Category Archives: Main

Pickup Hockey in 2020/2021

Hey folks, just a quick update as we’ve been almost silent on our blog of late. We completely shutdown our platform this past March to support the closing of rinks across the world due to Covid-19.

Yes, we are back up and running in order to support our pickup hockey organizers who are getting back up and running. If you’re local rink is back open and you’re planning on running weekly pickup hockey in some form, let us know and we’ll get you setup for another season!

Welcome back and let’s hope we can all get back to some form of ice hockey this year.

Time to Grow!

20Skaters is the only software platform built to make weekly pickup hockey games better for players and organizers. We’ve helped organizers collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in sub fees and we’ve been a part of running thousands of pickup hockey games across North America.

Now we want to grow 20Skaters, and take this homegrown Canadian hockey solution to the world. That growth will allow us to develop new optional features like auto team selection, game credits, paid waiting lists etc. All of which will improve your games and make them more fun to play in. We think that everyone who runs a game of pickup hockey should give us a try. We’ve learned that the best way for an organizer to learn about 20Skaters is for them to hear it directly from their players and friends!

One More Organizer
Our ask: will you tell one organizer about us?

You likely play in other pickup hockey games that have yet to try 20Skaters. Or maybe you have friends that play in games that don’t use 20Skaters yet. We want those organizers to know about us. Help us grow by telling an organizer about us! They will have a few questions, some of which we already answered here.

One more thing, if an organizer already knows about us, please tell them again. It helps when they hear from multiple players in their game. It builds confidence that their players will use, and enjoy, our platform.

Other Cities
Please don’t keep this only to games you play in. Our platform is already running games across North America. If you know someone across the country who plays hockey, let them know and help us jump geographies and get started in new cities!

Thank You
We value your time and any help you offer. We do our best to ask any new organizers how they found out about us. In the case we can track it back to you, we’ll be in touch to send you a t-shirt or some swag as a thank you.

How We Got To Here

I had the idea for 20Skaters for a good five years before acting on it. While I’d never run a weekly pickup hockey game, I subbed and played in them a lot. I noticed the attendance at these games being all over the map. Some weeks 9, some weeks 23. I’d rented ice myself so I knew the costs to rent icetime. Everytime I played, I would do the math in my head and the numbers clearly meant the person running it was losing cash.

I also witnessed the weekly frustrations of the players in the room when you only had 9 skaters and 1 goalie, or worse 23 skaters and 3 goalies.

It was clear that you had a lone person spending a ton of their personal cash to organize a weekly game for friends. They were losing money, while having those same friends bitch and moan about attendance.

I remember one specific case where a friend decided to run two pickup games. I didn’t attend but I asked him a few weeks later how it went. Sarcastically he said, “great, I had 20 skaters committed for both skates. We had 9 skaters show up at one, 14 at the other, I lost $245 on them and I’m never doing that again.”

I sat on the idea for 20Skaters for years because I didn’t think it was the right time for hockey players to pay for pickup hockey online, ahead of time. It was too soon, not enough people had purchased items online yet.

Eventually it started to feel closer, the majority of people I knew were starting to make online purchases and use more online services. To prove the market was ready, I ran some tests. I purchased a few icetimes from the city. I built a very basic webpage that showed the game details along with the players who were committed to playing. I added a Paypal ‘buy now’ button to allow players to buy spots online for the game, directly from the game page.

Next, I emailed the link for the webpage around to some friends to invite them. The webpage was a static webpage. To make it ‘dynamic’, when I received an email from Paypal telling me that I had a sale, I would change the webpage on my laptop to include the person’s name into the ‘players attending’ list. I’d then ftp that new webpage up to the website. Boom, a dynamic gamepage.

I had the occasional keener who would email me right after purchasing to say “hey, I just paid for hockey but I don’t see my name on the site, maybe I did something wrong?” I would change the webpage, ftp it up, then email them saying “Sorry about that, issues on my side, have a look now, should be good”.

While the manual work to make the site appear dynamic was a pain, that was a solvable problem. The magic proof of those early tests was that I sold those games out and players grabbed spots without talking to me. They shared and invited players I didn’t know well. I had all my money collected before heading to the rink. I’d proven to myself that hockey doods would pay for pickup hockey online ahead of time.

I recall one particular evening where I was going to be without internet access for several hours the day before a game. I still had 5 spots open and was worried I’d be short. When I returned to having internet access, I had 4 purchase emails sitting in my inbox and was down to one spot left. It was that experience that sold me. The fact that my game was working, and filling itself, while I was completely offline, that was the magic!

At the time we started there were a lot of early sites built to help you run your team in a league. There didn’t seem to be anyone building for the unique use case of running a weekly drop-in style hockey game. After the successful experiments, I started to share what we were building publicly more. I got some other good folks involved, who have been pivotal in getting to where we are today, namely my cofounders Bill and Eric. Our early name was NoReferees Hockey, which we eventually changed to 20Skaters Hockey.

