Pic by Kelly Stover. That person's cage by...GOD what is that?

I’m writing this post-rec hockey game with my regular collection of consumables nearby – a grape G2, a bag of pepper Spitz, and a water for when I house this G2 in a second, and I’m wondering what our team could have done to make the evening go a little smoother.

Don’t get me wrong: we won by roughly a thousand. They stopped putting goals up on the board in the middle of the second period. But it wasn’t fun.

The thing is, we didn’t play a bad team, we played a team shy on warm bodies. It was playoffs, and somehow they only managed to have five guys turnout.

I know playing without a single change sounds ridiculous to people who play rec hockey in other places, but this is Phoenix rec hockey – there isn’t a huge pool of players to draw from, so it’s not all that uncommon. Our team has won with five before. But our side had eight guys, and last night was never close.

SO: What’s appropriate blowout etiquette in rec hockey? What are you supposed to do when your team is so much better than the other team and the game is just for fun? You paid to get to play hockey, sure, but you don’t want to be a dick.

For me, the question comes down to two options for the inferior team: what’s more embarrassing:

A) If your opponent keeps taking their opportunities (not pushing for them, just taking them) and “runs up the score.” Or,

B) If they play keep-away without pressing, dump it in the corner on breakaways, and lets your team score?

It’s has to be the first latter doesn’t it?

Our opponent last night gave up on playing defense after being down a handful, and just kept trying to hit homeruns. As most smart hockey people know, that risk-taking leads to opportunities going the other way. I found myself, on multiple occasions, knowing it was getting ugly, knowing I’m not supposed to try all that hard anyway (not to be a dick, but the hockey isn’t great), on a breakaway or semi-breakaway unsure of what to do, socially. A few times I tried to pass from a shooting spot, but that just feels condescending. The times I did score, it feels bad…but not as bad as missing. I’m competitive. If I’m shooting, I’m shooting.

So at the end of the game, one of our defenseman who rarely takes a risk (in rec hockey, that concept blows my mind) got the puck and went for it. He beat a couple guys, and was driving through the neutral zone.

I was smiling, until I heard one of their disgruntled players yell “Yeah, go for it, run it up some more!”

I totally get that point. I totally get it’s shitty to cash in on a group that just can’t hang, when the game is over. But it’s tough to know what to do.

If we can’t try, why are we playing at all? If you spend good money (my league was $350 for three months, one game a week), and during those 12 games you’re on the ice for 20 minutes, and you get the puck, eff you if that guy is supposed to dump it in out of respect because your team didn’t show.

So then: a few concessions I think the team on the winning end should make:

1) Close puck races that can be dangerous? Throttle back, Turbo. If you can tell it will be close, let’s avoid a scene.

2) Defensive pressure: dial it back a smidge. If your opponent makes a great play and beats you, kudos, old chap. Most of the time this shell actually works in your favour when you’re up, so don’t go running at people.

3) Don’t drive wide. The type of “good Canadian plays” that get rugged goals that coaches love…stop it. It’s time to try for the perfect play. Those battle plays are for when it’s close. Try to Sedin a few home.

4) Don’t argue with the ref or beg for calls. I mean, come on.

5) Don’t celebrate your goals aside from a knuckle-bump with a teammate or two.

Basically, just be respectful, but take your chances when they come.

Other than the points about safety, let’s be honest: if you don’t want to lose by 15, don’t start cherry picking when you’re down five. If you consider the game out of reach unless you start doing that, well then, consider the game out of reach. Don’t be mad at people for pulling the trigger when they have an open look.

Just because one team has a big lead in rec hockey doesn’t mean it has to get ugly. Be fair to your opponent when you’re up as best you can, but when you’re down, don’t expect your opponent to dump the puck in every time they touch it. That’s not fun for anyone.

Comments (44)

  1. NAILED it. For me it turns into shinny. Dial it back 20-30%, get fancy/pretty, don’t rub it in and aggravate things.

  2. One other thing out of personal experience – when the poor other team does by some miracle end up one-on-one with your defense man, please ask your D to NOT fall down spectacularly just to let the guy get a break away. That pisses both side off.

  3. we were on the losing end of a blowout a few years ago to a “B” team while we are a pure “D” team. i ended up with a dislocated shoulder. that put an end to my rec league play. they were calling out plays in the final minutes and were laughing at the faceoff after each of their goals.

  4. As a goalie, the only thing I hate more than getting blown out is when the other team stops taking their opportunities. Let me try to stop a few!

