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How to Host a Tournament

So you want to host a tournament?

Hosting a tournament can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be very stressful and time consuming. Having lots of willing volunteers and excellent communication between the leader and the helpers is essential to having a tournament run smoothly.

The first thing to ask yourself is: what is the purpose of your tournament or event? Are you trying to get high level competition to your area? Do you want your rookies to have a fun first tournament? Are you trying to build good relationships with geographically close clubs? Do you want to encourage women's or youth hockey? Once you have your purpose you can start framing your tournament or event.

Basic Tournament Types

A pot-luck tournament is one in which every player signs up as an individual and provides the organizer input about the position they want to play and their skill level. The organizer then makes (ideally) even teams.

A team tournament is one in which players sign up as a team. The organizer can offer to attempt to find spots for partial teams or individual players or they can leave it up to the players to arrange for themselves.


Picking a good date can greatly increase the turnout at your event. Look at our tournament calendar for upcoming and past events for the time frame you are considering. Many tournaments are annual events hosted the same or nearly the same weekend each year. The purpose of your event will help you decide how many weekends to leave between your event and other events. Talk to the USAUWH Competitions Director if you want assistance in picking a good date. Of course there are some situations where the pool will only be available certain weekends and you are forced into planning your event on that date(s).

Additional things to consider when selecting your dates are, do any of your prospective dates fall on holidays that may inhibit participants from attending? Is there some sort of large event going on in your town that will adversely affect hotel availability or travel arrangements for your prospective participants? If you're trying to have students attend will they be in session or on vacation?

Lastly, you should fill out the tournament sanctioning form on website and check on the availability of a "tournament in a box" and sound systems.

Pool Time

  • Is the pool you normally practice at, and have a good relationship with, a good pool for a tournament?
  • Is there enough space for at least one playing surface, sub box, and warm up area?
  • Will barriers or a demarcation lines be easy to create and install?
  • Is there enough space on deck or in bleachers for teams to hang out between games?
  • Are blocks of 6-10 hours available on the weekends? If equipment can be left in the pool, shorter blocks of time might work.
  • Will there be anywhere for food to placed nearby?

Once you have selected your pool, try to arrange your pool time as far in advance as possible. Many large facilities require a year lead time for pool reservations. When talking to the pool make sure to ask for insurance requirements and a cost estimate for lane/hour, lifeguards, and any other associated fees. Remember that you will need time for set up of barriers and deck ref tables, check in of participants the day-of, and clean up time at the end of the event to remove barriers and other equipment in addition to the play time. Try to figure out which activities are location-specific, such as barrier setup, and which could be done anywhere, such as holding the captains meeting or doing administrative tasks in order to maximize the time available.

Schedule of Play

The amount of pool time you need will be dependent upon your purpose, how many playing surfaces are available, and how many teams you expect to attend. A world level game consists of two 15-minute halves and a 3-minute halftime. Many tournaments shorten this fairly significantly for the round robin (8+ and 2) and somewhat for the play-offs (12+ and 3). The amount of available pool time is usually the limiting factor. While you are not limited to these formats, running very short games should be avoided. If the playing area is symmetrical, you may consider one period (instead of 2 halves) for round robin play to save a few minutes per game. Extra time can be used by adding exhibition games, for elite players, women, rookies, etc.

It has been well established that it is pretty much impossible to get games to change over any faster than 5 minutes. So plan for 5 minutes between games and some slough for possible overtime, ref time-outs, and stoppage of play in the last 2 minutes of games. If you are not going to allow for overtime, the official method to break ties is outlined in the international UWH rules. If you are not going to use this system, make sure you have your alternative established and announced ahead of time.

The tournament coordinator and the schedule coordinator should work together on various possibilities.

Excel is an excellent tool for schedule planning. It will help you to very easily see the difference a half minute per half will make on the amount of pool time needed.

It is best to have more than one set of eyes looking at the schedule. It may also be beneficial to request help from outside your club to check the schedule.

If you end up needing to seed teams for your schedule to work (as in a pod system), it is a good idea to try and get people who have played with/against most of the teams recently to take a look at your seeding.


