CHECK THE COMPETITION » Leagues run throughout winter, so now is a good time to gauge the level of play in your area. You'll likely have a choice of teams, so it's worth investigating before plunking down money to join a league. Contact USA Hockey (www.usahockey.com), amateur hockey's governing body, or simply Google "adult hockey" in your townmost ice rinks run their own leagues.
SEEK PARITY » Avoid leagues where the games are too often one-sided. The larger the league, the more likely it is that the talent will be evenly distributed. The only downside could be travel time, since in big-city leagues you may end up crossing town to find your games.
SIGN UP » If you've played before, you'll start with a tryout, during which team captains draft players. Beginner? No problem. Join a learn-to-play class. Most novice workshops include eight to ten on-ice instructional sessions and culminate with students forming teams or joining established squads. Many rinks also offer pay-as-you-go pickup games, which are great if you need a flexible schedule.
QUICK START» WHERE TO PLAY BIG-CITY HOCKEY
Boston New England Senior Hockey League (www.neshl.com)
Chicago Greater Chicago Adult Hockey League (www.gcahl.com)
Dallas Dr Pepper StarCenter (www.drpepperstarcenter.com)
Denver Sun Microsystems Ice Centre (www.icecentrehockey.com)
Houston Bay Area Houston Hockey Association (www.bahha.org)
Jacksonville Jacksonville Skate World (www.jaxskateworld.com)
Los Angeles Anaheim Ice (www.anaheimice.com)
Minneapolis Adult Hockey Association (www.ahahockey.com)
New York Sky Rink, Chelsea Piers (www.chelseapiers.com)
Philadelphia Flyers Skate Zone (www.flyersskatezone.com)
Phoenix Coyotes Adult Hockey League (www.coyotesice.com)
san Diego San Diego Ice Arena (www.sdice.com)
Seattle Greater Seattle Hockey League (www.gshockey.com)