Unless a hockey team has won all its games, there can be a lot of tournament stress waiting to see if the team moves on and plays on the weekend, or packs its bags and goes home.

The 3-Game Guarantee

Many tournaments have 3-game guarantees – and that’s important to know when the team is considering which tournaments to attend. It’s the preferred format of many tournaments, pulling more participants than other tournament types, like 1-game, sudden death. With a guarantee of at least three games, a team can justify the expense of the registration fee and the expenses needed for all involved to travel to, stay at, and attend a tournament.

Once the teams in a particular class – like PeeWee AA – have played all three of their games, the organizers rank the teams based on wins and losses. But wins and losses may not be the all-inclusive factor. Points may be awarded or subtracted due to penalty minutes or lack thereof. In addition, differentials may also be taken into consideration – that’s the  spread between the number of goals a team has scored and number of goals that have been scored against it. There may be other criteria too, like whether two teams have previously played against each other, ranking the winner of that match higher in the results in case of a tie on points. Tie breaks may also be based on the sheer number of goals scored.

There are, yet, other variations on the 3-game guarantees, where teams are divided into brackets but compete against each other. After the 3 games have been played, the top 2 teams from each bracket play against each other to determine 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place. The problem with this kind of tournament is sometimes the winning teams dominate one bracket, and the losing teams dominate another, so a team that has won two games and lost one won’t necessarily make it to the weekend games if other teams in their bracket have won all their games. When teams with two losses make it to the weekend over a team with just one loss, it makes you shake your head and wonder how you got sideswiped so easily. This usually happens when the tournament organizers stack the deck in favour of local teams, stacking them all in the same bracket. Look at the brackets from the outset and be aware from the start that one loss may be all it takes to get you hightailing it for home.

We Lost a Game. Will We Move On?

As the last of the 3-games are being played, the teams who have already played – especially those with a loss under their belt – are often at the rink, watching as the games play out. This is when the tournament stress reaches a peak. Coaches, parents and players too are busy calculating the potential outcomes. If team X wins, will we go through? What if they score more than 3 goals? And what if team Y wins? What will that mean to us?

One thing is certain. The tournament rules should be a reference point, but even armed with the rules and determination of the ranking set out in black and white, the performance of the last teams may impact whether your team moves on, or moves out.

In hockey tournaments, as in show business, remember: “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”. Once the outcome has been tallied and marked on the bracket sheet, or posted on the Internet, that’s when you know for certain what the situation is.

And, if luck is on your side, you’ll make it through.

Play hungry, my friends!