Category Archives: Organization Tips

How Many Full Timers Should You Have?

I get asked this question fairly often, usually it’s from people who are new to organizing a weekly pickup hockey game, how many full timers should I have in my roster?

First, what’s a full timer? A full timer is a player that pays you at the start of the season. They are paying for the right to attend any of your pickup games they’re able to make. With 20Skaters, full timers are invited first each week and they obviously have first shot at spots in the game. It’s only after a few days that subs start getting invited if there are spots available. As well, typically a full timer’s cost per game is lower than what you charge a sub.

While we have some games with 0 full timers and we have a few games that have more than 20, generally the answer is simple in that you should aim for 20 full timers in your roster. Having 20 skaters committed gives you the best shot at selling out your game every week. Those 20 folks have already paid for the season so they are going to make the effort to get out each week. The more games they play, the better their deal for being a full timer is.

Having 20 full timers also makes for a better game through the season. It means you’ll have some consistency in your lineup, folks get to know each other over the season and the banter in the change room gets better. Of course that can also go the other way in that you may have guys develop some nasty rivalries but that’s rare when there’s no refs on the ice.

I’m hosting a new game of my own this year. I only have about 5 full timers and it hurts us some weeks. If there’s a holiday or a sporting event worth watching, your sub numbers will be low as they have no commitment.

How much do you charge full timers? If you can get 20, my suggestion is to charge your full timers enough to cover your entire ice time costs. You will collect fees from subs through the season as you’ll rarely get all 20 full timers out. Use that money to throw an end of season party, buy jerseys, or reduce full timer fees next year. We have games that are also giving full timers refunds based on the sub fees they’ve collected.

If you’re like me, and don’t have 20 full timers, then start recruiting now for next season! Don’t wait until the summer when you have to chase folks over email. Pick the people you want to invite and let them know now that they have a full time spot next season if they want it.

5 Ways to Find More Players for Pickup Hockey

We help people manage and run their weekly pickup hockey game with their players. All our games are basically private, curated rosters that are fully managed by the organizer. Our organizers are pretty protective about who is invited and in what order.

Having said that, we often have games that need to grow their roster because they aren’t getting 20 skaters out every week. I’m one of those people as my new weekly game has only soldout a handful of times.

Here’s my list of top 5 things to do if you need more rookies in your weekly pickup hockey game… Ok, so step 0 is of course to make sure your game is simple to share, ie use 20Skaters! Sorry but if you aren’t currently using our platform then this post isn’t quite as helpful.

1. Ask Current Players

Your current players know your game, what skill level and type of players you’re looking for. They know other hockey players, and it’s always nice to be able to invite your buddies for a good skate. Make sure your current players know that you want to grow the list of subs and encourage them to invite their friends. Until you ask, players are often not sure that they’re allowed to invite others.

Tell your players to point their friends directly to your upcoming game page. If you’re doing this, have us setup a permanent url(facility page) for your lineup, if you don’t have it already. You can see an example here with my game, which is This page will always show my upcoming game and allow someone to register to be invited to all upcoming games. So it works today, or a few weeks from now when they get around to clicking it.

2. Ask Us

When players register with our platform, they can fill in a form that indicates they are looking for more hockey. We can email that list for your city and let them know about your game. As well, we’ll happily post to our Facebook page. Just contact us and send us a few sentences that describes your game to a player considering it.

3. Get Social

Post your game’s permanent url to the social networks you use. Make sure to tag your friends who play hockey, tag your city as well, and of course tag us @20Skaters. In the post, Ask your hockey playing friends to share and tag their hockey playing friends.

4. Classifieds

In my area it would be Kijiji but it could be Craig’s list or whatever the hawt classified site is in your area. Post you permanent url along with those few sentences to help a potential player decide if they would fit in well.

The challenge here is you are opening it up to random strangers but the risk is low. If you get a player out who is a poor fit for your game, you can just move them to inactive in your lineup and they won’t be invited to any more games.

5. Post In Your Rink

This one’s a long shot but it can work. Most rinks have boards that you can post old school ads on. Print out that description and game url and post it to your rink board.

5b. Bordering Games

A bonus, if there are pickup games playing before or after you, ask that organizer if they’re alright with you inviting their players. Some players may be interested in playing back to back games some weeks. Make sure to ask the organizers permission as you don’t want them thinking you’re trying to steal their players.

Good luck! If we missed any key tricks and techniques, just let us know and we’ll share it up.

What Is A Healthy Pickup Hockey Game?

One of the bigger misconceptions we constantly face is that our platform is only valuable for weekly pickup hockey games that are struggling in attendance. It happens almost weekly that I’m told something like “I told our organizer about 20Skaters but our attendance is pretty good as we have 20 full timers”.

In truth, our best games are the healthy ones. They tend to be run by busy people who have little time to mess around each week. They have a good dedicated group of full timers. Our platform works instantly with groups like these. With these groups, we are able to ensure they have 20 every single week.