For most teams, pool time will be the single largest expense. Next is usually the banquet. Players tend to eat a lot at the banquet and buffet style seems to work best for most tournaments. A higher-level tournament may want to consider a seated, served, meal. You might be able to get financial assistance or goods by requesting donations from local companies. Contact nearby UWH clubs that might be willing to let you borrow equipment like barriers or goals.

Here is a list of items that you will want to include in your budget:

  • Pool Time
  • Insurance
  • Banquet
  • Referees*
  • Food Table/Electrolyte drink
  • Volunteers (head deck or water refs, provide flight assistance, comp banquet, etc.)
  • Awards
  • Ref equipment (Consider renting from USAUWH)
  • Gong or sound system (consider renting from USAUWH)
  • Barrier needs
  • USA UWH Development Fee either $5/person or $50/team

Some of these expenses are one-time investments, like the goals or barriers that will make future tournaments cheaper to host. This kind of equipment does need to be stored when not in use, so make sure to plan for storage. If you plan to host many events consider talking to pool management about storage space at the pool.

*Quality referees are critical for a good tournament. If you're planning high-level play, be sure to budget for travel assistance for high-level refs.


The following is a partial list of coordinator positions and descriptions. Ideally, you want a leading coordinator for each position and helpers for each coordinator, but some positions do lend themselves to being combined.

  • Tournament Director: Knows overall plan and is responsible for communicating to the hockey world and the pool about the tournament. Responsible for checking in with all the coordinators to make sure things are on track. Day of tournament responsible for running captains meeting and keeping things on schedule.
  • Accommodations Coordinator: Get a hotel to book a block of rooms at a cheaper rate. Assist with organizing housing with locals, if available, for those that need it. Assist with connecting those looking to share rooms. Post schedules at the hotel.
  • Banquet Coordinator: Arrange for a banquet dinner. Ideally buffet style, with alcohol available (cash bar is fine). A DJ and dancing would be great additions. Many locations will provide their own music for the other guests if you’re not renting the entire facility, so be sure to check.
  • Ref Coordinator: Coordinates reffing gear for both playing surfaces (buzzers, whistles, timers, gloves, caps, scoreboards, score sheets, pens, white boards, dry erase markers, report covers, etc). Responsible for assigning refs for 1st games each day and working with the helpers to create a deck ref schedule. Responsible for explaining reffing rules at captains meeting. Responsible for checking the working order of the ref equipment before the day of the tournament.
  • Schedule Coordinator: Works closely with tournament director to create a schedule for the tournament.
  • Dues Coordinator: Responsible for collecting all rosters, entry fees, and USOA dues. Will verify that entrants are USOA members with a list from USA UWH Treasurer. Report information about attendees to Competitions director.
  • Media Coordinator: Write a press release about the tournament; attempt to get it published in local media outlets. Invite various media to the event. After the tournament, send the competitions director a blog post for the USA UWH website (include tournament results)
  • Barrier Coordinator: Responsible for coordination of installation and removal of barriers.
  • Swag Coordinator: Responsible for designing the logo and purchasing swag with the logo to sell at tourney. Responsible for selling swag at tournament. Responsible for designing and purchasing “trophies.”
  • Wet Room Coordinator: Responsible for purchasing the food, utensils, and electrolyte drinks for the wet room or food table. Day-of-tournament, responsible for making sure that there is enough food out and drink made.
  • Trash Coordinator: Responsible for making sure that the pool and wet room are clean at the end of each day.

Tournament Announcement

Now that you have gotten your team to commit to hosting an event, nailed down the pool time, and gotten your budget mostly figured out, it is time to post your tournament announcement. The sooner you get it out and the more details that are included, the better. UWH players are notorious for procrastinating. Early payment discounts or late fees can help motivate prompt registrations.

