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Hockey (Draft Choice)

Rules by Michael Bryson , revised March 10, 2009


Manage a professional hockey team over a number of years to win the coveted Stanley Cup trophy as many times as possible.

Number Of Players (Managers):

Ideally 5 to 8 but an absolute minimum of 3 and maximum of 13. A practical maximum of 10 is suggested.

Required To Play:

  • Three decks of playing cards with each deck having distinctive backs (e.g. red, green, and blue backs)
  • Large number of pennies (money)
  • Paper + Pencil

Summary Of Play:

Players manage their hockey teams over a number of years. A hockey year consists of three different "seasons":

  1. The Regular Season: where teams compete against each other to make the playoffs
  2. The Playoffs or Post-Season: where teams that made the playoffs play an elimination tournament for the Stanley Cup
  3. The Off-Season: where old players retire, new rookie players are drafted, and free agents are hired for the next season

Start Of Play:

  1. Each player (manager) first picks a name of a hockey team to manage in a league. They write down this team name once each on two small pieces of paper followed by the numbers "#1" and "#2" respectively, e.g.
    • Toronto Maple Leafs #1
    • Toronto Maple Leafs #2
    This represents Toronto's first and second round draft choices which are used each year during the Off-Season and can be traded to other teams.
  2. Next, blindly and randomly remove from each deck six clubs and six hearts. These discards should be placed face down and not be open to inspection by any team.
  3. The three decks should then be placed face down in an order that they will be played (e.g. red backs could be year 1, green backs = year 2, and blue backs = year 3). This determines the order in which hockey players will be retiring. All hockey players automatically retire after being in the league for three years (if not sooner).
  4. Deal three cards from each deck to each manager (nine cards total each).
  5. Each manager then forms a hockey team from his hand. A hockey team consists of six hockey players: a center (Clubs club), two wingers (Spades spade), two defensemen (Diamonds diamond), and a goalie (Hearts heart). If a manager cannot complete a team then that team plays short. The excess cards are placed to the side but may be "called up" later as needed in the year when vacancies appear on the team roster. (Exception: excess players cannot be called up during a hockey game for the two teams playing).

For example: if the Toronto Maple Leafs are dealt the following nine cards: spade2, club3, diamond10, clubJ, heart4, spadeA, spadeQ, heart4, and heartK, then the manager could put a team together of five players as follows: clubJ (Center), spadeA & spadeQ (Wingers), diamond10 (Defenseman), heartK (Goalie). Since only one Defenseman was dealt, the team plays short one defenseman. The other cards are placed to the side but may be used whenever they are needed (e.g. if Toronto's heartK is injured, retires or is traded, then the heart4 could be called up and play as the team's goalie).

The Regular Season

Once all the mangers have picked their respective hockey teams, a regular season is played. Hockey teams play each other once (and only once) in any order and this may involve (ideally) a number of hockey games being played at the same time.

A hockey game is played between two teams as follows:

  1. Each manager first declares how many cards (hockey players) they are short (e.g. if the Toronto Maple Leafs team from above are playing the Detroit Red Wings then Toronto would declare they are one card short and Detroit might declare they have no cards short).
  2. Each manager then secretly arranges their hockey players in any sequence of their choosing (in the previous example it would be a good strategy for Detroit to arrange their team so that their lowest card is played last).
  3. Each manager then simultaneously flips over a card, one at a time. The team with the higher card (aces high) scores a goal; if there is a tie then no goal is scored.
  4. If one team runs out of cards then the team with the remaining cards scores a goal for each extra card they have.
  5. Once both teams have played all of their cards, the hockey game is over and the winning team (the team with the most goals) is given two pennies; if there is a tie then each team is given one penny.
  6. The final score should be recorded on a piece of paper. Normally the person who came in last place during the previous year's Regular Season should be the score keeper for the entire league.

The Regular Season continues with each team playing another game until everyone has played each other exactly once (e.g. for a six-team league, each team would end up playing five games for the entire season). The Regular Season is over and the playoffs begin.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs (Post-Season)

After The Regular Season is over The Playoffs or Post-Season begins. The teams are ranked according to the number of pennies (points) they won during The Regular Season. Any ties are resolved by determining the team who scored the most goals total during the regular season. If there is still any ties, then a special playoff game is played to break each tie. No pennies are rewarded for this tie-breaker game.

Once the teams have been ranked, the top four teams (or top two for 3 and 4 player games) make the playoffs for the Stanley Cup. The first place team from the Regular Season plays the fourth place team, and the second place team plays the third place team. A Playoff game is identical to a Regular Season game except that if there is a tie score at the end of the game, a sudden-death overtime is played to determine a winner as follows: each team blindly and randomly picks a card from the other team's hand; the higher card drawn scores the winning goal for their respective team; if there is another tie, then a second period of overtime is played and so on until the winning goal is scored.

