You want choice when it comes to when and where you play. Who doesn’t? This is why you can choose your own winter hockey schedule that is best for your team (only in the NCHL). In the next 5 minutes or so we will explain how the schedule draft works in the winter.

First things first, we assume that you have done the following (otherwise what we tell you next won’t make any sense)

Ok now that we got this out of the way, lets get into the meat and potatoes of the schedule draft.

Sometime in August, after we closed team registration we will look at the list of all teams that signed up, and build what is called the deposit order. It is simply the ordering of teams by when they registered for the winter hockey season. We take the timestamp of the registration as the deposit time so long as your team has paid the deposit by the posted deadline.

The deposit is comprised of money paid by players plus any additional credits the team may have (keep) on account from previous seasons, minus anything outstanding (owed by the team).

Now, a team may have enough money in credits on account at the time of registration that cover the needed deposit amount. We will take the timestamp of when the team registered as the time of deposit. (PRO TIP: this is a very good reason why you may want to keep money on account between seasons)

Why is this important? We use the deposit order to determine how teams pick their schedules for the winter. The team with the very first overall deposit will have a chance to select first out of all of the ice times we have available, continue reading to see how it all works.

At the same time as our accounting department is building the deposit order, our ops department is working hard on compiling all suitable ice times that can be selected as home ice.

A few days before the draft we will send this ice matrix to all team GMs who have selected Home Ice Premium or Home Ice schedule plans. This is done so that you can rank each ice time based on how much you like it and be prepared for the schedule draft night.

After you received the ice matrix and have ranked all your choices based on how much you like them you are ready for the draft.

Typically the draft happens in a room (we may still have to do zoom this year) with all ice times displayed on the big screen for everyone there to see. All team GMs are invited to this event regardless of the schedule plan you picked, and you will see in a moment why.

The schedule draft starts with the very first team in the deposit order list, regardless of the schedule plan chosen.This is the only way we can make the process fair for everyone given the limited amount of good winter ice times available.

If the team at the top of the order did not choose Home Ice Premium schedule plan, we will ask them if they want to upgrade to Home Ice Premium on the spot, so they can make a selection. (but in reality there is almost no intensive to be first in the deposit order with a Regular schedule plan, unless it was a mistake).

Home Ice Premium teams get the best available ice times, so if the team in question does not upgrade, we will move on to the next team in the deposit order, and the next team will now have a chance to pick their schedule for the winter.

We continue this process until all Home Ice Premium teams have chosen their ice slots, skipping any non Home Ice Premium teams in the deposit order (remember, each team that did not choose Home Ice Premium but is high in the deposit order will have a chance to upgrade to grab that ice time they really want).

Next we go back to the remaining Home Ice teams starting at the top of the deposit order again. We repeat the process we followed with Home Ice Premium teams only now for the Home Ice teams, until all these teams have made their selections.

Yes, if you were late with your deposit and do not see anything on the board you think is worth the money you can downgrade on the spot as well to a cheaper schedule plan and save some money. But you can’t downgrade after the draft is finished. See why below.

Once the draft is finished for teams that wanted a home ice type schedule (home ice means 50%, or more of the games will be played at the same time, on the same night at the same arena), we will set the divisions for the season. All teams now will be placed in divisions. This will determine what Regular schedules are available for remaining non home ice teams to choose from.

Effectively it will limit the Regular teams to 3-4 schedules in their division (less of a selection of course). Once again we will go back to the deposit order to see who will select first in their division. Not all Regular schedules are made equal, so being higher on the deposit order still gives you an advantage!

As soon as we have placed all the teams in divisions and have all schedule selections returned to us from the Regular teams we can build the master hockey league schedule for the winter season.

This is why we have to close team registration about 30 days before the start of the hockey season. We need enough time to do the work on the master schedule, catch mistakes and fix unexpected problems so that we can release the schedule for everyone at the same time.

So if having the best schedule for your team is important, register and pay your deposit as quickly as you can. You will have the most choice if you are first.