  5. I had this exact thing happen to my team last week. In San Jose you typically have to fight for ice time, so imagine my surprise when only 7 people showed up to our hockey game (granted it was the preseason). We were shellacked, it was something like 11-3. So the only issue I had with this game was the cheering when scoring. We held on for a period and a half tied but naturally fatigue set in and the legs stopped moving. We didn’t stop trying, we actually tried to stop the bleeding by playing very defensive and just hold the score to a respectable level. Unfortunately the other team was full of Type-A douches that felt the need to cheer and high five each other after each one of their goals. We even had a net mouth scramble (which they scored) when there was less than 5 seconds left in the game.

  6. What about cherry picking as the leading team? Am I correct in assuming this is generally considered too much?

    I’m pretty low key, but I got my blood pressure up pretty good last weekend when we were being dump trucked by seven in the final five minutes and one of their better forwards was camping in the center circle waiting for a breakaway pass. I mean, if a breakaway happens in the run of play because of a superior skater or a defender blowing a tire, whatever. But actively trying to make one happen seemed a bit much.

    • Yeah, that pretty much sucks. But I mean, you just want the puck, want to score…it’s tough to turn it off.

    • The only hockey fight I ever had was with a cherry-picker in a blowout. I came flying out of the net and met him just over the blue line – and here’s the thing, I didn’t run him over or anything, I just swatted it away from the guy. It wound deep in the corner, and I turned to head back to the crease. Instead of chasing down the puck, the guy chased me down and cross-checked me from behind.

      So, yeah. It was on.

      But I do have a blowout story with a happy ending. Regular season, playing the defending champs, we’re down huge and the jerks called time-out on an o-zone draw, and (I still can’t believe this) they pulled their goalie for an extra skater. I think there were something like ten seconds left. Then, during the handshakes, they had the stones to tell me that they just wanted to practice something they normally never get a chance to do. “I hope it helped,” I said, “because next time we play you’re gonna need to do it.”

      The next time we played was the league final, and we won 3-1, and they did indeed have to pull their goalie at the end – and it didn’t help. Jackasses.

  7. Had an ugly game last night. I look like the guy in your picture: skating with my head down…no bend in the knees. Yikes.

    Justin, how about a fitness regimen for aging, desk-jockey rec league players? Surely, you’ve got some work out ideas from your playing days. Can you help me out?

    • I’ve gained 30 lbs since I stopped playing. Other typing from a treadmill, I’m not sure how to reverse the momentum!

      • Ever tried a standing desk? I’ve been pretty intrigued by them, but I’m stuck in a cube. As a writer who (I’m assuming) works from home you could probably give it a shot easily.

  8. Concessions are bang on. Dialing it back is key, no game 7 hustle, just have fun. Bury your chances when they come up. That’s all. Playing keepaway leads to things getting ugly fast. No problem if you run up the score, just have some respect.

  9. The league I play in has a hat trick rule, which actually ends up negating a lot of these problems. If a game is a big blow-out, the better players usually have their three goals already and CAN’T shoot, so they have to go Sedin-style with it. Rarely ever see games get over 8-9 goals.

  10. I think that the time matters. If you get ahead early and get over-confident and stop doing whatever it is you do best, then that can result in momentum changes. So it is fine to alter the style of play to be less aggressive but not too early.

    As for etiquette, there is an informal rule in our shinny that if you get up by more than three goals to minimize the celebrations. We also send in just one forechecker and work on our team D.

  11. How many times have you heard ”Yeah, that Bourne guy, played pro for a few years. What the hell is he doing in this rec league..” from the other bench?

  12. In such a blowout, I would negotiate a player transfer to even out the teams. End result is not in question, just a case of not wasting valuable ice time.

  13. Keep up with the rec league posts JB. They are always excellent. Thanks.

  14. Don’t know a good way to handle this in the playoffs, never had it happen in hockey, had it happen in regular season in soccer, the other team had 9 players so I put out 9 players and subbed as usual, at least the opposition can have some dignity and all my players still got to play, maybe you should have played 4 on 4 and let hem have a sub?

  15. I have two theories.

    1. If a team is underskilled, then dial it back. Cut the contact down and try some lower percentage plays (try to work a proper breakout etc).

    2. If a team doesn’t have enough guys show up – hammer them! Not sure about most of you, but our ice times are late at night and guys drag themselves away from families and show up to work exhausted in the morning to get some real hockey in. If the other team screws you out of a good ice session, to hell with them. More contact and 100% the whole time.

    • I get your reasoning, but that just punishes the guys who did bother to show up.

      • I figure they”ll put some more pressure on their boys to show up. Maybe get an email list going or something.

        • Or more guys will just say screw it and you’ll wind up in a league with less teams.

          Your reasoning isn’t that crazy, skate hard and get your work in, but more contact? That’s the definition of D-bag.

  16. Had this happen to me this past summer playoffs. League schedules a Saturday night game at 8pm, only 5 guys and a goalie for our team shows up. Other team had about 13 and a goalie. Sure as shit, we played Iron-Man style with no breaks, forwards jumping back to defense when they were tired.

