Author Archives: brydon

What Pickup Hockey is all about: First Goal!

There’s no referees, whistles or announcers, just 20 guys playing the game they love. The skill levels vary, the bounces are crazy, and the goalies get little rest. But we love it.

Pickup hockey is about more than competition. That’s why we love what we do at 20Skaters. Helping organizers put an optimal number of players on the ice makes it more fun for eversteveyone. More importantly, we love when we get to hear the tales of glory from our wonderful and growing group of pickup warriors.

Our friend ‘stevetehpirate’ recently broke down the first goal he scored playing drop-in hockey. Not everyone is Sidney Crosby out there; for most of us scoring is hard work. I’ll let ‘steve’ tell it himself, “Got in front of the net. Actually caught a pass. Somehow, put it up top, glove side… blocked. Snagged the rebound and pushed the puck through the swarm of sticks towards five hole. Easy pad save. Snagged the rebound yet again and tucked between the post and the goalie’s skate before falling backwards on my ass.”

It doesn’t have to look pretty. As they say, “there’s no pictures on the score board.” Perseverance is everything in hockey.

We were thrilled that he was sporting his brand new 20Skaters jersey. When we get him the dark version, he might just turn into Alex Ovechkin.

This story reminds us that there’s always that guy out there with you, grinding hard, trying to bury his first, even though you already have 5 tonight. Put the puck on that guy’s stick, and give him the opportunity. It might not work out, because as Steve put it “Give me a soccer net and I’ll still have a tough time.” Yet, when guys like him are scoring, everyone is having a good time.

Because after all, that’s what pickup hockey is all about. As he mentions “conked my head on the ice, which might have hurt if I wasn’t so damn happy.” We were happy for you too!

Handling Last Minute Pick-up Hockey Dropouts

Your phone buzzes. Before you look at it, you already know what the message is going to say: “Sorry man, something came up, I can’t make hockey tonight.” One guy short is fine, but your phone vibrates again, with more bad news. It’s a few hours before game time, and the guys you recently turned away have already made plans.

Last minute pick-up dropouts infuriate the entire squad, and make you look bad as an organizer. When you go into the room to tell them we’re short this week, again, you know they’re going to let you have it. They told you your buddy was unreliable a million times, and they have at least 3 friends who would play each week.

Now instead of organizing a friendly pick-up game, you’ve become some combo of politician, mediator, and judge all in one. Why deal with the hassle? You’re doing this as a favour to the rest of the gang, and these dropouts are killing morale.

Stop Dealing with Dropouts

With 20Skaters, we send out email notifications throughout the week, including gameday reminders to attending skaters. Players have to sign up in advance with our first-come-first-serve system. You can still give you main guys priority, but have a larger list when spaces need to be filled.

We’ve found that the commitment level rises and dropout rates decrease dramatically with 20Skaters. The commitment-phobes with their last minute decisions are forced to make up their minds early in the week – otherwise their spot is gone. How much are you willing to bet that your buddy who cancels last-minute, every other week will get his shit together in a hurry?

hockey3Obviously slackers make up only a percentage of your dropouts. Things come up, including emergencies. You can’t blame guys for ditching pick-up if something more important comes up, because after-all, it’s for fun. Falling asleep on the couch is not an excuse!

Our system is designed to deal with last-minute dropouts, and will send out emails to the guys who didn’t get in, letting them know a space is available. You’re more than welcome to manually reach out, but we take that hassle off your hands. No more frantic calls a few hours before game time; we’ll make sure you have a full 20 Skaters.

Hit Them Where it Hurts

Their wallets. With 20Skaters, your subs are required to pre-pay via credit card in order to save their spot. If they cancel last minute, the money is already in your hands. You get to decide if they get it back or not. If they’ve already paid, we seriously doubt they’ll cancel for anything less than a solid reason. If they do, well, you’re not losing money!

Our goal is always to put 20 skaters, and 2 goalies on the ice, week in and week out for your pick-up hockey game. Last minute dropouts can be a pain in the ass, hurting the quality of your game, and your finances.

Let us be the bad guys. We’ll get your slackers back in line, and back on the ice. You can get back to the beach!

How many Skaters do you need for Pickup Hockey?

It’s every pick-up hockey organizer’s biggest dilemma. How many skaters do I need to have on my list? Well, there’s a reason we call ourselves 20Skaters. As you probably know by now, twenty is ideal for ensuring a competitive and cost effective game.

Having too few or too many players can ruin the experience, or hurt you financially. Organization is the key, but investing your time into spreadsheets and frantic, last-minute messages is too stressful for your thankless job. Here are some pitfalls to avoid, and ways to ensure you get 20 skaters every time:

Need more Skaters

4912724006_e7c10d8a12_bYou have a guy down on one knee behind the red-line, struggling to get up. Another player is standing alone at centre ice, waiting for his sixth break-away pass in a row. The lone guy on the bench looks like he might have a heart attack. Worst of all, you lost $100 on the game, putting you deeper in the hole. Sound familiar?

