Your Pickup Hockey Needs a ‘Rulebook’!

You should create a rulebook document, or charter, for your weekly pickup hockey game. I play a lot of pickup hockey and, through running 20Skaters, I’ve played in a wide variety of games. While they are all quite similar, each is also unique.

If you organize a weekly game, you should consider creating a rulebook for it. Some people immediately respond “Ahh…it’s pickup hockey, there are no rules, that’s the point!”

Well I beg to differ.

Do you keep score in any manner? Do you call offsides in your pickup, who can call them, how do you handle them? Are you ok with people hooking or being physical in the corners? Have you ever had to kick a player off your roster? Can players wear whatever colour they want or do you prefer they only wear one of two colours?

Well, you may have more rules than you think. The problem today is that they are likely all unwritten. That’s confusing, especially for new players to your game.

Any equipment rules for your hockey game?

Part of running a recurring game of pickup hockey is deciding what the specific rules are for the game along with what type of culture you’re cultivating. It’s a charter of sorts.

For a previous weekly game of my own, my rulebook was a shared google document. My goal was to include any/all information that a player coming to our game for the first time would like to know about our game. My example is rather detailed since we used a game clock in these games. Most charters will only be a half, or one page.

A rulebook is a great way to communicate the type of game you’re running to any new players coming out, as well as to your existing players. Making sure that your players are on the same page makes it simpler for them to help you ‘police’ your game every week. It sets clear expectations with, and among, your players.

I’d suggest sharing it at the start of every season with all your players. When new players are coming out, send it along to them as well. As players ask questions about your game, update the document with the answers.

If you’re using our platform, some organizers include this directly on every gamepage. My suggestion would be to include a note on the gamepage along with a link to a longer shared document.

Another great reason to have a rulebook that all your players have read is that it makes your life simpler if/when you have to remove a player from your lineup. It’s much easier to explain to a player that they don’t fit in with your game if you’ve already clearly conveyed your expectations ahead of time.

Some ideas to consider conveying in your charter:

  • If you keep score in any way, with mini-games, detail the process.
  • How do you restart play after a goal is scored?
  • Are slapshots through traffic allowed?
  • How do you handle offsides? Are they called by the players on the ice or bench players and what happens to the puck?
  • How do you handle contentious goals?
  • Length of warm-ups.
  • How do you have all varieties of hydration, but in-game and post-game?
  • Team selections and how they happen each week. (Do you know about our optional team selection feature?)
  • Any jersey rules? I had a set of black/white jerseys for my players as we didn’t want reds, yellows and grays.
  • What level of competition are you expecting? Hard forechecking or don’t even go into the corners? Do you want people putting effort in on defence or keep is lax?
  • How long should shifts be? This is a big one for new players to know what you’re expecting.
  • Post game activities? Do you hangout in the parking lot after or hit a specific local?

Not all pickup hockey games are equal. Some are quite competitive with detailed rule sets while some are super casual. Regardless of what you’re after, conveying that clearly to your players goes a long way to creating a great weekly game of pickup hockey!