Home The Hockey Life It’s Only a Game for Some—Or Is It?

It’s Only a Game for Some—Or Is It?


How to get the most out of your game while having the time of your life

By Warren Tabachnick

Sure, winning is great and losing sucks. Sadly, even in the rec leagues there are players that push the envelope and lose sight of the fact that it’s only a game. Here’s how not to fall into that trap.

Don’t Take it Too Seriously

In the big leagues, hockey is serious business. True, professional hockey players seem to be having the time of their lives, getting paid to do what they love. For us recreational hockey players though, we’re here to get a good sweat going while having some fun. No one should take the game too seriously. It’s only a game.


Let’s not beat around the bush. If you’re an adult hockey player, you’re not going to the NHL. The possibility of getting picked up by a scout at a 10:00 pm game is zip to none. Youth hockey players don’t fare much better. According to Barrie’s Beat Column, playing the lottery offers better odds than a dream of playing in the NHL. (One might also consider that the chance of winning at 7Sultans Casino may be greater than the possibility of making it to the Show.)

Not that long ago, a Canadian study of youth hockey players found that 0.16 percent will get drafted into the NHL, and only 0.02 percent of hockey-playing boys in Ontario will actually realize their dream of making a career out of playing hockey.


Always be respectful. Don’t abuse the refs, coaches, or spectators (if any; for adult rec players and their typical ice times, often the only person in attendance is the Zamboni driver). Your teammates demand your respect too, and that works both ways. There is absolutely no place for put-downs or criticism, but a little positive reinforcement can go a long way.

Don’t Be an Ice Hog

When it’s time for you to take your shift, get out there quickly, play hard, and get off the ice. Your shift should be a minute or less. Even the best pro hockey players keep their shifts to a minimum. (Hockey wisdom teaches us that line changes should always occur when the puck is deep in the offensive zone. Avoid coming off the ice while the opposing team has possession of the puck in your zone, of if they’re on an offensive rush.)

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Shortening the Bench: Yes or No?

Good question. With time winding down on the clock, it’s a natural temptation for captains or coaches to want to put their best players on the ice in a close game. The truth is, we all pay the same to play and are here to have fun. That’s way this is a matter that should be discussed and agreed upon by everyone in the locker room before the game—ideally at the start of the season.

Avoid Injury—Play Safe

Hockey is a fast-moving sport, and injuries are part of the game. Be smart and play safely. Don’t try moves or take shots that put yourself and/or others at risk. If you’ve been hurt in a previous game (or from doing anything else)—or even if you’re just not feeling right—it’s best to stay home and rest up. Again, it’s only a game. You’re here for sport and fun. Your livelihood does not depend on your presence, especially if you’re not feeling 100%.

The Bottom Line: Get out there and have fun, but don’t get carried away. Keep your cool while playing the coolest game on earth.

Warren Tabachnick is the editor of He never takes the game—or anything else for that matter—too seriously.

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