For Derrik Dyka, the co-founder of Hockey Finder, starting an adult hockey league was a score for him and the other players who longed to have a place where they could share their passion for the sport and bond with other community members. Dyka and a fellow player, Don Giroux, started the league in 2010, following years of organizing and hosting pickup games for people in their area. After noticing the absence of an adult hockey league that was just for fun, they took it upon themselves to start one that would maintain the atmosphere and energy of those pickup hockey games.
The league started at Minnesota Made Ice Center in Edina and it’s been expanding ever since. The league began with four teams and now has nearly 200 co-ed hockey teams with 3,200 players in three states.
Both Dyka and Giroux run the hockey league like a small business. They have to coordinate volunteers and referees, schedule time in rinks, and organize games and other events.
Don Giroux and Derrik Dyka
“A lot of effort goes into balancing team skill levels, recruiting and welcoming new players, and cultivating the league culture that defines the Hockey Finder experience,” Dyka says. “Over time, each division becomes its own community. Building that community takes a lot of care and attention.”
Something stressed at Hockey Finder is inclusivity and building communities that share a similar love for hockey. There are no tryouts since everyone at any skill level is invited. Players register for the leagues and are placed on a random team every season to ensure players get to know a large amount of their communities.
“Hockey Finder can be summed up in three simple words: fun, friendly and social,” Dyka says. “This basic philosophy drives everything about the league.”
They strive to always provide a fun environment focused on bettering each other and getting to know others on a personal level as well as working together as a team to succeed. There are no prizes or pressure to win since Dyka wants everyone to feel comfortable and focus solely on enjoying the game. They also stress that violence is not tolerated at any time during practices or games. If a player becomes violent or aggressive toward another, they are immediately removed, to keep the risk of injury low.
“When we developed Hockey Finder, we wanted to create more than just a league, we wanted a community where players can show up, make friends and feel they are a part of something beyond just playing hockey,” Dyka says.
This league is a place for fellow hockey players to come together to interact not only out on the ice, but socially as well. Off the ice the group maintains an inviting atmosphere by having small parties or going out for drinks after games.
“This social aspect extends beyond just friendships but also commercial networking. Our players come from a wide range of professions including real estate agents, attorneys, financial planners and even some very successful entrepreneurs. Thus, the Hockey Finder community has provided members with both a personal and professional network,” Dyka says.
Hockey Finder tries to make it as easy as possible for all people who want to participate and they try to work with everyone’s busy schedules. So, for the sake of simplicity, each of the divisions across the Twin Cities Metro area play at the same location and time each week.
There are no official practices but teams can form their own schedules and play pickup games against other teams. Each division plays one night per week and the season lasts 11 weeks. For those who want to participate in a tournament, individual players sign up and are placed on tournament teams.
Andy Porter of Edina joined the league three years ago after he heard about the organization from a neighbor. Porter started playing hockey when he was young but stopped after high school. Now, Hockey Finder gives him a way to reconnect with his old passion and bond with other people who share his love for the sport. The league works well for his schedule since the games are later at night, which allows him to come home and spend time with his family. After his children go to bed, he takes time for himself and plays hockey. He won the championship during his second year and fondly remembers getting to hold the trophy that looks like a miniature replica of the Stanley Cup.
“It’s fun to get photos of it with your teammates,” Porter says. “A little cheesy, but kind of fun.”
“Each division has a travelling trophy that gets passed along from season to season and the names of the players who win get engraved on it. Basically the prize for winning is friendly bragging rights and a victorious team photo to post on Facebook. Essentially it’s a symbolic event that marks the end of one season before teams are shuffled and a new season begins,” Dyka says.
The league hosted its first out-of-town tournament in Las Vegas when the Wild was playing the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Hockey Finder teams got to play in the Golden Knights’ practice facility and then they all attended the Wild game together afterward. The same tournament is planned for this year.
“For me, it all comes back to the Hockey Finder culture of fun, friendly and social play,” Dyka says. “Games are always a good time and you can’t put a price on the social aspect. The amount of lasting friendships and good times are immeasurable. A typical game includes showing up, sharing a few laughs in the locker room, three periods of low-pressure hockey and more laughs after the game is over, sometimes over a beverage. You really can’t beat that.” In the state of hockey, we couldn’t agree more.