The Ringer: Do They Help or Hurt Your Team?

the ringer
Jerry Yu

The pros and cons of bringing a ringer onto your team


By Warren Tabachnick


It’s no secret that every hockey team is always looking to improve. If your team has endured a sub par record that has put you at the bottom of the pack season after season, you might be thinking, Enough is enough. We need to take some corrective action here.

For those not familiar with the term, ringer is a word used to describe a hockey player that’s way too good for the level he or she is playing at. And it’s usually uttered bitterly by the team on the losing end of the equation.


The Pros: What a Ringer Does For Your Team

  • If your team sucks, it’s the easiest fix. While the rest of the team might be struggling to rack up goals, the ringer can almost always guarantee a favorable outcome for the game—if not the season.
  • Your team will soon be posting more points on the scoreboard
  • Your team will see a marked improvement in the league standings
  • If they’re as good of a person as they are a player, the ringer will most likely help struggling players around them with tips and pointers
  • The ringer often opens up opportunities for other players by “drawing” the defenders to them


The Cons: How the Ringer Can Hurt Your Team

The downside of having such a player on your team is they become a moving target. Often players on the losing team will look for any opportunity to trip up or even take this type of player out of the game. Naturally, this can escalate into a dangerous situation.

To keep things fair and on an even keel, increased attention and scrutiny is required by the league brass; you don’t want to land your team in a tough spot. To put it bluntly, using a ringer is essentially cheating and is usually penalized as such.

The risks could be anything from:

  • Suspension of the captain or coach
  • Forfeiting of games
  • Removing the ringer from your team and bumping them up to a higher division
  • Moving your team up to a higher division. (Obviously, this action can present many challenges, especially for those players on the team who are less skilled.)

The decision to bring in a ringer is not an easy one to make. Hopefully the points outlined here can help. Just keep in mind that as rec hockey players, the goal for us is to get out on the ice, get a sweat going, and have a great time playing the coolest game on earth.

Warren Tabachnick is the editor of—For the Recreational & Beer League Hockey Player. is reader supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.


  1. I think one important element of the team ringer is the negative effect it can have on the team on and off ice performance and attitude. I’ve coached on a number of teams where even though we didn’t bring in a ringer, we did recruit some players that were contract, some players that were obviously vastly more skilled than the majority of the team.

    At the start of the season everything is great, we’re winning games, scoring goals, and everyone is happy. Then things slowly change.

    The “ringer” becomes frustrated that most of his passes result in a turnover, so he winds up holding the puck and racing 200 feet, to be broken up trying to split the defense, or swinging wide around the net to come out the backside giving all five defending players having plenty of time to position to cover their assignments. This player always shoots first, because a pass usually winds up with whiff or a weak shot on or off net. It doesn’t take too long for the goalie to learn the “shooters” and so they’re always square to the puck and can easily handle the shot. So there are no goals being scored here and so the “ringer” starts complaining about getting no support on the breakout or in the zone.

    At the same time the rest of the team starts coasting and puck watching, knowing there’s no headman pass coming their way, and arriving late to the offensive zone because they know from experience they’ve got plenty of time to reach the slot after the “ringer” circles the net. They are actually in a better spot to backcheck if the turnover occurs at the blue line while trying to split the defense. The line mates can only bust their hump up and down the ice making themselves available for a headman pass so many times before they give up. The rest of the team doesn’t want to skate with this “ringer,” and the lack of energy and initiative out on the ice affects the entire bench; all four lines lose their hustle, and it’s contiguous.

    If your “ringer” is coachable, and is going to make those passes where he still feels the better option to score… Or if he is a generous player that wants to help the team develop, and also understands that any scouts watching him play would rather see a good pass to a bad player then a puck lost on a dangle when a better option was available, then consider yourself fortunate. I’ve found in the high school level that the better players have been better their whole career and instinctively carry the play because that’s what been expected of them for as long as they’ve played the game. It’s a hard habit to break at this point, and many coaches just let that ride.
    In my experience, when the “ringer” misses a game, the team plays much better (as a team) but has trouble finishing and scoring goals. But generally, the win/loss is the same as when the ringer plays.

    It a tough decision and one that needs close monitoring during the season. The coach needs to be willing to step in and talk to the “ringer” about the “team” and his responsibilities in his position on this “team.”

    You can win either way, but I personally prefer coaching a balanced team. Any large discrepancies in talent in the group can also lead to a bad cliche locker room, separating the team into the best and then the rest of the players.

    You can have your ringer. We’ll make him look stupid out on the ice.

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