Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fun with numbers - the Space City Ice Station way!

so i, from time to time, like to supplement my weekly league hockey activities with a separate night spent at my rink's pick-up hockey session, where backchecking and defense are myths and the goalies typically are made to work harder than James Brown on tour. mostly i attend these for practice, to work on my skill set; other times it's just for fun or to satisfy the hockey jones in those weeks when it can't be sated by one league game alone.

normally these games go off without a hitch; i call ahead to put my name on the goalie list, head out there in the evening, suit up, make some saves, miss some saves, drink some water, suit down, drive home, shower, sleep, alarm clock, snooze, snooze, snooze, get up and go to work.

this week's pickup, however, did come with a hitch thanks to the rink personnel playing fast and loose with their math.

let's put down some numbers here:

1 - the number of goalies that can, within the rules of hockey, defend a net at one time

2 - the number of nets in a hockey game setup, one on each end of the rink

4 - the maximum number of goalie spots per pick-up session, as shown on the sign-up sheet and stated on the rink's website

90 - number of minutes of gametime per pick-up session

if we take the number of gametime minutes (90) multiplied by the number of goalies on the ice at one time (2) we arrive at 180 total goalie gametime minutes per session.

if the maximum number of goalies (4) show up, two goalies are assigned to each net and each goalie plays for 180 / 4 = 45 minutes and sits for 45 (the remainder of the 90-minute pickup session). usually in this case the goalie will play for 15 minutes , sit for 15 minutes while the other goalie plays, and repeat until the session is over.

this 50/50 split between playing and sitting is what i refer to as the 'maximum rest/play threshold ratio': playing time must equal or exceed the amount of time spent at rest.

my personal opinion is that 3 is the optimal number of goalies per session as it creates a 2:1 ratio of gameplay to rest; play for 20 minutes, sit for 10.

now...... when i showed up to the rink for pickup this week, it was to my chagrin that i saw a total of 8 goalies signed up for the night's session in a baffling disregard of the rink's own stated rules.

applying our earlier formula: 180 gametime minutes / 8 = 22.5 minutes of gameplay for each goalie with (90 - 22.5) = 67.50 minutes spent sitting on the bench.

this results in a goalie spending three minutes at rest for every minute that he plays. in a word, unacceptable (made even more unacceptable by the fact that we were told the session started at 10 pm but an earlier league game did not finish until 10:30)

considering the high-schoolish, part-time status of most rink employees i figured it must have been some boneheaded mistake by a teen who could care less to properly count for $6.50 an hour.

however, one of the goalies (a friend i met through a goalie message board who recently moved from Minnesota to Houston) sent an inquiring letter to the rink's manager the next day and received this in response:

"I knew we had quite a few goal tenders trying to sign up, but certainly didn't expect them all to show up. That is the problem we've had in the past, which set us up for last night. It has not been unheard of for 4 guys to call in and none show up to play. I knew we had a full roster of high-end skaters, so we gambled on the goalie side, and obviously got bit. We started working on how to solve this last night, and will announce a new policy in the next day or two. I expect we will have some type of reservation charge to hold a spot at least, if not simply charge a fee for goalies to play"

so the rink decided to risk having a good number of goalies come out for an unhealthy portion of gameplay-to-rest to benefit some "high-end skaters"? not hard to see which position is the red-headed stepchild in this hockey family.

as far as goalies signing up and then not showing, i could understand some type of informal blacklist for repeat offenders but i have to this day not found any precedent for making goalies pay to play pick-up.

Fact #1: for hockey players, shooting on a goalie, even a terrible one, is infinitely more challenging and entertaining than shooting on an empty net or jersey tied to the top of the crossbar.

Fact #2: goalies are generally given a free ride at pick-up sessions because A) they have had to buy all of the expensive equipment and B) because of Fact #1, a pick-up session with goalies attracts more paying players than one without goalies.

in short, we generate revenue for the rink by showing up and drawing larger groups of paying players; our compensation has always been a pass on the pick-up fee.

if they do come out with a pay-to-play policy for goalies i'm curious to see how well it goes over. i feel the growing need to unite the community of goalies to boycott.... "A Day Without a Goalie"

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