beer league hockey team posing
Canadian amateur adult hockey team Photo credit: @justmark

While beer leagues technically refer to any type of casual amateur adult sports league, the term is most often linked to hockey. So much so that there is even a dedicated Beer League Players Association for adult hockey enthusiasts.

But what is beer league hockey truly all about–and do you really need to drink beer to be a part of it? Spoiler alert–you don’t. But if you do, make sure to bring some for your teammates.

Beer league hockey encompasses playing sports as an adult, fostering community and teamwork, and welcoming athletes of all shapes, genders, sizes, ages, and abilities.

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Ready to learn more? Read on to find out the ins and outs of beer league hockey and whether it’s a good fit as your next adult sport.

History of Beer League Hockey

In 2023, there were 168,276 adult hockey players registered with USA Hockey in 2023 and 65,000 in Canada’s Adult Safe Hockey League. Many of these players are beer leaguers.

Beer league hockey has been around for decades. Rumor has it that the moniker comes from bars and pubs sponsoring these adult hockey teams and leagues. Of course, players had to return the favor of sponsorship by hitting said pubs after the games to enjoy a few cold ones.

Hence, the birth of beer leagues. While there are competitive leagues, beer league hockey is mostly synonymous with players who are, shall we say, not necessarily Wayne Gretzky-ish in their performance. Rather, they are salt-of-the-earth kinds of people who like to have fun but may not be the most graceful athletes you’ve seen on ice (maybe it’s the beer?).

If you want to see beer league hockey encapsulated in about 10 seconds, check out the video below. If it doesn’t drop your intimidation-to-join factor by about ten notches, I don’t know what to tell you!

Who Can Play Beer League Hockey?

The beauty of beer league is its inclusivity. Anyone who wants to play can play. Former D1 hockey players turned stockbrokers. School teachers. Doctors. Plumbers. You’ll see all walks of life at beer league. All you’ll need is a passion to play.

For the complete newbies to adult sports, hockey is a great choice because many leagues or rinks offer adult learn-to-skate programs, as well as hockey skills clinics. You won’t find many other sports that focus so much on the advancement of new adult athletes.

While adult hockey is dominated by men, the landscape is certainly changing. You’ll find many leagues that have women’s teams and co-ed teams. And while some leagues don’t specify whether their teams are mixed gender, just ask as they are often open to women being part of the league.

Once you’re ready to join an adult hockey league near you, you can hit up our directory to find one–it’s chock full of beer leagues.

John Moores' team hockey photo on the ice with players pumping fists in the air

Atlanta amateur adult hockey team

Levels of Competition In Beer League Hockey

The level of competition in beer leagues runs the gamut from ex-NHL players to middle-aged newbies who have never worn ice skates until they joined an adult hockey league. The leagues are usually organized from A-level (the top-skilled players) to E-level (newbies). Some have variations in between, like AAA. But here’s the overall gist:

AMost competitive, ex-professional hockey players, former D1 players, highly skilled and fast level of play
BHighly competitive, former D2/D3 college hockey players, very advanced playing
CCompetitive/intermediate, former high school hockey players, lifelong hockey players who understand the fundamentals of the game
DLess skilled players who know the basics of hockey, but playing is more about the fun of it
ENovice players new to hockey and/or skating
Each league will have their own determination for the makeup of each level or division. There are also plenty of leagues that have over thirties, forties, fifties, etc. divisions. Heck, these guys are in their eighties and still at it!
beer league hockey two players on ice
Photo credit: @justmark

Basic Rules of Beer League Hockey

You’ll often hear the first rule of beer league hockey is “Don’t be a d***!” Or some variation of that.

Most everyone in beer league has a day (or night) job and playing hockey is their weekly escape. Players need to go to work the next day so playing safely and respectfully is key to remaining injury free. Which leads us to the next rule.

Checking and Fighting in Beer League Hockey

In spite of the raucous fights you see in minor league hockey, beer league hockey strictly prohibits fighting and checking. This is in consideration of player safety. Hockey players can focus on their skills rather than worry about being checked into the boards or getting in a brawl and going to work with a black eye. That’s not a good look for anyone.

Game Format

Games are typically three periods–like in the NHL. Unlike the standard NHL format of 20 minutes per period, beer hockey league periods can range from 12 to 20 minutes on average.

Who Brings The Beer?

Your hockey bag should have plenty of space to stash some beers so feel free to bring some along for your cohorts. While some might crack a coldie on the bench, it’s probably wise to wait until the game is over (unless you don’t plan to get off the bench).

Now, if you’re in your early twenties, you might think swigging a beer before you get on the ice is no problem–and it might not be. I’m here to tell you that superpower decreases exponentially with each decade of life!

The Social Aspect of Beer League Hockey

The social aspect of beer league hockey is one of its biggest draws as an adult sport. Adult hockey players share a bond like no other and they become a family.

The social aspect is the glue that holds everything together and makes every slapshot and stumble worthwhile.

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While you build your skills as an adult hockey player and move your way up to the C-division or remain happily in the D-division, you’ll also build your friendships with the men and women you play with each week. You’ll hit the pub after games and get to know each other on a personal level.

In a world where human connection becomes more distant, beer league hockey is one way to bridge us together that not many other sports can.

If you want a good laugh, just watch the video below that sums up stereotypical beer league hockey.

YouTube video