TOURNAMENTS: WHAT MATTERS

I have hosted street and roller hockey tournaments since 1980. The longer I do it, the simpler it gets.

Very few factors go into administering a successful tournament. It mostly comes down to two factors: OFFICIATING and SCHEDULING.

The referees and timekeepers represent the tournament. They deal with coaches and players FAR MORE than the tournament director(s). So they had BETTER BE GOOD. The officiating needs to be consistent, and they NEED TO CALL PENALTIES. Street and roller hockey are recreational sports, not a proving ground for toughness. CALL PENALTIES. Only Neanderthals want laissez-faire. Want to prove your manhood? Climb into an octagon.

The ramifications of scheduling are many. Games should be far enough apart to allow teams proper rest, yet close enough that they don’t spend all day at the rink. Competition should be segregated from tournament’s start: A, B, C, or platinum, gold, silver, or whatever. NO ONE LIKES ROUTS. Not the winner, not the loser. Group teams according to ability (and not just the ability to pay the entry fee).

Just as important, STAY ON TIME. Schedule games far enough apart where that’s not only possible, but probable. It sucks being an hour behind at noon, but it REALLY SUCKS being three hours behind at midnight. Referees and timekeepers need to STAY ON THE RINK. No breaks unless they’re built into the clock.

You don’t run a tournament for the refs, timekeepers and whoever else helps you. THEY GET PAID. Players = CUSTOMERS. They’re the only ones who count.

OFFICIATING. SCHEDULING. Everything else is far secondary.

Some tournaments give GREAT PRIZES. But only the winners, and maybe the runners-up, get those. You might have 50 teams in three divisions, but 44 of those teams won’t get prizes, so they don’t care. Anyway, do you really play tournaments for the prizes? Trophies collect dust. You can buy a jacket for cheaper than it costs to play in the tournament. A cash prize isn’t much once a team chops it up. No, you play tournaments FOR THE HOCKEY.

Some tournaments are more expensive than others. I charge less than most. But I can’t be critical of those who charge more. It’s whatever the market will bear. Still, some tournaments clear over $15K in a weekend. Do they deliver to that degree? That’s for the players to decide.

Pet peeve: So many tournaments promote based on location. FUN IN THE SUN! HIT THE BEACH! WE GOT CASINOS! I see hockey and vacation as separate entities. I don’t want game time to interfere with my gambling, and vice versa. These tournaments often demand the highest entry fees, too. I assure you, the tournament directors did not truck in the sand or build the casinos. That said, many of these tournaments also feature great hockey.

One of the best tournament locations ever was Western Berks Street Hockey Center, an outdoor Mylec rink located behind a drive-in movie theater in Sinking Spring, Pa. (just outside Reading). No beaches, no casinos. But it was within reasonable driving distance of all street hockey’s major hubs and there were plenty of hotels and restaurants.

YOU GOT GREAT HOCKEY. Seems like that’s not enough anymore.

PET PEEVE No. 2: At my street hockey tournaments, games are always three 10-minute periods. The first period runs on Saturday; all periods are stop time Sunday. Games that run shorter, or use running time throughout, should translate to a lesser entry fee. But…YOU DO STAY ON TIME.

PET PEEVE No. 3: Organizations don’t observe suspensions meted out by other organizations. A player can saw someone in half at Tournament A, then play in Tournament B a week later. LUNACY. If organizations observed each other’s discipline, troublemakers would eventually be weeded out for keeps. SAFER HOCKEY.

Some tournaments don’t even observe their own disciplinary procedures. At one tournament, a player viciously boarded a foe, earning ejection from the game, tournament and next year’s tournament. I was amazed to see him playing in the first game of next year’s tournament. He had missed just ONE GAME. Turns out he wrote a nice letter apologizing. Shame Matt Cooke never thought of that.

On a concluding note, there are WAY TOO MANY TOURNAMENTS right now. That limits the number of travel teams and turns some tournaments largely local. DOESN’T MATTER. Run good tournaments, teams find out.

One Response to “TOURNAMENTS: WHAT MATTERS”

  1. An-Die September 16, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    as someone who works at a rink and plays the game I must say you hit the nail right on the head.

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