How to Build up to Hockey League Play as a Beginner

Ice hockey comaraderie

You’re interested in joining an adult recreational ice hockey league, but you’re not sure if you’re quite ready for that level of play just yet. Maybe you haven’t been on the ice in a long time, are transitioning from roller hockey to ice hockey, or have become interested in the game after seeing your child play. Regardless of what your situation is, there are three prerequisites you need to meet if you want to join a recreational league. You need the right equipment, you need to learn the basic movements, and you need to know the rules. Once you have met these three requirements, you’re ready for league play.

Additionally, recreational hockey leagues generally split players up by skill level. Beginners will generally start out in “D-League,” which means that you won’t be thrown to the wolves as soon as you join. You’ll have the opportunity to play with other league members who are around your skill level.

Getting the Right Equipment

Hockey gloves

Hockey equipment can be broken down into two categories: Required and recommended equipment. All leagues will have required equipment, but how much of the overall equipment set is required may vary. For the Shinny USA league, the items that are required are skates, shin guards, elbow pads, hockey gloves, a helmet, a stick, and both light and dark-colored jerseys. The skates and stick are obviously needed to physically play the game. Then there’s the protective equipment that helps to reduce the risk of injury. And finally, the jerseys are so that groups of players can be split into easily identifiable teams.

Going further than the required equipment, we also recommend that you wear hockey pants, shoulder pads, and some form of face protection like a helmet with a cage. These items will further protect you from potential injuries, and many of our members opt to use them. Some rinks also have “hockey mom/dad clinics” which are designed for parents who are getting into the game. These clinics generally require full gear, so if you participate in one of them, you should have all the gear you need for league play.

Learning the Basic Movements

As with the equipment, the basic movements you should learn before joining a league can be split into two categories: Skating and hockey-specific movements. Skating movements are the true basics. These are things such as skating itself, skating backward, slowing down, stopping, and crossovers. Having a handle on these basic movements is important so that you’re not a hazard to yourself and others while on the ice. Public skate sessions at your local rink are a great way to learn the basics without any pressure.

Hockey-specific movements are required more for gameplay purposes than safety ones. You should learn different ways to shoot the puck and the basic stickhandling and puck control techniques. There are countless YouTube videos out there that can teach you these skills. For hands-on experience, we recommend either practicing in your driveway or looking for a “sticks and pucks” public skate session at your local rink. These sessions let you get on the ice in full gear and provide pucks and goals so that you can practice in the real environment of the rink.

Knowing the Rules

Ice hockey puck

This might be obvious, but before you join a hockey league, you should know the actual rules of the game. If even one person doesn’t know the rules, it can cause disruptions in play which isn’t fair to the other players in the session. There are also going to be league-specific rules that you need to know. For example, Shinny USA is a no-contact league. Some minor, accidental contact is inevitable, but no checking or purposeful contact is allowed. Knowing the league-specific rules before you join will keep you out of trouble and make the experience better for all players involved. Nobody wants to be that guy or gal.


Recreational hockey leagues are a great way for players of all skill levels to get out on the ice and enjoy the game. It’s very easy to join a hockey league, and the prerequisites aren’t too difficult to meet if you’re seriously interested in joining. All you need is the right equipment, a grasp on the basic movements, and knowledge about the rules.

Shinny USA

Shinny USA is a recreational ice hockey (shinny) league that functions at multiple rinks throughout southeastern Pennsylvania. If you’re interested in signing up for one of our two-month-long seasons, please contact us today. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible with additional information regarding session times and fees.