I want to play beer league hockey.
March 26, 2009 10:17 AM   Subscribe

I want to play beer league hockey. I am starting from ground zero.

I want to play hockey. I'm a 23 year old guy living outside Philly. I don't have any experience beyond playing some deck hockey when I was very young.

I have no equipment and very amateur skating skills. I am a fan and do love watching hockey, so I have a working knowledge of the game -- but I doubt I know much about strategy or proper player positioning or anything like that!

What steps should I take? I guess the first step is to get some gear and take some skating lessons. I'd love to take some adult hockey lessons, if they exist. I'm really having trouble finding any classes that are for beginners and aren't geared for kids. Should I just play a bunch of pickup games?

I don't have any friends who play, so that doesn't help. Have any of you successfully started playing a sport from zero experience as an adult? It's a little intimidating, because hockey seems to have a pretty high barrier of entry. It seems expected that you've learned most of this stuff as a kid.
posted by Herschel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
First and foremost, get comfortable with skating and generally being on the ice. Pick up a pair of skates and go to a few 'open skate' sessions at the local rink. At the same time, start picking up hockey gear - it can be pretty expensive in total, so spread it out over a few months if possible while practicing your skating. Once you have everything, see if you can find a rink that has a beginner/developmental league for adults (over 18). Those are great places to start, typically they'll do skills for a few weeks then start scrimmages. Pickup games can be pretty competitive, depending on where you play, so 'scout' them out before playing. Lastly, you'll need to get some kind of insurance before you sign up with a league (USAH or something), so make sure you know the requirements ahead of time.

Lastly, good luck! Have fun! It's the greatest sport around.
posted by brandman at 10:22 AM on March 26, 2009

My best friend and I regularly ride our bikes 18 miles in the winter to watch beer league hockey. The admission is free, the popcorn is salty, and the beer is cheap. Aside from the rare girlfriend of a goalie (who is bored out of her mind, freezing to death, and kitting/reading), we are the only people in the rink. This suits us just fine. After about two months of regularly attending Thursday night games (which is the night that AA and C leages play), the players tolerated us in their bar and started talking to us. They couldn't believe that we didn't play ourselves, and that we'd only ever ice skated about twice in our lives.

My friend has been considering taking up the sport, and we asked where the hell we'd start. We'd just be two dudes walking off the street. They told us AA league is comprised of guys who used to play in the minors, guys who are trying to get into the minors, and guys who were really good in college or are currently in college without a team. They said when we were ready, we'd be in C league.

At the rinks in town there are a couple of nights a week dedicated to "stick and puck", which is basically pickup games from what I understand. So once you have all of your gear, show up at a stick and puck night and get on the ice.

Gear can be found used for pretty cheap. They told us all the players have extra gloves, sticks, and pads that they don't use anymore since they've upgraded. The downside, though, is that you'll be wearing someone else's sweat, and you can never really get the stuff to not stink anymore. A lot of the players we watched didn't wear shoulder pads, so maybe you won't need them. Oh, they did tell us that you don't want to buy used skates, because over time the skates mold to your feet. They also told us that you don't have to buy expensive skates to get good skates.

It's such a fun sport to watch, especially when it's played at a high level. Even watching C league is fun. It's really great when you get that one guy who should really be playing in B or A league, but is warming the bench in C, then comes on the ice with 3 minutes left in the game and goes all Gretzsky on someone's ass.

There are rarely any fights, for the most part they start talking shit to each other and then the referees send them to the box for instigating. If they're in an especially ornery mood that night they might get a little rowdy in the bar, but for the most part they leave it on the ice.

My advice would be to find the beer league hockey in your area, watch a game or two, then just ask a player where to start (after they're drunk). They were very friendly to us and really encouraged us to get into the game. I'd do it if I didn't have enough hobbies I halfass through already.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:40 AM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I just started playing ice hockey in a beer league for the first time in January, so I know where you're coming from. I'm 24 and had wanted to play for about a decade before finally getting into it.

Here in Columbus, Ohio, we have a very large hockey organization run and managed by the company that runs the four major ice rinks around town. They offer leagues for various caliber players, and a "learn to play" training session that segues into a beginners league. Odds are there's a similar system in Philly, just contact your nearest ice rink and I'm sure they can direct you. Google wouldn't be bad idea either. Failing that, a series of pickup games would be good, but make sure you're comfortable skating first. There's a decent amount of falling down in adult league hockey, but in the interest of not getting discouraged, make sure you're 'stable' before you add a stick and lots of gear to the equation.

You'll need some equipment before you get on the ice. Here's a list of what I need before I play each week:
-shin/knee pads
-hockey socks
-hockey pants
-shoulder pads
-elbow pads
-jersey (any hockey jersey will do for now. you'll get a "real" one when you join a team)
-helmet (cage/visor is usually optional. Check your league)

Altogether, it cost me around $500 to get started , including session fees, team jersey, and all of the equipment except the skates I already had. Hockey ain't cheap! Check craigslist, ebay, and local used sports equipment stores to find used stuff. You'll save a lot of money not buying new.

In our league there's no fighting (5 game, $50 penalty) and most forms of checking are quickly-called penalties.

A lot of people are like us- starting to play when they're adults. It takes some getting used to, and some light getting-in-shape excercising might help you adapt more quickly. There are multiple tiers of players, so you won't be thrown in against the best around on your first night in a league. During pickup games you'll get a little bit of everyone though, so who knows.

I'm now wrapping up my first session in the league. Our team is near the top of the rankings and looking good going into the playoffs. I love playing and only wish I had started sooner!

Feel free to mefi-mail me with more questions.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 11:06 AM on March 26, 2009

Get in touch with whatever league you could join. Most hockey players have tons of extra equipment -- send an email to the captain or manager of the team (or league) and they'll forward it to a listserv to get you outfitted. Then you can try it out before shelling out the big bucks for your own stuff. Hockey is super duper fun and a great workout.
posted by barnone at 11:51 AM on March 26, 2009

When I was a kid I recall being told by every coach I ever had that the three most important skills in hockey were skating, skating and skating.

Definitely focus all of your efforts on improving this ability first. Inline skating in the summer is a perfectly good way to improve your skills. Without skating ability you'll have a miserable time out there; it's like trying to play 18 holes without ever having hit the driving range.

In all honesty you probably won't go from lacking the ability to skate to playing in a league within one winter. Starting slowly lets you spread out the high cost of equipment too; first skates, stick, gloves and a helmet and then slowly filling out the arsenal as you improve.

Good luck!
posted by Adam_S at 12:09 PM on March 26, 2009

For goodness sake, get a mouth guard.
posted by furtive at 12:09 PM on March 26, 2009

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