Having too few players ruins the competitiveness of the game, and will lead to you personally financing the games. It isn’t always because your roster is limited and/or simultaneous vacations; you might need better organization and more reliable players.

Too many Skaters

When guys are changing in the middle of the room, you probably have too many skaters (or play in a really old arena). Having anything more than 1 set of subs (20 skaters total) can ruin the experience, and lead to resentment from the guys. Every pick-up hockey game has one or two players who take 5 minute shifts, even when there’s 8 guys waiting on the bench.

While it might benefit you in the short term financially, having too many skaters will eventually lead to guys finding other games to play in. Your impressive roster will cease to function if you start losing your core guys in droves.

How we can help

20Skaters takes the hassle out of organization. You can rank your players, listing your core guys, secondary, and tertiary skaters. We handle emailing your players, confirming attendance, processing payments, and following up with your last minute bailers. We don’t mind being the bad guy.

For games that need more skaters, we have a substantial list of pick-up hockey players who can fill in during your slow weeks. We monitor the confirmations so that we can take action if you are short guys in the days leading up to the game. You might even find someone to permanently replace an unreliable player!

Best of all, our system works for you. Adding a last minute friend of a friend is simple and easy.

For organizers with too many skaters on their list, our process is straightforward. You set up the core guys who have guaranteed spots every week, the rest get to play based on first-come, first-serve confirmations. Those last-minute Larry’s you keep having to harass two-hours before game time? You better believe they’ll be signing up when our first email goes out.

Make sure to avoid oversubscription

If you grow your list too quickly, you could end up with too many full-time guys. Always keep your core guys happy, and add only when you need to.

If more than twenty skaters show up, it’s an easy process of elimination to determine who didn’t sign up. We know from experience that the guys who play by the rules will help you put the pressure on the slackers.

Finding Two Goalies for your Pickup Hockey Game

It’s two minutes to game time and there’s only one tender in the room. As the Zamboni finishes flooding the ice, the guys groan as they realize they’re shooting at an empty net. Again.

If this sounds all too familiar, you understand the difficulty in finding two goalies for your pickup hockey game. Nobody likes shooting for posts, even for only half the game. Instead of continuing to disappoint the rest of the squad, there are a number of simple ways to avoid busting out the old goalie tarp.

Treat them with respect

Goalies are fickle. They know how important they are. The next time one of your skaters ices the goalie as they’re covering the puck, remind them of a few things:

  1. You can easily get along without that skater, but not the goalie
  2. Goalies have to work harder than everyone else
  3. Goalies are in demand. They don’t need your game

Treat them with respect. There’s a reason why NHL teams leave their goalies in peace in the locker room. They are, without a doubt, the most important player on the ice. The same goes for pick-up hockey.

They don’t pay

2255858789_5799f3a018_zThis is a general rule for pick-up games. Goalies should always play for free. It’s simple supply and demand; you need them more than they need you. Plus, their equipment costs significantly more.

When pricing your game, always exclude tenders in your calculation. Your squad should be more than happy to shell out a couple extra dollars to ensure that there’s two keepers every week.

Have a back-up

Versatility is the name of the game. Ask your skaters if they know someone who could step in at the last minute if needed. They might even be a better fit than your regular goalies.

Some guys might even have two sets of gear. Treat them like the Gods that they are. Having a solid plan B in case of an emergency always helps. It’s up to you to decide if these guys should pay when they play as skaters. Work it out on a case-by-case basis, but remember, lugging two sets of gear to the arena every week is a hassle. It might not be a bad idea to let them play for a discounted price.

Rentals

Pick-up hockey goalies know their value. That’s why some guys have made some serious cash on the side by renting out their services. You can check out your local Kijiji listings (we’re not kidding), social media, or rental websites. The costs can range anywhere from $30-$50/hr depending on local availability. It’s not ideal, but it beats an empty net.

Managing your Game

You can avoid most of the headaches of finding two goalies for your pick-up hockey game by getting 20Skaters to manage your game. Our extensive list of local hockey players, including goalies, is a great resource for filling the creases in your game.

Our game management system allows organizers to see exactly how many confirmed players they have in a given week, including goalies. Players are sent a series of emails throughout the week, reminding them to confirm or decline their attendance. To avoid any payment hassle, players designated as goalies don’t have to pay.

For those that live in the GTA: if for any reason you’re short a keeper and we don’t have an available fill-in on our list, contact the guys at Goalie911. They’ll give you a $5 discount just for telling them you’re signed up with 20Skaters.

