If you are just learning to play hockey as an adult, showing up to your first game can be really scary. So before you show up, here are some things you should know about your first beer league hockey game:

1. Everyone started at some point

A great thing to remember when you first start playing hockey as an adult is that everyone started at some point. Some of them were children, but if you are in beginner hockey leagues, many of your fellow teammates are only a few years (or a few months) ahead of you. Hockey players are surprisingly understanding about people who just want to play, and they will help you get started.

2. Hockey is a community

Although hockey players love playing hockey, the reason many of them keep showing up is because the community of hockey is as welcoming as the sport itself. It really is a lifestyle. Fellow players will help you out and encourage you, and as long as you’re not a jerk, they won’t care if you are terrible (at least in most cases).

You will gain extra points if you bring beer, but being there and enjoying yourself is usually enough to keep getting invited back.

3. Don’t be afraid to do things wrong

During your first hockey game, and even your first year, you will do a lot of things wrong. No matter how many YouTube videos you watch, or NHL games you see, there is no replacement for being out there and playing hockey.

As long as you are willing to learn and improve yourself, no one will judge you for doing things wrong. And the more things you do wrong, the more quickly you will learn to stop doing those things.

Don’t be afraid to fall

On that same note, don’t be afraid to fall. In fact, the more you fall the faster you will probably get better. Remember that you are *very* padded up and 95 percent of the time, it does not hurt to fall.

This does not mean you should be skating faster than your ability to stop (because that is how people get hurt), but letting go of your fear of falling is going to help you get into the game and become an even better skater.

4. Focus on one thing per game

The best advice anyone ever gave me when I was learning to play hockey was to focus on one thing per game. When you first start in hockey, there is SO much to learn and it can be overwhelming.

If you focus on one thing per game, you can get that one thing down and it will become second nature — and then you can focus on the next thing. Some examples of what to focus on as your “one thing per game”:

  • Don’t be offside.
  • Don’t fling the puck.
  • Keep your head up.
  • Work on your hockey stop or backwards skating.
  • Stay your position.

5. Ask questions and be open to listening

Because everyone started somewhere, most adult hockey players are open to helping other players get better. During your first game, your first season, or your first couple of years, do not be afraid to ask questions: about your position, about a play, about the rules, or anything else.

Hockey players are great at helping out if you are receptive to it.

Don’t yell at other players

Being receptive does not mean you have to pay attention when another player yells at you for doing something wrong (or when they just think you are doing something wrong). That also means you should not yell at other players. This is a fun game and it is never worth it to be that guy (or girl).

6. Be a goldfish

Just like Ted Lasso says: “Be a Goldfish.” If you make a mistake or mess up a play, don’t dwell on it. Get back to the bench and focus on what you will do next. If you mess up during a play, don’t stop skating and put your head down (and definitely don’t hit your stick off anything in anger). Forget about it and get back in the play and work on fixing it, or moving on.

Nothing good ever comes from players who are mad about a play that happened 2 or 10 or 30 minutes ago.

7. Learn your position & stick to it

As you evolve more in hockey, you will learn how to cycle and work with your team to use the whole rink. But in the beginning, you should focus on your position and how to play that position specifically. Learn where you need to be and what your responsibilities are, and stick to that. You should be learning the other positions as well so you know where everyone is supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing.

Don’t chase the puck

Along with knowing your position, make sure you are not chasing the puck. When you first start playing hockey, the puck will be a shiny object that will draw you in.

But when you learn the game more and more, you will see why we have positions and why you should not just go after the puck. Not only will it be exhausting for you to skate that much, but by chasing the puck you are also leaving a hole in the zone to give your opponent an opportunity to score or steal the puck away.

8. Communicate (and be loud)

Remember that hockey is a team sport, no one is more important than others out on the ice (no matter what anyone tells you otherwise). You should be working as a team, and to do this, you need to communicate.

It’s OK when you’re out on the ice to be loud and communicate with your team about your position, if you are covering your teammate, where you are located, where you want your teammate to go, if you are going after the puck, if you are open, etc.

As long as you are not criticizing out on the ice, you should be communicating anything that will help you and your teammates play more like a team.

9. Short shifts

A lot of times, new hockey players stay out on the ice much longer than they should. You should be out there for 45-75 seconds (total skating time), and then get back to the bench when you can. Think about changing as soon as you get tired (learn more about how to change lines in hockey here).

But you should not be changing when you are in your defensive zone, or when the play is headed to your defensive zone.

10. Show up when you check in

Different leagues use different ways to know who is coming to each game, whether it be a Facebook group, a text chat, or an app like BenchApp. But no matter how you RSVP to the game — if you say you are going, you need to show up.

The team’s lines will be messed up if you do not show up, and because it’s good to have a certain number of players show up (10 or 13), other players may not be able to come if you said you were coming. No one likes that guy who constantly doesn’t show up when he says he will.

11. Hang out with your team

Adult hockey is called “beer league hockey” for a reason. It’s fun to hang out after the game, get to know your team, and have a beer.

(That does not mean you have to drink though. I have played with a lot of players who don’t drink, and they still hang out with everyone — there is really no pressure to drink.)

Spending some time with your team — whether it’s in the locker room, in the parking lot, or at a nearby restaurant or bar — will show them what a great person you are and will make you a part of the team (which will help you get invited back).

Your first beer league hockey game

Your very first beer league hockey game as a beginner adult hockey player is going to be scary, but once you get there and start playing you will understand what it will be like. You will soon learn the culture and your team, and will understand why hockey is such a community and why you are so lucky to be a part of it.