Pick-up Hockey Etiquette?
Ya, that’s the question that’s been raised in my mind over recent weeks… I mean, is there — or should there be — a special kind of etiquette for pick-up hockey?
Actually, one of my great Facebook friends (I’ll call her NR) inspired this entry. But, NR is in no way responsible for my feelings on this subject. No, probably a good 35-years ago I went after a teammate who was yip-yipping on our bench, something to the effect that I hadn’t hustled on the last shift. (Are you kidding me? I came to the rink late on that night to have a little fun and to get a little exercise!)
She admits that her beginner status gives her no real right to be in a given weeknight group. But, as she says, “…yet they do invite me occasionally.” Ya, NR, they invite you — like they do most any goalie with a pulse, mainly because a game isn’t really a game unless there are at least two goalers present.
NR admitted that, “The other night, I sucked, even for me. That part I can handle.”
Enter an opponent on this night who seemed to be a thorn in NR’s side throughout the game. I’ll henceforth refer to him as #x, while our leading lady called him “The idiot…” :) But, let’s let NR tell the rest…
“If you’re clearly the best guy at pickup by miles and you’ve scored like 20 times on one goalie, continuing to wind up on said goalie in the final 5 minutes is a pretty jerky thing to do in my book. And don’t blame your “crazy curve” for that 80 mph shot at my head either. Not to mention the cherry picking and passing maybe once out of every 5 chances. And yeah, I really sucked, but there’s gotta be some etiquette.
I seriously considered simply vacating the net when he came in on me, but I have a little too much pride to do that. Near the end, I finally pulled off an awesome poke check and totally tripped him up in the same move, which made me feel a whole lot better, especially since he was now pissed.
On the ice, I am rarely upset, so the whole thing took me by surprise. Even when I whack people, it is never from anger or frustration, it’s merely the best way to clear them out of my crease. Goals against don’t make me mad, either. Why this guy, I still don’t really get. I know some of the skaters weren’t too happy with him either (I heard some grumbling), but nobody said anything, near as I can tell. And as the only girl on the ice, I certainly wasn’t going to.”
Now, as I suggested in the start, I’ve seen some of that kind of stuff first hand (and I’ve also seen it happen in senior leagues). But, so has my good friend, Jerry Z, commented on occasional rudeness during the several different roller hockey pick-up groups he skates with during a typical week. (For those not familiar with Jerry, take a browse over on CoachChic.com to discover the ways I’m trying to help him with his in-line game.)
A lot like NR, Jerry isn’t far from being a real beginner. However, he has busted his buns trying to get better (again, see for yourself over at CoachChic.com). And, while I know he’s working partly to gain more enjoyment — or satisfaction — from his games, I can tell from our corespondance that he really cares about helping his team be successful.
Also a lot like NR, Jerry occasionally grumps about #x’s clone ruining some of the fun — for him, and for some of the other guys in their group.
So, can an old coach from Massachusetts cure the pick-up hockey etiquette woes that go on from coast to coast and from the US into Canada? Naw, there’s not a prayer of that. However, maybe I can at least put some things into perspective here.
This (hopefully) funny story… Back when I was about 30-years old, I was asked to join our engineering office’s softball team. (Ya, someday I’ll tell you all how much I hated the years prior to becoming a full-time hockey coach!)
For now, you need to know that baseball was my best sport, I was a pretty slick, switch-hitting shortstop, and I led almost every team I played for in hitting. Oh, and I was also scouted by at least one Major League Baseball team.
Anyway, after a few days of working-out with the softball team, our captain comes to me and starts to make suggestions about something in my game. I was kind of amused at first, knowing this guy really had the bug now, even though he hadn’t played an organized sport of any kind until he started that softball team.
And I continued to smile until the guy became a little bit much… So, the smile ultimately turned to a smirk, as I offered, “I don’t know about you, Bob, but I realized a long time ago that I wasn’t going to make it. And, ever since then, I’ve decided that I’m only going to play again for one reason… And that’s just for fun.”
And that’s kinda the point I want to make in reference to pick-up hockey etiquette, in that anyone playing at that level HAS to realize they’re not going to suddenly get a dawgoned call from the local NHL entry!
From my long ago experiences — and from what I notice around the rinks today, the guys (and gals) who play pick-up come from all sorts of backgrounds. I see some of my former college players playing with buddies some nights, I know there are former high school skaters playing in those groups, but so are there some folks who only gained a passion for our game in recent years. Moreover, most adults run the gamut when it comes to their conditioning — from the lean and pretty mean to the more than slightly rotund.
It also seems to me that the very spirit of pick-up hockey calls for all of those abilities to mix, play a little puck, have some laughs, and maybe have a few beers together afterward.
In all honestly, I’ve hardly ever played anything I wasn’t fairly comfortable with. So, rightly so, I have tremendous admiration for guys like Jerry and gals like NR. I always go out of my way to help folks in their boats, and I’m always encouraging them to enjoy a game I’ve loved since I was a kid. Why guys like #x can’t– or won’t — do the same? Well… Shame on him (and guys like him), I guess.Winter - 2010