Playing ice hockey as a beginner can be intimidating, especially if you are just learning now. There are a few skills you will need to get started playing adult hockey, but how do you know when it’s finally time to join your first team?
Basic skating skills are crucial to starting on a hockey team. When I first started, I spent a summer going to open skates and just skating around the rink. I didn’t know what I needed to know, but I worked on my stopping, my edges, and just getting comfortable skating around. I did not yet work on skating backwards or more advanced skills, but I just got used to skating around.
Even now I will go to open skates when I can and try to work on different things. Beginner leagues are very forgiving, and they are for: beginners. So don’t put off joining a league just because you don’t think you are good enough yet.
Don’t Skate Above Your Skill
One of the quickest ways to get kicked out of a league is to hurt someone, and one of the easiest ways to do this when you first get started is to try to skate above your skill.
What I mean by this is trying to skate faster than you physically can just to get to the play. The problem with this is I have seen time and time again someone skating to a play when they have no clue how they will stop, and then running into someone and hurting them (or hurting themselves).
You will get better over time, and as you practice, but don’t hurt someone in the process.
Stick & Puck Skills
Just like skating skills, you will also want to work on your puck and stick skills. This is far less important than skating to join a team, but you will still want to pull as much weight as you can when you start.
Many rinks will have something called “stick and puck time.” This is kind of like an open skate, except you will be able to put your equipment on and bring your stick and your puck and work on any skills you can. Use this time to practice skating with a stick, skating while carrying a puck, or shooting at the net. If you have someone to go out with you, you can also work on passing.
If you are not able to do this, I would recommend buying a practice ball — which is basically a small ball that acts as a puck on a hard surface. So you can practice at home as much as you want.
Hockey Rules Knowledge
It’s always a good idea to learn as much as you can about the game you are playing, and hockey can be complex. Although the USA Hockey rulebook is hundreds of pages long, you need to be most concerned about the basics: your positioning, offsides, icing, scoring.
Will Watching the NHL Make Me Better at Hockey?
So you watch a lot of professional hockey — will that make you better at beer league hockey? Yes and no.
Watching the NHL will help you understand some of the basic skills, like offsides and icing. For the most part, those will be the same in most levels of hockey. But it will not necessarily help you remember this when you’re out on the ice.
Watching professional hockey may make you think certain things are OK in all levels of hockey. The NHL is a very physical league, where things like checking are OK. I have played with a lot of new hockey players who think this is OK because they saw it on TV. It is not OK in recreational leagues of adult hockey – and being that physical can get people hurt.
Ok so this is not exactly a skill, but understanding the basic equipment needed for adult league hockey can help you get started. We have put together a full list of adult hockey equipment here, and you can watch a video here.
To get started in a real hockey league, you need to have all the equipment. There are some beginner leagues that will have equipment if you want to just try hockey — but once you decide to do it and jump in, you will need to purchase the basic equipment.
Motivation To Get Better
To get started in adult hockey as a beginner, you really need to want it and to work hard. Even if you don’t yet have all the skills, players always appreciate fellow players who work as hard as they can.
Being motivated will help you get out and practice and become better more quickly. Go to open skate as much as you can, look at all the Stick & Pucks in your area, see if there are pick-up hockey opportunities, and practice your off-ice skills at home. It will become obvious very quickly if you are not trying to get better — before and during your league games.
But know that you do not need to be amazing when you finally join a league. Playing hockey will help you get better at hockey — so get out there and play as much as you can.