Even after you have two solid regulars, stressing about potential no-shows or last minute emergencies can ruin the fun of pick-up hockey. 20Skaters takes the hassle out of organizing your game. Stop worrying, and enjoy your game.

Adult Hockey Practice?

IMG_20150225_164550_edit1-864x879Most adult (beer league) hockey players I know have taken significant time off from hockey at some point. For me, I stopped playing the game entirely for about 15 years. I didn’t even go public skating during those years.

Whether you’ve taken a long stretch off, or you’re new to the game, you know you need practice and possibly some coaching. Playing drop-in, and games, is obviously the point but being able to practice, having lot’s of time with the puck, work on skills is required to really improve your game

If you’re in the Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge area then checkout Eric Calder’s programs. Specifically, Eric runs an adult power skills and power skating programs once each week. It’s 70 minutes which means the beer will taste great after!

Pickup Hockey…without the ice!

backyard_messIt’s that sad time of year. The snow has melted, the backyard rinks are an ugly mess and the city has pulled most of the ice out of the rinks.

While there is lot’s of summer pickup ice hockey games already underway, we’re also excited to see John from HockeyTron.ca starting up a weekly inline pickup hockey game.

Haven’t heard of inline hockey? Well melt the snow remaining in your ears my cave dwelling friend, this is hockey…without the ice! The beauty of playing with John is that you can also rent inline equipment from him to try the sport out!

John’s weekly pickup hockey game is Thursday nights in Waterloo at 10pm. From his 20Skaters page, you can click Attend to play this week, click Register if you want to know about a future game.

Kitchener Rangers Playoff Game

Kitchener_RangersWe have a suite tonight at the OHL playoff game between the Kitchener Rangers and the London Knights. We only have 8 tickets and we’d like to offer them up to 20Skaters players. The cost of the suite is covered so you only have to pony up for the ticket cost.

If you’re an active organizer with us, it’s free as we’re covering the ticket cost as a thanks for being an early organizer with us!

Grab a spot on the game page if you can join us?

Canadian musicians and pickup hockey

Ever heard of the Exclaim Cup, aka The Hockey Summit of the Arts? It’s an annual hockey tournament, held on Easter weekend. There are some unique aspects to this 30+ team tournament to say the least. Teams not only play hockey but they also play live music sets at the evening Hootenannies at The Horseshoe. There’s also live rink rock playing at the games when the puck’s not in play.

If you’re a musician, actor, or otherwise make your living in an artistic manner AND you can play hockey, you have to find your way into this tournament. With teams from Montreal, Halifax and several from Vancouver, this is the pinnacle of music + hockey!

I’ve been lucky to play in the tournament off and on for over a decade, starting with the legendary Three Gut Feelings.

CAS7BlOWEAAyVL5 (1)This weekend I’ll be playing with the Guelph Royal Pains who have brought a trophy home the past two years. Along with catching as much of the live music as I can, I’ll be working on spreading the word about organizing pickup hockey using 20Skaters. I’m bringing along my friend John from HockeyTron as well. We should have some sticks for folks to try out and we will have some gifts and giveaways.

See you this weekend, make sure to find our setup and say hey!

Big data for your pickup hockey game!

noun_103066_ccWe’re working on end of season statistics for our weekly games. We have a lot of interesting data about our games, we want to share it with our organizers and the players in their games. We need your help figuring out what stats you’d like to see?

If you play in a regular game with us then please take less than 5 minutes to fill in this form letting us know what data interests you? If you aren’t a 20Skaters player today then join now, then go fill out stats form! If you organizer a weekly game, start organizing with us so we can provide you and your skaters stats!

Automate Your Weekly Pickup Hockey

The best people to explain a product or service are it’s customers. I love hearing our 20Skaters organizers pitch our service to other people. I learn something new everytime I witness this.

tumblr_mrhfwwxXq21spx4u4o1_500I once heard it explained as an RSVP service for your pickup hockey game. My favourite recent pitch was that we are a pickup hockey automation service.

Based on the fact we automate your pickup hockey enough that you can run it while living on a beach, I suppose it works. Know someone spending hours each week responding to emails, texts and phone calls in an attempt to run a pickup hockey game, let them know about our automation service!

Some other testimonials from our organizers….

With 2 games every week I thought it should be possible to automate the process, and keep the games full each week, and it has worked“, Tom in Ottawa

I’m happy to say that I am no longer subsidizing the game I love playing on a weekly basis, which makes it that much more enjoyable to play.”, Keith in Guelph

20Skaters has saved me countless hours organizing this year’s skate, it has simplified the process of collecting money from subs, and ensured a better turnout for us overall at our games this year. We are sold on 20skaters“, Danny in Toronto