Beer League Beat-Down: Ringers

Beer league is full of characters. You’ve got the hot head, the shy guy, the girl with the wicked edges, the goalie who only plays well halfway to hammered, the guy who plays three levels down, puts up all the goals and two-thirds of the assists.

It is this guy, the ringer, who is our subject today, and in reference to him, I pose this question:

Is dealing with sandbaggers a rite of passage for developmental players? A burden? A wonderful challenge? Something else?

There’s nothing quite like working hard, taking lessons, going to clinics, renting ice with your teammates to practice and then having some guy with no shoulder pads deke around the entire team, pass to himself off of his skate and drill an impossible angle shot off the turnbuckle and down for the score. Oh yeah, and then celebrates like it’s the playoffs after every single. goal.

I’m always left asking “Who even does that? They must know it’s not a huge achievement!” It’s like an English professor showing up to an elementary spelling bee and then being proud they can spell “scissors” correctly, or maybe if I decided to challenge an amateur cellist for their chair in community orchestra. Just the thought is laughable- but is that all there is to it?

I started the conversation by talking with some friends who also play D and C League hockey, and I hope you’ll join us in the comments!

CompSci maven Jen: “All of us in beer league are objectively terrible at hockey […] way to take the fun out of a thing that exists for no reason other than to be fun.”

West Point grad Jason: “We had this unbelievably good ringer in our league. He never lost the puck, could make crazy passes and score at will. So we asked around and it turns out he was a recent college grad that had spent 10-plus years playing high-level youth hockey around the country. You would think we would be mad, but when we realized his parents must have spent tens of thousands of dollars on ice time, equipment, travel, hotels and so on, only to have him be able to dangle around 40+ year old fat guys after midnight on a weeknight, we kinda felt sorry for him.”

Realtor David: “I actually don’t mind playing against a team who has a ringer or two so long as the ringers generally respect the level of play. I enjoy a challenge and playing against people who are better than you is an amazing learning experience. […] People who skate circles around everyone [who are] the deciding factor between winning or losing is wrong, and I have little respect for the ringer or the team itself. I feel bad that their team isn’t confident enough in their bond to skate hard together and win lose or draw be happy with the outcome and that everyone was out there doing their best and having fun.”

Content dev Tabitha: “In the end, it’s an issue of respect for the game. You can be a ringer, play down, and play respectfully of other players on the ice. Whether that means playing to the level at hand, balancing the skill level using smarter passes and perception up ice, or simply avoiding the heads-down, no-pass drop-in style of play we all know them for, it all comes back to respect. This includes respect for the other players (including abilities, weaknesses and well being), the officials, visiting families, and for the sacrifices we all make to be here each week.”

Well said. What do you think?

Amazing Hockey Hello Kitty from a Chicago Now piece on the same subject!

2 comments

  1. From a goalie’s standpoint (at least this particular goalie’s standpoint), I don’t as much mind ringers as long as they abide by that age-old unwritten rule that transcends sport and life: don’t be a d*ck. A ringer should be respectful, not only of the efforts that the lower-level players are exerting, but of the fact that he or she is clearly punching below their respective weight class; let it be fun for everybody who laces up.

    In terms of me as a goalie: I don’t know where I fall on the scale of A-to-Lower-D-level beer league in our market (I admittedly play the role of the ringer on many occasions, spending most of my time on the waiver wire of local rinks), but when an exemplary player makes their presence known, I see it as a reason to elevate my own play. Where I used to be able to scale it back and focus more on just having fun (Why should that ever not be the focus?), I now face every shot with a higher level of respect: I focus on angles; I keep myself at a proper depth relative to the play; I read each play instead of simply reacting to the puck leaving the stick. Those are things I should always be doing, regardless of who’s shooting and who’s defending, but the presence of a ringer adds that onus to stay honest and keep working – to what end, I’m not really sure.

    I say all this being well aware that the nature of the position of goaltending often allows a greater luxury of time in which to better hone one’s craft in a game situation than that of the forward or defenseman. Sometimes the ringer (or two, or three) makes it worse, and the disparity between that “first line” and the subsequent lines poses an issue of consistency, shaking me off my game even more. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to a goalie is the reality that any shot can go in; sometimes you’re the ringer and sometimes you get rung.

    Admittedly, were I committed to a single team throughout an entire season, I’d likely feel different. It would matter to me a lot more that some bender is coming in and running over my teammates, laughing after scoring again and again. I’d be frustrated, and I’d ask how this could have happened, and I’d probably open my dumb face to say some dumb things, and then I’d probably let in another goal. Currently, while I can’t afford beer league, I just embrace the challenge.

    1. All excellent points! I think there is probably a threshold of skill that comes into play. Maybe if I was a comfortable upper C leaguer (so I could do nifty things like aim my shot AND maneuver with my feet at the same time), I wouldn’t mind as much. Not being a d*ck is the most important part! In MN, there were lots of guys playing well below their level—you could tell by the footwork and ease of stickhandling— but they never truly turned on the afterburners. That was a challenge I enjoyed. Kind of like trying to sneak one in on you at a stick and shoot…which I still don’t think I have! 🙂

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