Category Archives: Organization Tips

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.


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.

Organize Your Pickup Hockey…from the beach

It’s easy for us to say that we reduce the amount of time required to organize your weekly pickup hockey games. Yes, we email and invite your full timers in first. They accept or decline with us instead of phoning or texting you. Then we invite your subs and get them to pay you online, ahead of time for sub spots. We automagically get your game to 20Skaters each week.

We can say all that but it’s a lot better to share real stories. My latest story is about an organizer of ours named Tom.

IMG_7354 (1)Tom currently organizes two games every week with us in Ottawa, Ontario. He’s considering adding a third game to his weekly schedule. His games typically sellout well in advance each week.

Tom is currently sitting on a beach in Hawaii. He’ll be there for about a month. While he sits on a beach soaking up the rays, his games continue to run as smooth as sand through his toes (yes I’m a poet).

Yes, Tom sent me this picture! He makes pickup hockey look great!

How Team Selection Works

We have a new optional feature that has us selecting teams for your weekly game. Our hope is that this will save you and your crew time each week. You won’t have to pick teams and every skater coming on the ice doesn’t have to count up darks and whites before stepping on the ice. I also have a dream that it cuts down on the number of yellows and reds! As well, hopefully it allows the games to start quicker and make good use of your ice time.

Selection_111Currently, it’s random but as an organizer, you can adjust the lineup behind the scenes if you want. We have a lot planned for this feature, including having captains pick teams and even the ability to make some trades. For now we’re keeping it simple, I wanted to share some details on how it works today.

Game Page

Every player is assigned to the white or dark team when they join a game. They can immediately see which team they’re on based on the white or dark jersey by their username on the game page.

Changing The Teams

Selection_113As an organizer, you can go ‘Behind the scenes’ on your game page to see the current numbers for each team. Under the team column, you can see which team each player is currently assigned to. Clicking on “change team” flips them to the other team.

That’s it, simple as pie. When we send out our gameday reminders to the people playing in your game, we let them know what team they’re playing on.

Let us know if you want it turned on for your game?

Drafting Pickup Hockey Teams

Something fun that we’re working on is allowing our pickup hockey organizers to pick teams for their weekly games. We all know that the way to pick teams for pickup hockey is the age old tradition of tossing sticks. Everyone puts their stick into a pile and someone closes their eyes and tosses sticks one at a time towards either net. Whatever side your stick lands, welcome to your new team!

Tossing Sticks

This first step is simple, just let each player know whether they’re wearing black or white for today’s skate. This is just random team selection, tossing sticks. We’ll include that information when we email our gameday reminder to each player on the day of the skate. It should cut down on each person having to count up skaters before they decide what colour to put on.

So where’s the fun? We want to move beyond random team selection. I wanted to share some ideas we’re playing with. I’m hoping to get some feedback and thoughts on where we should go with this? Please comment below or email me directly with any thoughts.

Balancing TeamsumHockey1920d

With this approach, we randomly select teams for week one. After the game’s over, we find out which team ‘won’. Each player on the winning team is assigned a point. We randomly select teams the following week, however, over time we start to factor player point totals into the team selection. The hope being to balance teams over time.

Obviously this requires keeping score in some fashion each week. That could be as simple as the organizer choosing a winning side.


Each week we select two captains. Those captains pick teams, pretty straightforward.

Fantasy Sports

This one’s a bit out there but could be fun. We randomly select teams as skaters sign up. Each attending player is then allowed to make one trade each week. That trade allows them to swap a player on one team with one of the other team. We could either allow that trade to happen immediately. Or we could build in an approval model. Maybe the organizers have to approve trades or the players being traded?

This one’s obviously a bit more involved but provided we build the UI so it’s light weight and fast to interact with, it could be a lot of fun.

Finding Goalies for Pickup Hockey

goalie-picBeing short a few skaters on the bench is tolerable but we all know two goalies is a must! If you’re organizing pickup hockey with us, our advice is always to grow your goalie sub list as much as you can. Once you have two goalies registered for your next game, we stop emailing and inviting your sub goalies. So there’s no drawback in having as many goalies on your sub list as possible.

