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 2003-04 Heads Up Archive
 Pick-up Hockey, The Sanctity of it All.
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Posted - 11/21/2003 :  23:34:53  Show Profile
Contributed by: Zach Greenlee

Pick-up hockey is hockey in its purest form. It's like the rich sap that seeps from Maple trees before it's boiled into its concentrated form. It is the genuine origin of hockey, before the brightly colored uniforms, the seven digit salaries, the gladiatorial boxing matches and the curved blades. There is something sacred about pick-up hockey in its simplicity: two teams, randomly picked, a small hard object to hit around and two goals. How beautifully archaic!

Recently, I've weaseled my way into a burgeoning hockey game of young men with little or no experience playing the game. In this part of the country (to which I am a recent transplant) hockey rarely even makes it onto television. These young enthusiasts' knowledge of hockey is probably limited to the "Mighty Ducks" movies and "Hockey's Greatest Fights" videos. "How sad!" you are probably thinking.

I agree. I've only played a few games with these guys and have already witnessed a disheartening amount of chest thumping and over-aggressiveness, as if they think that is what hockey is really about. On a couple occasions, I've had to explain to a couple players that tempers are the quickest way to ruin an otherwise fun and fulfilling game. On others I've had to repeatedly say "It's part of the game, part of the game." Some get their feelings hurt too easily. Some get angry when they miss a goal. Others refuse to laugh at their own mistakes, let alone the wise cracks and usual jovial verbal jabs from others. There is no sense of humor in their game. Everyone comes in with a game face, as if they are afraid that at any minute someone may pick a fight with them or show them up.

After only a few games with them, I have all but sworn this depraved version of poker-hockey off altogether. Then…another older, and more experienced newcomer reminded me that these "kids" hadn't had any real exposure to hockey. Talk about bringing tears to my eyes! For that reason, I thought it critical to make this very important subject the topic of my first article here at

Pick-up hockey is to me what Pubs are to the Irish. It's a place to meet new people, see old faces, share a few laughs and enjoy a great night. I pity the person who comes to a pick-up game with the intent of starting or being involved in a fight. (Even more so, those who come to rough up a few players for some sort of primitive feeling of physical superiority.) Of course it's ok to rough house on the ice. But there is much more to hockey than body checks and shoving.

Hockey's origins can be traced back as far as the ancient Celtic sport of hurling. It's like a male version of field hockey, from there, the sport graduated to ice and ice-skating. The combination of the two created the greatest sport ever known to man. Those are the basic components of the sport and the most important to know. Barring the usual distractions, pick-up hockey is still that same hockey first played in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in the very early 1800s. So with that same spirit and tradition in mind I have complied…

Ten simple social rules that every one should know before playing pick-up hockey:

1. It's ok to joke and laugh about your own mistakes.

2. Checking is for the real competitors or in a group where everyone knows each other well enough that no one will get angry.

3. Fighting is NEVER allowed. If someone picks a fight with you, try to walk away first. If the persist, send them packing.

4. Throwing your stick, kicking the boards, pounding the net and other forms of tantrums just make the player look like a whiner.

5. Tempers ruin the game.

6. If you aren't wearing the right pads or none at all, you have no right to become angry with someone if you get hurt.

7. It's not YOUR game. The game belongs to everyone who is playing it.

8. Goaltenders are a rare commodity. Treat them with the utmost respect.

9. Don't chase away new-comers. You should try to encourage others to take interest in the sport.

10. Unlike competitive hockey, everyone on the ice, rink, or street is your buddy before, during and after the game. No exceptions.

Have an opinion on Zach's article? Let us know. Just hit reply below and post your thoughts.
**************************** is your online hockey community. We're always looking for sharp volunteer writers. If you feel that you'd like to contribute articles on a regular basis drop us an email.

Top Prospect

8 Posts

Posted - 11/24/2003 :  09:37:09  Show Profile
Welcome to the team Zach! Good Article, interesting.
Looking forward to more!

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PickupHockey Pro

365 Posts

Posted - 11/25/2003 :  18:23:54  Show Profile

I can't count the pickup games I've been at where some bone head starts posing as if the cup was on the line. What's worse is when we're talking about a guy well into his 30's who has no chance of making it, but for some reason he thinks he's still got a shot. Ease up fella!

Nice article Zach. Refreshing and relevant perspective.
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