    The score get’s out of hand and its easily 8-1 by the middle of the second period. We’ve essentially played a “you’re near me, so I’ll try and play up on you” zone defense the entire game and we are gassed. Yet, there is always that one guy who just doesn’t get it, and even though our goaltender has seen over 40+ shots this guy still takes clappers in the slot with 5 minutes left in the game because nobody is making a valiant effort to play up on him.

    Luckily most of us kept our cool, as it was about to get ugly for this guy.

  17. i find that games get exceptionally chippy once the blow out is in effect. Especially here in in the Phoenix area. Does this happen around the states and up there in canada?

    A lot of times you have to employ the pass it around/keep away scheme to not get your knee blown up by some guy that is bitter.

  18. Love the periodic “rec league” stories, eg. the coaching tips, etiquette, etc. Definitely agree with all of these points, particularly with #4 and #5. There have been nights where my team was drilling an opponent into the ground and a teammate of mine would be bitching to the ref over a blown offsides or a 50/50 call in the third period, and I wanted nothing more than to horsecollar-drag them back to the bench and chuck their sticks into the lockerroom. I’ve also yelled “shut up and get in the box” to my own teammates on more than one occasion. As a goalie, I try not to be too critical/mouthy too much about crap that happens outside the crease (under the theory of “I don’t want a bunch of skaters telling me how to do my job, so I’ll tread lightly about telling them how to do theirs”). But this particular thing drives me nuts.

    Have also been on both the winning end and losing end of lopsided blowouts where some jagoff scores to push the margin toward double digits and responds by pulling out the full “Eruzione versus the Soviets” celebration. The old stand-by response from some guys tends to be “there’s no scouts in the stands, pal” or something like. 99% of the time I don’t say anything, but as a middle of the road rec league goalie are few things that grate on me more than when some schmuck with Stanley Cup fantasies feels the need to go for the “Theo Fleury in OT versus the Oilers” routine after putting his team up by 8 with two minutes left in a regular season game against an outgunned and outnumbered opponent. Well played, sir, you win the day. Last season I actually had a ref mutter “what a douchebag” as he retrieved the puck from my crease after such a display.

    And I don’t care for it going the other way either (when my team is the one up big). One, because it’s still douchey no matter who does it; and two, because as a goalie I always have it in the back of mind that an opposing team might try to vent some frustration on the non-moving target (me). I just love being on the receiving end of retribution for something one of my skaters did (sarcasm). I’ve been in games where someone on the other bench got pissed off about something one of my teammates did and it results in my hand getting repeatedly hacked up on a covered puck, or maybe a steady diet needless of headshots, or sometimes it ends with me tangled up in the back of my net with an opposing forward on top of me in a jumble of sticks and goalpegs and bric-a-brac because they decided that they were going to the back of the net, with or without the puck. Good times….

  19. As the goalie on the team getting worked, when we start to press which leads to odd-mans and breakaways against me, don’t try your triple deke, Patrick Kane move if you’re already up by a dozen. Just give me a good, hard shot to try to stop. Nothing says ‘running it up’ to me in that situation than someone trying a lacross goal or some other hot dog move.

  20. Once when my team was up about 15-6 in skaters and about 9-1 in score, we sent an emissary to the other bench during the 2nd intermission to see if they wanted a few of our guys to switch sides.

    First, this was a ‘regular season’ game, so nothing riding on it (like the playoffs in beer league are so huge – playing for a t-shirt and a dozen free wings at the bar).

    Second, we asked. If they’d said no thanks, we wouldn’t have cared.

    Third, yes there was a chance they got offended, but…

    Fourth, they were like, ‘cool, thanks’ and the third was kind of fun.

    • I’ve seen that work. In our league, if a team is way short-handed for a regular-season game, they’ll usually be permitted a couple of subs from one of the teams just coming off, just so the game doesn’t become a farce. (Of course, those guys can’t be the lost Sedins or anything.)

  21. You raise a great point about the defenseman who rarely takes a chance finally getting an opportunity. I had that happen a long time ago, we had just 5 skaters and a goalie (playing his first-ever game, no less), but we were up against a pretty poor team. Up 5-0 in the third period, I was on left D and after a faceoff at center ice was drawn to my side of the ice, I jumped up into it, went by their right D and let off probably one of my best wristers ever to make it 6-0.

    In an instant I went from that “YES!” feeling of a rare goal to the “meh” of the fact that the other team just wanted to get off the ice. Still, having played D for most of that game, I relished the rare offensive opportunity and don’t regret having taken it.

  22. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do, Gray21.com

  23. As a league director for a league with 100ish teams in 15 divisions I see these types of games happen often over the course of a year. The biggest issue I see teams on the losing end have are:

    1. Players who don’t dial it back and are still playing hard in the corners and in front. These players also tend to be guys who piss the other team off regardless.