Things to include in your tournament announcement

  • Your purpose, what kind of tournament it is and what should people be expecting
  • Cost, per team or per person
  • Where and to whom to send the money and by when
  • Location of Pool (photos and video are nice)
  • Location and price of accommodations
  • Location, type, and price of banquet
  • USOA Waiver, Safety Guidelines, and Dues Requirement
  • Camp-o-Rama possibilities
  • Swag cost, if you have a t-shirt or something else you are selling

If you include a formatted roster sheet, you should get information in a format you expect (last name, first name, membership paid, waiver signed, team at tournament, home club, t-shirt size, etc). A standard roster form is available for download on

Where to post your tournament announcement

Contact the Competitions Director to have your announcement sent to the USUWH and for placement on the UWH Tournament Calendar. If you are hoping for international attendance consider posting the announcement to the GoogleGroup, HockeyNet. You can post your announcement to any UWH lists you belong to. Of course, if you are only looking for local participation you may send your announcement out to a select number of club leaders or contacts. Don’t forget to post your tournament on Facebook as well. It allows people to see all your information in a single place, contact prospective attendees with information updates, and serve as a useful forum for the attendees to ask questions.


Hopefully, the tournament announcement told everyone to send their money and roster information to your Dues Coordinator. Google Docs is a good way to share this information among your organizers by keeping updated information in one place and restricting access to those that need to know. Have a plan for what to do if suddenly your tournament attendee count doubles during the last week before your tournament or if a team drops out at the last minute (not to say that these things will happen but they have in the past).

Now that USOA dues, waivers, and safety guidelines can be taken care of online it is easier than ever to verify the status of members. This section will be updated soon with instructions on how to check the current status of payment and waiver for USAUWH members. If you verify this as you get the rosters it is a much less daunting task than doing it all at once.

For Canadian players, contact CUGA Secretary to verify CUGA status. For other international players a federation or club card is most likely acceptable. EVERYONE needs to have signed a USOA waiver and Safety Guidelines.

Registration Table

It is nice to have a designated Registration table the day of the tournament. That way people know where to go to check in and get information. Each team should receive a packet with a copy of the schedule, any special rules that need to be followed, and any directions or maps that might be necessary. Banquet tickets and t-Shirts or swag might also be included in the team packets.

Registration for a Pot-Luck

Pot-lucks can be a lot of fun, but require significantly more work than team tournaments. All of the registrants will need to provide their skill level and then you need to try and make even teams. It can be a good idea to put together a team of people from other clubs that travel to a lot of tournaments and are willing to help make teams, as people are notoriously bad at grading their own playing abilities, sometimes intentionally.


Referees are essential to making the games run safely and smoothly. The ref coordinator should have enough refs for the first game each day for each playing surface assigned ahead of time.

Deck Refs

Good deck refs are essential to a good tournament. It is ideal if you can get one or more of our great National deck refs to travel to your event. The next best thing is to get non-playing volunteers to deck ref the entire event or at least large chucks of time. It is important to go over the basic rules with new deck refs, especially timing, scoring, how to gong/buzz, and penalties.

The deck refs should be keeping track of wins, losses, and ties for each team as well as goals against.

It is also a good idea to have a copy of the most current rules at the ref table as well as the cheat sheet of hand signals.

Deck refs should be loud and forceful to keep things on schedule. Whistles greatly assist the ability of the deck ref to get the attention of the players or water refs.

Water Refs

When possible we run a 3 water-ref system. Each ref should have a red cap, gloves, and a jersey. If you have more than 3 sets of ref gear, you can allow newer players to shadow more experienced refs.

If you can find one or more dedicated water refs the teams will be very pleased and you can guarantee at least one experienced ref in the water.

The tournament director should be paying attention to the match-ups and request teams provide experienced refs if the following game has the possibility to be particularly high level, rough, or close and seed determining.


You should have trophies or awards for the top three teams of each division. There might also be some kind of traveling or perpetual trophy associated with a large annual tournament like Nationals, PCCs, and ACCs. Trophies can be anything you desire from handmade soap medals to special order trophies. It is up to you and your club to decide how much time and money you have to devote to awards/trophies.

Some fun awards that we have gotten away from, but would be fun to bring back are outstanding rookie, most improved team, individual and team sportsmanship, and outstanding defensive/offensive play of the tournament. There are many ways to implement these awards: distribute ballots with the team packets, ask the team captains for nominees and have a committee decide, or have ballots out on a table somewhere to be filled in by whoever would like to participate.