"Rinks don't need to be money pits" – Colleen O'Shea

Hockey, Players

Same Day Games

Blues de Jonquiere - Bantam "A"

Bantam "A" Blues de Jonquiere. A recent tournament had us playing two games on Sunday.

Blues de Jonquiere - Bantam "A"

Bantam “A” Blues de Jonquiere. A recent tournament had us playing two games on Sunday.

Sundays are typically the biggest day of a hockey tournament – and not just because it’s the day the tournament winners become known. For most tournaments, the teams in the final match have earned their spot by winning a game earlier that morning, and that made me wonder about time in-between games. Are there guidelines, and is it a good idea to play same day games?


Corey McNabb, Hockey Canada‘s Director of Player Development tells me Hockey Canada has guidelines for tournaments as follows:

1) It is recommended that no team shall be required to play a second game in one day against a team playing its first game on that day, except with specific prior written approval

2) No team or player may compete in more than three (3) tournament games in one day. Where tournaments do require teams or players to play three (3) games in one day, such games shall not be longer than three (3) periods of fifteen (15) minutes, the first two (2) of which must be straight time.

3) It is a general guideline that the play-to-rest ratio is minimum 1 : 4. Therefore if a game is 1 hour long there should be at least 4 hours before the next game is played by that team. 1.5 hour game – 6 hours rest. 2 hour game – 8 hours rest.

“These are general guidelines for tournaments to follow,” Corey explains, “and typically as age goes up so does the length of the games and as such so should the rest period.”

Playing Guidelines

As for playing, I tracked down Eric MacLean from Performance Training Systems. Eric’s a Canadian who counts among his accomplishments being a trainer trained by the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation. I tripped across Eric while looking for information online about hockey and stress, and found a paper he’d written while he was pursuing a Master of Exercise Science at the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia. Eric agreed to be interviewed for The Hockey Mom and here’s our QA session on Same Day Games.

THM: Should parents and coaches be worried about same-day games?

Eric MacLean: No, I don’t think they should be concerned about their young athletes playing multiple games in one day. However, organizers of tournaments and team managers should consider the age, training and competition level of the athletes competing, and the time and distance between matches.

When looked at from a physiological perspective, sport and competition strains the cardiovascular and musculoskeltal systems.  Depending on the intensity and duration of the sport, and the training / conditioning level of the athlete competing, the strain and stress placed on the body and the associated rest required to recover afterwards will be different.

And here’s where things become difficult, especially for a sport like ice hockey:

Personally, I would encourage a minimum of a 3 hour break between subsequent matches – where all forms of recovery are allowed – rest at the hotel, watching the next 2 games, team lunch etc. Player recovery is the priority between games – however that is optimized is best.

THM: So Eric, what’s the best-case scenario? What should coaches, managers and parents do for their players?

Eric MacLean: The best case looks like this:1) A pre-game and post-game warm-up and cool-down that is age and training-level appropriate.

2) The Team-Managers/Coaching Staff appoints an individual who communicates with players before and after matches and inquires about physical stress levels and implements return-to-play best-practicesHockey Canada, the Gatorade Sport Science Institute, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology are good sources for concussion-, sport-nutrition- and sport science-based return-to-play best practices. In this regard, parents should also demand, as is the case in many major ice hockey leagues, that coaches have qualifications for the posts they have.

3) Medical check-ups: Every child should have at least 1 physical check up each year, especially those in puberty and those in adolescence. The main reason for a non-traumatic sports related death is due to an undiagnosed cardiovascular issue. Physical-stress tests with an ECG help doctors diagnose problems with the heart. A teen in puberty may develop physically (height, weight and strength) faster than their perception of their strength – in this sense, over-exertion and over-straining can result – this may manifest itself in musculoskeletal injuries or aggravate unknown cardiovascular conditions. The coaching staff should, especially those with competitive teams, implement fitness testing throughout the year to monitor progress and physical development. Ambitious teams and players should go to their nearest sport-medicine centre or University and ask for sport-based physical testing. Often graduate students offer these services free-of-charge or for greatly reduced fees when done as part of their studies.

4) Pay attention for signs of stress: Parents should be the ones who know their kids the best. Simple observation of behaviour – changes in mood, appetite, prolonged episodes of anger or frustration and disruptions in concentration are not only symptoms of concussion but may signify that your child is in a period (acute or chronic) of physical and/or psychological stress. Current research is showing elevated stress levels across all age groups in minor sports. With its negative influence on the metabolic and hormonal systems, parents should look to minimize the amount of sports-related stress their child receives and to talk to their kids and the coaching staff about sport-related stress management.

5) Winning is not everything:  Coaches and parents should not be blinded by the illusions and visions of winning.  Coaches and parents have a responsibility to be responsible, and to place the well-being and health of their athletes first. This mentality must start at the grass-roots level, with success-based management increasing when age and skill-level appropriate.

About Eric’s Experience

Sport and Athletic Trainer with over 10 yrs experience, specializing in Ice Hockey and Endurance Sports.  He’s worked with U12 – U21 National Ice Hockey Players as well as collegiate athletes from various sports.

About Eric’s Qualifications
Master in Exercise Science from Edith Cowan University (Perth Australia)
Bachelor of Human Kinetics from the University of Windsor (Windsor, Canada)
Certified Exercise Physiologist from the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength & Conditioning Association (USA)
Ice Hockey Trainer – Swiss Ice Hockey Federation


  1. Jennifer Dulude

    Thanks, Colleen, for this very informative article. It has made me realize that we need to bring Michael for a medical check-up. Can you believe that we’ve never taken him to the Doctor’s unless he was sick with an infection of some sort? It’s very typical, I guess, for people to be reactive, rather than proactive with their health. Also, I wonder if the team really cools down after every game… I know they warm up before the games, but I haven’t really seen them stretch, walk around, deep breathe or whatever… Food for thought.

  2. Jen S.

    Merci, Colleen! Très intéressant et instructif! Il faudrait effectivement s’assurer que nos joueurs aient une période de récupération après les matchs (pour s’étirer et ralentir leurs fréquences cardiaques) et qu’ils soient vus par un médecin annuellement.

  3. When I lived in Europe, my boys played football (soccer) and at the start of each season, we had to take them to a sports doctor to make sure they were medically fit to play. I always thought it was an annoyance – of course they were healthy enough to play, otherwise we wouldn’t have been putting them on a team.

    Which is wrong. We may know our kids, but we don’t know what evil lurks beneath the surface. I’m with you, and will get Nic off for a check-up.

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