    2. Players who feel the need to turn into NHL 13 with toe drags, kicking it up to their skate, etc. moves. As the one goalie said move the puck, take good shots (keeping the puck away from the goalies head) and play solid but unspectacular hockey.

    3. Better players continuing to pile it on. This is the biggy as usually if a game has got out of hand it’s because the better players on the winning team have potted a few each (or more). When these players continue to try and go end-to-end 1 on 3 and then try a fancy move to score it starts to get ugly. When those better players try to get the lower skilled guys on their team involved there will still be bitching but much less and less chance of anything stupid happening.

    Another tactic I have seen a number of teams (including ones I have played on) use is to have their better forwards drop back on D and their D play up. This usually means enjoyment for the winning team as they are doing something different and the game doesn’t get out of hand because d-men have hands of stone (haha).

  24. So here’s a question on how to deal with a team that’s down, but in this case their goalie was a no show. This never really happens in my ice league, but it seems to happen frequently enough in our roller hockey league that it’s worth it to me to see how to deal with this.

    So, they have no goalie, and they throw the 6th man in net as a goalie/extra defenseman. They also tend to collapse down low so that everyone can help block a shot or what not. The problem here is that, we don’t want to fire off hard shots from the points. We’re not out to injure the poor bastard playing in net w/ no pads, but it’s damn near impossible to get a shot off down low just due to the heavy congestion. there’s also the issue of guys not trying as hard because, “hey, they have no goalie. This will be a cake walk”.

    Any insight on how to play this one? I hate firing off a slap shot at the guy in net, but if they leave no real option? I’ve had guys complain about it, to the point of getting real pissy and implying that were trying to hurt their guy.

  25. When i was in Atom, we had a game coming up against a team that we knew would be a blowout. My dad (coach at the time) basically started the game trying to answer the question of etiquette.

    First, he switched all of the Defensemen to Forward and put the more skilled offensive guys back on D (also switched the Goalie with a forward, but that’s not an option mid-game).

    Another thing he did was institute the 3-pass rule (or 4-pass or 5 or whatever). That meant that you weren’t allowed to shoot unless you had made at least 3 passes. I guess that goes out the window on breakaways like JB mentioned, but it echoes his point about ‘trying to Sedin one in’.

    Oh, and we did all this from the beginning of the game and still won 17-2. They were pretty stoked about getting those 2 goals though.

    • Close thing happened in my kid’s squirt game last year. It was a team we were unfamiliar with, but after scoring 4 goals in 4 minutes we knew enough. 5-pass rule instituted for the rest of the game, and it still finished 13-2. It could have been 40-0 easily without the restriction.

      And you would have thought they won the cup when they scored.

  26. Totally agree. If I’m on the side getting hammered, don’t patronise me. But if you get a breakaway and try a spin-a-rama on me, I’m gonna hack you.

  27. Here’s a random question for all the readers that has nothing to do with the article, how big are the players you play rec hockey with, especially goalies? Any small guys?

    • It has changed depending on where i’ve played. Last season I was middle of the road in height at 5’7″. This season, at a new rink, i’m definitely one of the smaller guys on the ice.

  28. First mens league game Tuesday night, my team (young guys coming up, won league last year) playing old timers (league champs for many years) best hockey was behind them. We made a few more editions to our team this year (a full team of old jr teammates at this point) without having a draft or anything so we’re pretty stacked. 5-0 at the end of the first and the game is over, we’ve played long enough to know at this point, pull back big time or expect to be making a late night trip to the hospital for only stitches would be lucky! Waste of my Tuesday night making it out for an 11:30pm game with work the next morning

  29. Who celebrates goals in Men’s League? I mean come on guys, show some class. That word hasn’t been used in any response to the post and it seems to be the big issue. One solution to the problem of player shortage is to have both teams agree to play 4-on-4 for just that game. It would allow the team with the shortage to have a break for their guys and would help to eliminate the behaviour of players who are “Super Star” wannabes and think they’re awesome when they lay the beats to an inferior opponent. Great to hear there are Americans playing hockey in non-traditional regions. Keep it hot fellas!

  30. I remember when I returned to playing hockey, in my third game back they put me on defense. We were down 4-0 by the beginning of the 2nd period and it looked like it was going to be a blowout. But I made a timely assist on our first goal and sure enough we started to get back into the game my defensive partner who hadn’t scored a goal in over a year scores to make it 4-4. They score the next one and then late in the 3rd period my defensive partner makes an end to end rush and ties it up. We go into OT shootout and I’m picked as the 4th shooter and convert. Our goalie stops their shooter and complete the comeback. That game taught me to always keep playing no matter how bad the score is.

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