The right way to set up a pickup hockey game
By John Fackoury
In a pickup hockey game, one of its more beautiful aspects is the ability to mix up who you play with each week while still playing with your closest buddies. The downside is that you’ve got to determine teams each week. Here are a number of team-selection methodologies we’ve seen along with the pros and cons of each (we’ve organized them from the simplest to most complex).
1. Random Draw (Sticks in the Middle; Poker Chips; Playing Cards; etc.)
The random drawing is a classic: It’s simple, and no feelings are hurt when you make the not-so-subtle distinction between skill levels of specific players. The downside? Unbalanced teams. This methodology works best when there are very few players well-above or below the average skill level of the rest of the group.
2. Captain’s Pick
The good old gym class favorite makes things quick and easy for pickup hockey games. Teams are usually (somewhat) fair, with the main risk being the potential tender feelings of someone getting selected later than hoped for.
3. Permanent Teams with Weekly Adjustments
The most boring system is creating teams one time, and then making adjustments based on who shows up and how the games are turning out. Once you find fair teams it should be a fairly simple system, but we’ve rated it our third choice since we’ve experienced weeks where you’re missing really strong or weak players; that can really disrupt the skill balance. We aren’t fans of this one ourselves as it makes a pickup hockey game a little boring at times (it’s like playing a Best-of-25 series).
4. Pairing Off Similar Skill-Level Players
Our personal pickup hockey game favorite. Everyone selects someone (or a designated person assigns them week by week) with roughly the same skill level and puts themselves on opposite teams. It’s a great strategy for maintaining balanced teams (and works particularly well for groups that have a lot of siblings playing, as they’re typically close in ability). The only minor trouble comes when there are huge outliers skill-wise (superstars or rookies), as you have to compensate for them by ensuring the marginally better/worse player from 2 or 3 other pairs is on the same team.
5. Rating System
If you know your players well, you can develop your own system to categorize each one and assign a point score. Then you can create teams with a balanced amount of points. Similar to the Pairing system, but with only a bunch more upfront work required to avoid the occasional “odd man out.” If you’ve assembled a group of unknown players, there are point systems out there that help assign scores based on a combination of age and the highest level of hockey played.
One last note…. Black and white jerseys only (no reds, greys, or yellows)!
Any other systems you use or would recommend? Share your comment below and let us know!
John Fackoury runs several hockey-related e-commerce websites, including JerseysMadeEasy.com (custom jerseys and socks), CanadianJerseySuperstore.com (blank jerseys and socks), and HockeyTron.ca (discount hockey equipment).