Even just moving from averaging 18 to 20 skaters, over the course of the season, can account for almost $1000 in additional money into the game which means lower fees for full timers next year….or a wicked end of season party! An additional $1000 means you can lower your fees for your 20 full timers by $50 next season!

When we’re working with games with consistently poor attendance, we do our best to support them to find and grow their roster, however, that’s not core to what we do. For those games we want them to get to a healthy spot and then we can best support them moving forward.

So, what is a healthy weekly pickup hockey game anyway? While we certainly have exceptions, such as some games with 0 full timers, here’s what we’ve witnessed.

20 Full Timers

You want 20 full timers. A full timer is someone who pays you in order to play in all your games. Doing this creates commitment since the more games they attend, the better value it is for them. If you don’t have 20, I personally have about 5 right now in my game, then you want to increase this each season until you get to 20.

Large, Engaged Sub List

Even with 20 full timers, you will almost never have a game where all 20 can play. Create a large, engaged list of subs. In the case you have 20 full timers, I’d suggest having 30 to 40 subs. You can prioritize those subs so I’d suggest putting as many players as you can into your last round. They’re only invited if you need them each week.

When I say engaged, you want players on the list who actually grab sub spots when they’re offered. It doesn’t hurt to have unengaged but you may as well remove players who literally never come out.

If you’re like me, on the low full timer side, then you really need a large sub roster, like 80+ hockey players. They are not committed, since they are only paying when they can play, and you need to find 15+ of them every week.

Improve Every Season

If you’re on the low end for full timers, start recruiting now for next season. Get commitments from subs now for next season, even get an early cheque. Make sure everyone knows you are looking for x new full timers for next year.

Sellouts Breed Sellouts

If you can achieve the above, you will start selling out on a weekly basis. Getting to consistent sellouts creates demand in your sub list. When players are looking at a soldout game page every week then they will jump to grab sub spots when they’re offered up. As well, they will make sure to attend your games and be a good citizen of your game because they know others are ready to grab their spot. We quite literally have games that now sellout within minutes of their email invites going out each and every week. You can get your game there too! We can help.

Ways to Keep Score in Pickup Hockey

Yes, the majority of pickup hockey games do not keep score. Our platform is targeted at people who organize a weekly game of pickup hockey. For most, that means a similar group of players each week. Keeping score in some fashion with a close, consistent group is a great way to keep the compete levels up. I thought I’d lay out some simple to more advanced methods.

Simple mini-games

Run mini games, each going to a score of 5. This gets the players on the ice keeping score, pushing the pace if they’re down, maybe even playing some D if they’re protecting a lead. Once a winner reaches 5, goalies or teams switch ends and start a new game. In a 50 minute timespot you should be able to get a few of these games in.

mini-games, with weekly winner

This is just a step further in that you keep track of which team wins the most mini-games. This matters more if you are keeping teams somewhat consistent week to week. It certainly will add to the dressing room chirping after the game each week.

Timed games

This is more work, as you need to access the game clock or time on the bench. Running a few timed games makes a big difference in the competition. You’re now playing against the clock rather than the game extending until a team scores 5. In the new game I’m running, we play three 25 minute timed games. With a timed game, you can also pull your goalie and push to regain leads late in games.

Tracking teams and wins

This is next level stuff, I will admit that I’m new to this. We are using our team selection feature, and picking teams at random each week. Using this feature means that we have the full history of who played on which team each game. We’re tracking wins and we’re assigning each player 1 point for a game win and an extra point if their team wins the night. We can then track ‘player stats’ and share them week to week. I’ll keep you up to date how this works as we’re only three weeks in. I’m prototyping this by using a shared google sheet, you’re welcome to take a look if you like. Assuming this works, we’ll build this into our teams feature shortly.

Are you keeping score in your weekly pickup hockey games or doing anything interesting to keep your skaters pushing? If so, let us know so we can share it with others here.

Finding/adding goalies for pickup hockey

I mentioned my personal goalie crisis last week. On the day of our pickup hockey game, we had two goalies drop last minute. That triggered a few questions from some of our newer organizers about how to manage goalies in our platform.

I’ve been playing with a new tool lately, to answer questions like this by just showing how. So I made a quick video that demonstrates how you make someone a goalie in your lineup.

Of course, if you prefer reading, our FAQ is still there. Remember that we have a list of players looking for more hockey. If you need more goalies in your lineup, we’re happy to promote your game and try to find more for you.

Dear Diary: I Started Pickup Hockey Game II

Dear Diary:

I entered into week 4 with optimism of getting back to selling out our game. Boy was I wrong. We entered into gameday with 10 skater spots open. Then around 11am we had one of our committed goalies bail on us. The challenge in this case is that we had two committed goalies all week. That means our platform doesn’t even bother to invite other goalies, as the spots are taken. Goalies dropping out on gameday are a pain.

I’m pretty sure I emailed 50+ goalies but by 4pm we were back to 2 goalies and we only needed 5 skaters. Once again, skater spots kept filling up through the day, with no thanks to me.

At 7:30pm, a little over an hour before we skate, another goalie dropped out because of a family emergency. Two goalies dropping out on gameday is a major pain. We scrambled but ultimately weren’t able to find a goalie last minute so we played with one goalie and a hole-a-goalie at the other end.

