Recreational players line up for a faceoff at the Rinx complex in Toronto.

Beer league challenges include time, money and egos

September in Toronto may signal the end of summer for some, but for Rob Walterhouse, it usually marks the beginning of yet another season of chasing people for money.

It is nothing new for Walterhouse. Ensuring that his teammates pay to play is only one of the challenges he has to deal with while managing a beer league hockey team.

For him, it also ranks as the most troublesome.

“It’s easy to find people who want to play, but once you tell them how much it costs, around $500 dollars upfront per player, suddenly they’re not so certain anymore,” said Walterhouse. “And there are many reasons for that, from family to their profession.“

Unlike some other sports, recreational hockey is not a cheap endeavor in Toronto. The cost of registering an adult recreational hockey team of at least 16 people today generally averages around $7,000 – $8,000 dollars.

So for Walterhouse, a 29-year-old trailer mechanic and a veteran of managing recreational hockey teams, finding 16 people who are not only able to make the commitment to participate in weekly games, but to also pay money for it is a busy job.

“I have often had to chase people to pay, which is not fun,” said Walterhouse.

The problems don’t stop there.

“When the money is out of the way, the next issue is having 16 people that are all happy. They have to be happy with ice-time and the position that they play. And it’s a lot easier to find people who want to score goals than to pass and play defence,” said Walterhouse.

Anooj Patel is the 38-year-old owner of Enchante Perfumes. And for the past four seasons during his spare time, he also manages a recreational hockey team based in Etobicoke.

He has also frequently dealt with the issues of money as well as attendance. But it is the personalities that cause him the most difficulties when managing a team in a sport that he calls “the team game of all team games.”

“You’ll always be dealing with different personalities on a team,” Patel said. “You’ll have some people that understand how we’re going to play, and then there are others that will be very proactive and want to help the team.

“And then there is a small percentage of people who just want to be stubborn and do their own thing.”

He understands, however, that people are investing time and a lot of money when taking part in a recreational hockey team. Therefore, that investment comes with certain expectations.

“Each person has their own idea of what they should be getting out of that investment,” said Patel. “So those managing the team have to make sure that people know what they’re getting out of the money that they’re spending.

“They should feel that their money is well spent.”

Managing a recreational hockey team is like managing a business. It is far from an easy task, requires careful consideration and is not for everyone. But it does come with its rewards.

“For me, it’s a chance to be social,” said Anooj. “Having camaraderie with a group of like-minded people.”

As for Walterhouse, he went as far as saying that running and being a part of a team transcends hockey altogether.

“We all love hockey, but I think the game is just a byproduct of being able to be with and enjoy time with a great group of people,” said Walterhouse. “The game is the excuse.

“It’s an excuse to hang out with these people after and beyond that. It’s something to look forward to.”