If you find yourself chasing last minute goalies often, there are a few suggestions to help.

  1. Ask for help from your skaters, let them know you want more goalie subs. Send a quick email to your lineup asking for their help. From your Manage My Players page, click your yellow Email all players button and ask your skaters to help you recruit some more goalies.
  2. Rent a goalie. If you’re in a larger city, renting goalies is always an option. Prices tend to range from $30 to $50 per hour. As well, Mike and the team at Goalies911 are offering 20Skaters organizers $5 off if you need a tender. Make sure to mention that you’re a 20Skaters organizer when you phone Mike.

As requested by our organizers, longer term we plan to build deeper integrations with services like Goalies911. This will allow you to easily rent a goalie through your dashboard or have us do that automatically if you still need a goalie close to gametime.

How Much Do I Charge For Pickup Hockey?

The short answer is just assume you are NOT charging your skaters enough! While we have a lot of financially healthy games, the majority are not breaking even when they start with us. That stresses me out.

For games that use our system, we can reflect some very interesting data back to the organizers over time. What their average attendance is per game. Which full timers always respond late. Which full timers say yes I’m coming this week, then bail a few hours before game time.

The core question is always how much do I charge? The ideal scenario, from my experience, is that you have 20 paid full timers. You cover the bulk of your ice costs with those 20. You work with us to sell any available sub spots weekly. The money you collect from your subs quickly becomes gravy that you use to reduce your full timer fees next season.

This model works great as it encourages your full timers to respond early and accurately each week as they will see the rewards next season. As well, the lower your season fees, the simpler it is for you to have 20 full timers.

We have a very simple calculator on our homepage. I’m working on a more complicated version that’s intended to help organizer’s decide two things.

  1. How much do I charge my full timers for the season?
  2. How much do we charge our subs?

Have a look at the screenshot below which is the initial spreadsheet that I’m trying to simplify. The yellow background cells can be changed by you, the others are calculated. This allows you to play with how many subs you feel you’ll get, what you charge subs etc and see how that impacts what’s in the kitty at the end of the season.

You can see in the numbers below, this person would start the season $2000 in the hole. If they average 5 subs each week, they should quickly make that up. In this case, I would likely increase their season fees slightly to lower their risk. You can also see here that their full timers are only paying $14 per skate, assuming 75% attendance, which is a good deal versus the $20 sub cost. That’s a good incentive to pay for the season.

Helpful? Anything I can remove? What should be added?

20Skaters Fee Calculator

Frameworks for Running Pickup Hockey?

Framework likely isn’t the correct term but neither is rules or how-to. What I wanted to share are a few of the ways I’ve seen pickup hockey games actually run. I’m curious to hear any comments and suggestions on how you’re running your games?

Picking Teams?pick

Obviously the intent here to achieve some semblance of balance. Typically the person organizing the game has the most knowledge of skater’s skill levels. Some games, the organizer selects the teams, telling each skater who should wear dark or white. Another option is to pick two captains and literally pick teams in the dressing room. The obvious annoying part here is someone gets picked last.

Most games leave this to randomness in that people jump on the ice with whatever sweater they put on. Then during warmup, the organizer works on adjusting to get the numbers per side correct and possibly some balance.

On our side, we’re testing some features where we select teams for our games. One has us informing you of your team in your gameday reminder. Then we keep track of which team ‘won’. We assign a point to each player on the winning team. The idea of the points is to allow us to balance the teams each better each week.

Keeping Score?

The most common approach is to not formally keep score. In this case goalies typically switch ends of the rink at the halfway point. My personal preference, however, is that you do keep score, playing mini-games to 5. When the first team reaches 5, your goalies switch ends and you start a new mini-game.

Resetting the score between mini-games helps to keep one team from completely running up the score. It can quickly become demotivating if you’re down 10 – 2, even in pickup.

We also have some regular weekly games who maintain teams from week to week, as best they can. They run a bit of a season where they keep track of wins. I believe at the end of the season the losing team pays for food and drinks on a night out.