No ill feelings towards the goalies. Life happens but it’s tough when multiple goalies dropout on gameday.

Goalie Subs

One part that takes getting used to with our platform, is to just put as many goalies as you know into your lineup. Goalies in your later rounds are only emailed if the goalies in your earlier rounds don’t take your two spots. So you may as well have 30 goalies in your final round. That way you don’t have to chase and send emails if you’re short a goalie, we handle it for you.

So, new lesson learned this week is to take my own advice and get more goalies into our last sub round. Yes, it doesn’t really account for really last minute drops but having lot’s of goalies in your lineup is never a bad thing.

As well, this experience points to a new feature we need to build. When a game goes from being soldout for goalies to having a spot open, we should email all invited goalies to invite them again. This email could be fully automated or require the organizer’s permission. Another consideration, if it’s x hours from gametime should we send an email to the entire lineup letting all the players know that we need a goalie. The latter email shouldn’t be needed if your lineup already has a good large list of goalies in it.

Dear Diary: I Started a Pickup Hockey Game

To date, I’ve personally only ran the occasional pickup game myself. This year I decided to start hosting my own weekly game. I’m eating my own dog food as they say. (Yes that’s a real term, no it’s not worth looking up.)

I thought I’d write in my diary as I go through this season to share my firsthand experience organizing weekly pickup hockey. So, here goes…

Dear Diary,

It’s Brydon here and it’s been a while. Sorry, it’s me not you. So as you know I built this platform to help people run their weekly pickup hockey games. It’s built to make life easier for the organizer and the games better for their players. It works great.

Last week was my 3rd game and I managed to validate two core things so far.

  1. Holy crap, I’ve always said organizing weekly pickup hockey is a thankless chore but I’m not sure I truly understood it. It sucks!
  2. Holy crap, I thought our platform was great but it’s awesome. I can’t even contemplate dealing with this without our tool.

Where my game is at?

We soldout week 1, which was a great start and had me complacent. No problem, this organizing thing is cake. Then week 2 we had two goalies, which is key, but only 13 skaters! We resorted to playing 4 on 4 which was ok but the game slows down quickly.

On the finance side for week 2, that’s 7 spots not sold which translates into $140 uncollected. This is the big problem we’re working to help solve. Most games, including mine, are basically poorly run non-profits. You set the price so that you recoup your costs and you assume perfect attendance as you don’t want to make money on this. The problem is when you have a few weeks like my week 2, you’re done. You don’t ever have a week with 27 skaters to make that up.

Last week, week 3, we ended up with 17 skaters, 5 skaters paying within the final 4 hours before game time. Our games have been great, I feel that demand is building to play in the game. I’m bullish that we’ll sell out this coming week’s game!


What have I learned so far? No one is really committed until they pay, bottom line. Everyone wants you to run a game, it’s just more hockey options for them. Until they pay, you really have no idea if they will play.

Keep pushing and add as many subs to your lineup as you can until you are consistently selling out week after week. You can see below in my lineup view, emails scribbled to protect the innocent, I have 60+ players on my list right now across all rounds but it’s still not enough.

More full timers. We have lot’s of new games like mine that are selling out from the get go. Those tend to have 15 to 20 full time players who have already paid for the entire season. In that case, those players are committed to playing and you’re likely to only need to sell about 5 sub spots each week. The caveat being that we do have people who run game with no full timers and still manage to sellout every week. Those folks have large sub lists(80+) and engaged sub lists.

However you do it, you have to create demand! You create demand by selling out games. Soldout games means more people want to be full time, subs grab spots sooner and it snowballs.

It’s been so good to catch up again diary and clearly my hand writing skills are still top notch….

Run Your Private Pickup Hockey (get your time back!)

We are clearly not marketers as we have yet to successfully articulate what we do here at 20Skaters. I know this because I get asked the following question way too often….

“Hey, someone who plays in the weekly pickup hockey game I organize told me about your system. They used it as a player in a pickup game this summer and loved it.

I run a weekly game of pickup but my question is, can I just invite my players? I already have a good list of skaters, we’re a good group and I only want to invite them.”

So, my clarification is….yes, 100% yes! That is precisely what we built this for. As an organizer, you manage your lineup of players. It is fully in your control. We do NOT add or even invite players to your weekly game. We simply take all your admin work off your plate.

Selection_187Each week we invite your paid full timers in first. They can accept or decline for free, as they’ve already paid you for the entire season. Then a few days later we start inviting your subs in. Those subs pay online to secure a spot in that week’s game.

On gameday, we email a reminder to everyone who’s committed to playing. That’s it, you are in control, it’s your game!

If you happen to need some new players then we’re happy to spread the word and invite new people to your game. If you get a ‘rookie’ out then after the game you can decide if you want to keep them in your lineup so they get invites each week. Or you can move them to inactive if they didn’t fit in well with your group and they won’t be invited again.

That’s it. You buy the ice and manage your roster, we’ll take care of everything else!

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.