There are many ways for hockey fans to have fun out on the ice regardless of their skill level. What you’re looking to get out of your time on the ice is also going to influence how you get on the ice.
There’s open skate, sticks & pucks, clinics, pick-up games, shinny, and league play to choose from. And the best part is, you don’t have to choose just one. One day you may feel like playing a game of shinny, and another day you may only be up for some shooting during sticks & pucks.
You may have participated in an open skate session on Friday nights when you were younger.
Open skate involves simply skating in a circle around the rink in one direction – often counterclockwise. During open skate, there’s no hockey equipment allowed because it could pose a risk to others on the ice if you have things like a stick. However, it’s still always a good idea to wear a helmet any time you’re on the ice.
The main benefit of participating in open skate is getting time and experience on the ice. If you’re a novice, this is a great way to practice your skating. For more advanced skaters, open skate isn’t going to be as helpful. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t still be fun.
Sticks & Pucks
Sticks & pucks is a version of open skate specifically for hockey players. Pucks are generally provided, but you will have to bring your sticks and gear. While full gear isn’t always required, it is recommended. This is because it’s better to practice in your full gear to simulate game conditions.
During sticks & pucks, the ice is frequently split into two halves. One half will be dedicated to shooting pucks around and is great for working on the fundamentals of your play. The other half will be dedicated to a half-ice “game.” There aren’t really any teams, but players can practice both offense and defense in a casual environment.
If you’re a goaltender, attending sticks & pucks sessions is extremely beneficial because you’ll get a ton of reps in. There’s a lot of shooting going on, which is great practice for any goaltender.
Clinics are coached sessions that are often done in a small group. They’re ideal for learning the ins and outs of the sport through participating in both skating and puck drills within an environment tailored to the skill levels of those in attendance.
During a clinic, you will be, or should be, wearing full gear to simulate how it will feel when playing an actual game. This will make your practice more effective and will help you translate the skills you acquire in this non-game environment over to the game.
Another way to make clinics fun is to reserve a clinic session for yourself and a group of close friends. Public clinics are good too. But there’s something different about hitting the ice with your buds.
Pick-up games, also sometimes called drop-in games, are full-rink “games” without clearly defined teams, refs, or scorekeeping. They generally last for between 60 and 90 minutes and have no formal sign-up process. You simply show up and hit the ice.
The “teams” are often based on the uniform colors players show up with. Darks vs. lights is the most common way to divide players into teams. And, it’s always a good idea to bring both a dark and a light-colored uniform just in case one team needs an extra player.
These games are the most casual way to participate in full-ice hockey matches. They’re definitely not formal, but they have more of a defined structure than the half-ice games featured during sticks & pucks sessions.
Shinny is our bread and butter. It’s more formal than pick-up/drop-in games but not as formal as league play. Even teams are chosen at the start of the game and the scores are kept track of. But, in order to facilitate smooth play without frequent stoppages, there is no reffing.
If casual ice hockey played solely for fun is what you’re looking for, Shinny is for you. It’s also no-contact and open to players of all ages (21+). Check out our article on “What is ‘Shinny?’” for more information on this take on ice hockey.
League ice hockey, even recreational league ice hockey, is the most involved way to get your hockey fix. Leagues feature official matches with set teams that are played over the course of a season. Seasons typically end with a champion being crowned and, as is the case with rec leagues, a party that all league players are invited to.
Sometimes leagues offer prizes beyond simply the respect of your peers, while other times they’re just for fun.
In order to ensure that leagues are fair and balanced, players are frequently split up into tiers based on their skill level. This ensures that novices aren’t matched up against former pros in a more competitive environment. Additionally, refs are used and most, if not all, official rules are followed.
Recreational leagues are a bit less formal in how play is governed. These casual leagues feature more of a shinny-style and intermix players of all skill levels because it’s about the fun of the game more than the competition.
Time to Get Out on the Ice
Regardless of your skill level, there are multiple ways for you to enjoy your time out on the ice. Open skate is perfect for beginners who need to practice their skating, sticks & pucks is a great way to do some hockey drills, and clinics are for those who want help from a pro.
As far as actual games are concerned, pick-up/drop-in games are the most casual, with shinny adding a bit more structure while still retaining most of the casual features of a pick-up game. And then there are leagues, where you can enjoy competitive matches against similarly skilled players.
If you’re interested in hitting the ice, sign up for Shinny USA today. We have shinny games available by sign-up most days of the week as well as a recreational league. And, the rinks we play at feature open skate, sticks & pucks, and clinics.