Each winner of the first round of playoffs is given two pennies then plays each other in the finals for the Stanley Cup. The Stanley Cup champion is then awarded another two pennies.

The Stanley Cup champion's team name should then be duly recorded along with the current year on a piece of paper (e.g. if Detroit won in year 1 then "1 Detroit" would be recorded).


The end of the year is closed with the Off-Season and is played as follows:

  1. All the hockey players that are due for retirement are retired by discarding them face down under the appropriate deck (e.g. all the red backs would be discarded)
  2. The first round (#1) draft pick is then done by drawing from the top of the same deck (e.g. the red backs) a number of cards equal to the number of teams in the league (e.g. six). These cards are placed face-up in the middle of the table. Whoever owns the first round draft choice of the team that finished in last place during the Regular Season, picks the card of their choice from the middle of the table (e.g. if Toronto finished in last place and Detroit acquired the little piece of paper with "Toronto Maple Leafs #1" on it because of a trade, then Detroit gets to pick a card). The team that then possesses the 2nd to last place team's draft choice chooses, and so on until all the first round hockey players have been selected. The draft choice piece of paper should be returned to their original teams after they have each been selected (e.g. "Toronto Maple Leafs #1" would be returned by Detroit to Toronto).
  3. The second round (#2) draft pick is then done in a similar way except the cards drawn from the deck are placed face down in the middle of the table.
  4. Free agents are then drawn face-up, one at a time. The managers bid on each free agent starting with whoever finished in first place, then following with the second place team, and so on. If no one bids on a particular free agent, or if the number of free agents drawn for that year equals the number of players then there are no more free agents drawn from the deck for that year.

The year is over and a new year now begins (i.e. year 1 becomes year 2) starting with the Regular Season again. During the new year's Off-Season, the retired players now become the next deck in order (e.g. the green back cards = year 2). The third deck would then be played the following year and play is reverted back to the first deck the year after that (e.g. the next year following year 2 would then be the blue back cards = year 3; and the next season following that would then revert back to the red back cards = year 4, and so on).


Trading may take place at anytime except during The Playoffs. It can involve any number of players and anything can be traded. Any combination can be made including hockey players, money (pennies), i.o.u.'s and draft choices.


Any number of objectives may be set to win the game beforehand. These might include one or more of any of the following:

  1. Playing for a set number of years (say 12) and whoever has won the most number of Stanley Cups is declared the winner.
  2. Playing until someone has acquired 40 pennies in wealth.
  3. Playing until someone manages to win three Stanley Cups in a row (establishing a dynasty).
  4. Playing until someone acquires 25 pennies of wealth and wins the Stanley Cup at least twice (but not necessarily in a row).
  5. Any combination or variation of the above.

Optional Rules

Any of the following optional rules may be used where unanimously agreed upon by all the managers. The first one, Team Standings, is suggested for playability.

Team Standings
In lieu of keeping track of the goal scoring for each game played and collecting pennies, prepare a single sheet with a grid of squares labeled to show the number of points each team has in the standings. Start the grid with the number of horizontal squares equal to the number of teams (players) and the number of vertical squares equal to twice this number plus two (i.e. the maximum number of points possible plus the possibility of "zero" points plus a team label box). Then label the bottom most square of each vertical column with each team name. Then label each remaining square in each vertical column with consecutive numbers starting with zero all the way to the maximum number of points possible in a season. E.g. with 6 players create a grid of 6 by 14 squares that look like this:
Use a coin or other marker for each team and move the markers up as they accumulate points in a season. To break ties at the end of the regular season, teams that play short (i.e. don't have the full 6 cards on their playing team) are ranked first, teams with the least number of total cards possessed are ranked second, and all other teams are ranked third in the tie-breaker. If there is still a tie between any two teams after this ranking, determine the tie-breaker by drawing cards as in overtime. Adjust the markers slightly half-way up or down to indicate the tie-breaking rank accordingly. Money for the regular season should be distributed at the end of the Playoff Season with a penny awarded for each point the team has (plus the additional pennies won from the playoffs). The markers should all be reset to the "zero" square at the start of the Regular Season.
Before a hockey game is played, both teams may announce they are playing with 3, 2, 1, or 0 forecheckers. If (and only if) any forward card (a black card) is played against any defense card (a red card) then the number of forecheckers declared by the forward's team is added to the forward's card value and the number of forecheckers declared by the defense's team is subtracted from their card (e.g. if Toronto declares 1 forechecker and Detroit declares 3; and if Toronto plays diamondQ versus Detroit's club10, then Detroit scores a goal with 10+2=12 vs. Toronto's 12-1=11). Injuries (if used - see below) prevent this rule from taking effect. Hat tricks (if used - see below) would be determined with the adjusted card values.
The jokers may be used to represent goons. They may play any position, and if used during a game they are automatically scored one goal against. They will also automatically injure the hockey player they are played against. As a result they are suspended for the remainder of the year (essentially the same as being injured too).
Exception: If a goon card is playing as a team's goalie and is played against the opposing team's goalie, then there is no effect and the goon can be played again in the next game.