The final straw in getting our first working product launched was one of our now long standing organizers. I had pitched him the product in person at an event. Since that time he’d been emailing me asking questions about it. Jamie is a startup founder himself so he understood the journey. He phoned me the week before labour day and gave me a final kick in the arse. He basically pitched my product back to me, told me he’s tried everything, event sites don’t work for him, the team sites are built for leagues but are a pain for pickup hockey, email lists aren’t enough, he wanted our product and didn’t want to start his upcoming season without it. His season started in 3 days.

I spent most of that labour day weekend locked in my office building. I don’t think I pulled any full all nighters but they were long days and late nights. I managed to build enough of a beta to get Jamie’s game launched with us and we’ve been organizing his game ever since.

We’ve now run thousands of games and are heading into a growth season. While that’s the story of how we got to here, we’re hoping this is just the beginning so stay tuned!

Top 5 Questions From Potential New Organizers

Do you know someone who organizes a weekly pickup hockey game? We want them to know that their game is better with 20Skaters!

Once a weekly pickup hockey organizer tries us, they don’t go back to running their games the old way. It is still difficult, however, to convince organizers to try our platform out. Here are the top 5 questions we get asked by those organizers considering starting with us.

<EDIT> I forgot the biggest question…….

0. We only have 3 games left this season, I guess we should wait and just start next year?

100% no, we should start now! As long as you have 2 games remaining in your current season, now is the time to start. It takes a few games for your players to get used to doing things the new way. Starting now gets your players into your lineup, gets players familiar with the platform, and puts you in a great position to start next season running Painless Pickup Hockey from day 0.

</EDIT>

1. I have a strong, core group of guys and don’t want any outsiders, can you keep them out?

Simply put, that’s what we’ve built here. Your game and your roster are private, and only people you add to your roster are invited each week. Organizing a great game of weekly pickup requires that you try to keep all players skill levels reasonably close. You, as organizer, are in charge of who gets invited to your games.

2. I need more players, and I’m not filling our game each week, do you have players you can invite?

So yes, we tend to get asked either #1 or #2, there doesn’t seem to be an in between. As mentioned in #1, you’re game is not public. We will, however, do everything we can to support you adding more players to your roster if you need that. We recently wrote about finding more players, make sure to let us know if you’re looking for more rookies so we can help.

3. Do you charge a fee?

Yes we do charge a small fee. When your first player pays, we take half of that first payment. All subsequent payments go fully to you, right into your bank account. So if you charge your subs $10. When your first sub pays this week, we take $5 and pass you $5. When your second, third etc pay, the full $10 goes into your bank account. It’s simple for you, no invoices or bills.

As well, we integrate with Stripe to handle credit card processing and getting your sub payments into your bank account. They, of course, take their fees as well.

4. Does your platform work anywhere, or is it just in Ontario?

We run games across Canada and North America and we can help games in any location supported by our partner Stripe.

5. I have 20 full timers and strong attendance each week so I likely don’t need 20Skaters right?

Wrong, our best games are games like yours! Our experience is that all our games should strive for 20 full timers, if they don’t already. Games like yours, with a strong roster of committed players, engage well with our platform from day 1 and appreciate how we help the have better pickup hockey every week.

Some people mistakenly think we are just a public marketplace for games that have poor attendance. For a lot of our games, the first thing we fix is making sure they only have 20 skaters out each week. No one wants 21 skaters! If you have 20 full timers then our primary benefit is allowing those full timers to indicate attendance each week, and then sell and fill any open spots. That gets you consistent attendance each week, which your players love, and additional sub money which your full timers will also love next season when you lower their full time fees.

Weekly pickup hockey is better with 20Skaters, make the move today!

Free Pickup Hockey in Kitchener

Ok, yes there’s some clickbait in that title but it’s also true. This past fall saw 20Skaters kickoff a pilot with the City of Kitchener to test the premise of using our platform to organize their weekly pickup hockey games. That pilot had us hosting some afternoon games in new timespots at 3pm. Our goal to move their pickup hockey games online, improve the organization of the games and offer a better overall service to the hockey players of Kitchener

More Games Every Week

Starting this week we are expanding by moving their current lunchtime games over to 20Skaters as well. As part of this increased schedule we’ve had to make some changes to our platform. The primary one being to send aggregated lists of the week’s games in email. This allows you as a player to see all the available games this coming week and grab spots in the ones you want to play in.

Free Hockey

So where’s the free part? As part of the rollout, Kitchener is offering all games through 20Skaters for free to players in the month of January. Come February, it will return to $7 for players but it’s free for the rest of January!

Spread the word, register yourself, invite friends! Send anyone interested to the Kitchener games page at 20Skaters.com/Kitchener. From that page you can jump into one of this week’s games or register to receive the weekliy email invites.

Site Down

Some of you may have noticed that our site was down yesterday. We were heavily impacted by some changes in our hosting infrastructure. It was a long day but our service should be back to normal today. If you accepted or declined any upcoming games yesterday, please head back to your dashboard and make sure your attendance is correct for those games.

Apologies but outages happen, this is our first major one and hopefully our last for a while. Thanks for your patience and support.

The Good Old Hockey Game….is Back!

For you NHL players who made your team’s roster, the good news is….you get to play in the NHL today! The bad news is you’ll have to wait a bit longer before you can enjoy the game the way it should be played, pickup, with friend…without stripes!

Welcome back!

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!

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.