find a goalie outside of social media. Goalies are a rarity because most are already on a team. Goalies at pickup have a greater likelihood of not being on a team or they wouldn’t be playing pickup. This is not the case for all goalies, but you can play the odds here. At the very least you can use this avenue to find a backup goalie in a pinch.
- Let commissioners know you are looking for players. As stated before, commissioners get a lot of emails from a lot of people looking for a team. You can help them out by letting them know you are forming a team and if they have any players that have contacted them about joining a team, that they could contact you.
- If you have been a sub you likely played with other sub players. Network with them. Most of the time, sub players are players like you who would love to be on a team full time. I’ve seen subs play multiple games and come to the rink early even though they do not have a scheduled game in an attempt to get on with a team as a sub. Network with these players as they are at the same skill level and interest in the game as you.
Have Your USA Hockey Membership Ready
Most leagues require a USA Hockey membership for liability purposes. Having your USA Hockey number ready enables you to be quickly and readily available to join a team. It is inexpensive, lasts a year and opens many doors to league play. For other reasons why you should play in a league that is USA Hockey sanctioned, be sure to visit this article on just one of many ways USA Hockey can save your wallet.
The Next Steps
Now that you have the basics of what it takes to get on a beer league team don’t forget that teams are social structures. The more you can be present and around other players, the more likely you are to get picked up by a team. Here are some additional resources you can use in conjunction with these tips.
- The Best (And Worst) Ways of Organizing Your Beer League Team
- Do I Really Want To Be An Ice Hockey Captain? Ask These.
- The Rules of Playing Pickup (Shinny) Hockey
- How Much Does It Cost to Play Beer League