Best practices for scheduling goalies for pick-up hockey

Tendies, I feel your pain when five of us decide to show up for open pick-up at once.

It’s part the responsibility of the ice rink and tendies to make sure there’s both enough goalies and not too much.

Every rink in North America does open pick-up differently with schedules all over the place. Heck, some rinks don’t have pick-up at all or just have invite only or in lieu of scheduling pick-up themselves, just allows one guy to buy up ice and run it his way.

A first-come, first-serve pick-up is a total crapshoot where shooters aren’t sure if there are going to be any goalies or six. A weekly schedule of people responding to an email quick enough once a week isn’t fair and can lead to the same goalies getting in.

Pick-up can last anywhere from 90 minutes to a good two hours depending on the rink and ideally there should be only two goalies showing up to get in a good workout. At a maximum four can be allowed to allow each guy to rotate on each side if there really is a glut but capping at two goalies each, each guy is guaranteed a full game. You may not get to play at each pick-up, but it spreads ice time around for a better experience and eliminates a lot of bullshit.

Why should you and your rink stop at two? Because staff and other goalies become lax in enforcing a good game and two becomes three becomes four and yes, one night even seven.

I can never fathom the reasoning a goalie has when he looks at a sheet and sees four tendies and still continues to sign up and play. Think about why you’re there and why you’re showing up and if driving for 30-60 minutes to a rink and then getting dressed for another 25 minutes is worth your and everyone else’s time to sit on a bench every 20 minutes..

Play during a pick-up typically doesn’t get started until about 10 minutes if to let guys shoot around and get warmed up. Then if you’re rotating you’re either sitting on the bench anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. You’re barely breaking a sweat, you’re not getting a feel or in a rhythm and generally, it’s poor for both the shooters and the goalies. Straight up, it’s a waste of time for everyone.

I’ve also seen at rinks that are first-come, first-serve allow goalies who have played in a beginner’s rec game sign up for a pick-up immediately following the game, causing a glut of tendies. Those tendies already got their ice time, they should be sweating and tired and good for the night. If you’re looking to face more challenging shooters, find another time. Or skip on the rec league that you shouldn’t be playing in.


I reached out to fellow tendies on Goalie Gear Sluts United for thoughts and a couple guys shared a good system for pre-paid. I’m going to build on their suggestion based on other tools I’ve seen that work. Feel free to cut and paste these guidelines on your rink’s website and email them out. Too many rinks don’t post details about how pick-ups are managed on their websites and social media accounts.

  • 24 hours before a pick-up starts, send out a text message that pre-sign up for goalies are now available. [Details on how to set this up below]. You can adjust how soon before the message is sent out. Some rinks send the message out 6 hours before. Just send it out in enough time and not like an hour or two before—people have to pack their gear and drive.
  • Once registration is open, two goalies can sign up for pre-paid slots. Be clear if you will accept phone calls or not for pre-paid slots and how soon someone can call in. If you accept call-ins, be sure to update the list yourself and notify everyone if goalie registration is now full.
  • If nobody pre-pays, you can show up as early as 1 hour before pick-up to sign in and play for free.
  • Goalies who are on the ice for a game, stick-and-shoot or pick-up immediately prior to the scheduled pick-up are prohibited from signing up for pick-up.
  • If a goalie shows up that would put you over the maximum, kindly tell them you can’t let them on but offer some sort of discount or credit to be used at the rink.
  • Make sure to communicate with shooters that you have two goalies and post online and at the rink that you will be organizing pick-up differently.


There are a few solutions to getting a sign-up in order for pick-up hockey that works for both goalies and skaters.

If your rink’s website is built on WordPress, a plug-in is available called RSVPmaker. You can send out a link to people and have it programmed to show attendees, how many slots are open and when pick-up is available.

You can see an example of this at X-tra Ice in Tampa. The rink sends out a shortened link via text message to alert people. The rink does a good job of using Google Calendar for its scheduling and informs people if someone should be contacted to register for open pick-up (including players). Another pick-up slot on Friday doesn’t have any information, and they could use a small blurb about what to do but overall, this rink seems to be the best at organizing pick-ups in the Tampa area.

Alternatively, you can also use Eventbrite. This website also allows you to charge people for tickets and can bring them in so you can take payment online. An app is available for people wanting to get tickets on both iOS and Android devices.

At the rink, you would want to have a laptop, iPad or iPhone handy to check people in. You can scan the tickets using an app called Eventbrite Neon (used to be called Entry Manager) or just use a computer to check people off.

A hockey-centric app called Hockey Community is also a great alternative. More than just organizing pick-ups, the app can help organize leagues, has a request goalie function, sell your gear, check-in at rinks or just post what’s on your mind.


When deciding on scheduling pick-up, keep a few things in mind to maximize attendance. These tips are meant for the smaller to medium rink populations.

Am I scheduling to serve both the early risers and the night owls? Not everyone gets up at 4 a.m. to get in pick-up and not everyone feels like playing at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night, but make sure you get a feel for your rink’s population, preferred schedule and attendance. Keep communicating and reminding people when you have pick-up. I’ve seen rinks that have great success with a 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. start on a Friday night and with early morning times. And in Ellenton, Fla., pick-ups held during the week at 11:30 a.m./noon get full benches.

Which nights do the leagues play? Most rinks have Sunday leagues, so if you have free ice time on the weekends, it’s not the smartest to schedule pick-up on a Saturday night. A lot of guys aren’t going to play back-to-back nights, especially at a smaller rink. I’ve been to rinks that has two sheets of ice and active leagues and they decide to schedule a random pick-up at 5:30 or 6 p.m. on a Saturday. It’s dinner time on a weekend–nobody’s showing up to that (save for my stupid self just to find out). Remember that quite a few players have their own kids playing hockey or other sports, so they’re likely on the road Saturday traveling to rinks or gymnasiums for their own games.

If your rink is so small that leagues only play on Sunday, then look at a mid-week option as well. Other rinks have so many leagues that a Thursday night skills and drills with a pick-up isn’t affected.

Do pick-ups need to be scheduled for different skill sets/ages? Look at your leagues, ages of players and communicate with coaches at the youth level to see if needs are being met for open ice time. Do you need a 17 and under pick-up so keep the teens away from bigger guys who might take a run at them? Old-timers/35-and-up or senior pick-up? Beginner’s pick-up?

If you only have enough ice time for one more slot, go with beginner. It’s critical to get people playing the sport regardless of age. Beginner players help grow the rink’s population and bottom line and provide opportunities to form beginner’s leagues and have players improve to the level where they can join higher levels.

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