Hat Tricks
A non-goalie face card (J, Q, K, A) scores two goals during a hockey game if it is played against a goalie card (Hearts) and is at least two times greater in numeric value; three goals (a hat trick) are scored if it is at least three times greater. Face cards are considered to have a numeric value of J=11, Q=12, K=13, and A=14 (e.g. if an Ace is played against a heart2, heart3, or heart4, then three goals are scored; if against a heart5, heart6, or heart7, then two goals are scored). Multiple goals cannot be scored during sudden-death overtime. If a team is playing short and without a goalie, then an automatic hat trick is scored if a face card is played as an extra card (otherwise only one goal is scored).

If during a game there is a tie between two cards and the cards are of opposite colour (i.e. red vs. black) then both of those players are injured for the year and are removed from the team temporarily to the side; when the year is over, if they have not retired, then they may fully rejoin the team to play in the next year.

Non-Scoring Goalies
Goalies (hearts) cannot score goals but can only prevent goals being scored against them.
Original Six
As a suggestion for a six player game, the team names must be the following:
  • Boston Bruins
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Montreal Canadiens
  • New York Rangers
  • Toronto Maple Leafs
Pulling The Goalie
During the Playoffs only, if a team is trailing by one goal during a game and both teams have only one card left to play each, the trailing team may announce that they are "pulling the goalie". The opposing team then plays their last card and then blindly and randomly picks a card from the team with the goalie pulled (including the last card not played). If the goalie card is picked, then it has a value of zero and an empty net goal is scored. Otherwise a straight card comparison is made.
In lieu of playing as goons (see above), the jokers can be used as "shadows". A shadow can play any position except goalie. For each shadow used, the team declares a card from the opposing team that will be "shadowed". If a shadow card happens to be played against a card that was declared as shadowed then the shadowed card does not score a goal. Otherwise one goal is automatically scored against the shadow's team.
Star Maintenance
Each manager starting with the first place team pays pennies for each face card (J, Q, K, A) they possess according to the following schedule:
  • J = 1 penny
  • Q = 1 penny
  • K = 2 pennies
  • A = 2 pennies
The maintenance is paid before the first round draft picks are started during the Off- Season. If a manager cannot afford to pay (or does not want to pay) then that face card becomes a free agent with bidding the same as for regular free agents (the original owner of the face card may also bid). If no one bids for the free agent then it is placed in the middle of the table and remains there until someone starts a round of impromptu bidding during the Regular Season or until it retires.
The Stanley Cup
A piece of paper with some graphical representation of the Stanley Cup trophy can be used to record the team names and years of the Stanley Cup winners. The "trophy" should be kept with whomever is the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
The maximum number of cards that can be possessed by any team is set at 10. If after all the free agents have been bid for but before the Regular Season starts, all teams that possess more than ten cards must place their extra cards on waivers. All the waivers are placed face up in front of their respective teams and a draft round is held. Waivers are selected in reverse order starting with the team who finished in last place. A team cannot have a waiver pick if it already has ten cards. A team may opt not to select if it does not want to but also may select as often as its turn comes around. If there are any waiver picks still available after everyone has had a chance to decline them, the hockey players on waivers are returned to their respective original teams.
Farm Teams
After all the free-agents have been drawn but prior to the start of the Regular Season, each team may declare to send up to two of their recently acquired rookies to a Farm Team. A rookie is any card just drawn from the deck of the current year as a draft choice or a free agent. To be eligible for the farm team, a rookie must be an extra card and not needed to complete a full 6-card team. The rookies are placed face down and separately to the side along with any draft choices the team has. No more cards may be sent to the Farm Team until the start of the subsequent year's Regular Season. Then any cards part of the Farm Team declared form the previous year are all immediately cashed in by placing them at the bottom of the deck of the previous year and drawing a new card from the top of the current year's deck for each one cashed in. These new draws cannot in turn be sent to the Farm Team but are now part of the regular team and retire normally. Cards may be called up from the Farm Team as needed by the team but once called up may not be sent back down again. Cards in the Farm Team may be traded to other Farm Teams as desired except that the total number of cards in any given team's Farm Team may not exceed three.
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Last updated: 10th June 2009