Playing ice hockey was always a dream for me, coming from Texas and having played a little roller hockey. Thanks to a persistent colleague, I found out about hockey in the area. It is super easy for anyone (a newbie to former pro) to get involved, is quite safe, and a ton of fun!
I've gotten a number of inquiries, so if you're at all interested, here's the info you need to check it out and get started! This info is for the Seattle area, but I'm sure any metro area has similar opportunities. Just do a search at USA Hockey or call any ice rink.
The Seattle area has several hockey leagues. Leagues usually form around a single rink, area, group of friends, company, etc. The Greater Seattle Hockey League (GSHL) is the largest adult rec league in the northwest with over 83 teams and 2,300 players. Teams are spread across 13 skill levels (divisions) ranging from 'never skated before in my life' to 'could be playing pro but have another job'.
The league provides organized games, finds teams for new players, additional insurance through USA Hockey, awesome team & player stats, awards, tournaments, and more. There's plenty of room to start out anywhere you feel comfortable (even never played) and move up. Andy Cole runs the league and if you'd like to get involved, just fill out this form and he'll get back to you.
Teams in the league play once a week. For entry level teams, they're usually on Sunday evenings. Some teams hold their own practices once every week or two, or join other teams' practices.
The GSHL is a no-checking league, which means that even though people will bump into each other, doing so on purpose is strictly prohibited. Practically everyone that plays in these adult rec leagues are regular day-time professionals with families and plenty of responsibilities. Everyone values their teeth, ability to work, and good health. They tend to show great sportsmanship both on and off the ice. Full protective gear is required for all games.
If you're just getting started, the Hockey Educational Systems (HES) classes that are offered twice a year are invaluable. They are taught by the best, former pro hockey players and coaches. The class currently lasts five weeks, is twice a week in the evenings, and costs $300. WELL worth the money. There are two levels, "Learn to Play" for people that have never played ice hockey or perhaps even ice skated, and "Intermediate" which is for players with 1-3 years of experience.
Yes hockey is an expensive sport to play. Your first set of gear (skates, helmet, pads, etc) will probably be about $1000, the HES class is $300, and a Winter season (22 games) with GSHL costs about $450. Impromptu games, scrimmages, practice ice time, etc are usually $12 - $20. Those after game socials (aka beer) is extra. 🙂
Where to Buy Stuff
Most of the ice rinks in the area have little pro shops in them with basic hockey gear. Northwest Pro Hockey in Kirkland is the premier (and only) stand-alone hockey shop in the area (my favorite place). Play it Again Sports in Lynwood has a good Hockey selection. For online, hockeyworld.com and hockeymonkey.com work. And if you're feeling industrious, The Hockey Shop just outside Vancouver Canada has a big in store selection.
There are about 7 ice rinks in the Seattle area from Renton to Everett. GSHL teams play at 6 of them. They're on a map here. Most rinks' web sites have scheduled open public skating, 'stick & puck' (open skating for hockey players, gear required), and drop-in scrimmage games (anyone can come play hockey).
To wrap things up, I just started about a year ago myself. Never skated on ice more than a few times in my life. I took the HES Learn to Play class, joined an entry level GSHL team, was nominated captain of the team, and have been having a blast ever since. My team's name is Gang Green (intro post, team photo) and we even have our own website and are on Facebook. About half the teams in the GSHL have their own website of some type (like the Squids). It is a lot of fun. 🙂
See you on the ice!