In total, there are more than 8,000 hockey rinks in Canada. That’s the most in the world by a large margin. Russia, with about 3,000 rinks, and the United States, at about 2,000, are in second and third place, respectively. And Canada, relative to those other nations, is rather sparsely populated. (Canada’s population is about 35 million; Russia is at about 145 million and the United States has more than 325 million.) It should go without saying that hockey is rather popular among Canadians.
But even though there are a lot of rinks available, they’re not cheap. If you and some friends want to play some hockey, you’ll need to rent some ice time, and in some of the larger cities like Toronto, that can run a few hundreds of dollars an hour. There are plenty of amateur teams which get together on nights and weekends to do just that, and few things get in the way of a friendly hockey match. Even if one of your teammates gets sick or is otherwise unavailable, it’s typically not a big deal — there are plenty of men and women who want to lace up and skate alongside you.
But there’s one exception — if you don’t have a goalie, you may have a hard time convincing a teammate to suit up and tend to the net. As one Canadian amateur hockey player, Keith Hamilton, explained to NPR, “the equipment to play goalie is quite a bit more expensive than it is for a standard player. And I guess there’s also… not many people are super keen to stand in front of flying rubber pucks. They prefer to shoot them.”
And Hamilton would know. This particular breakdown in Canadian society is a meal ticket for him: he’s an amateur rent-a-goalie.
Hamilton, by day, is a musician whose bands makes a few bucks here and there playing in local clubs in the Toronto area. It’s not enough to get by, so Hamilton also makes itself available to mind the net, for a fee. If you have $50 Canadian, you can hire him through a goalie rental service. The agency takes 20%; Hamilton and his fellow netminders-for-hire take the rest.
That’s not a lot on a per-game basis — accounting for exchange rates, it only comes to about $30 per gig. It does add up, though, and Hamilton plays the role of mercenary hockey often. In February of 2019, he told the New York Times that he “averages 10 games a week,” earning about than C$1,600 a month. Over the past eight years, he’s made more than C$100,000. Not bad for a 10-15 hour a week hobby.
The money aside, for Hamilton and the other rent-a-goalies out there, it’s time well spent. Beyond the paycheck, he’s helping his fellow hockey fans play the game they love. As he told NPR, “The vast majority – they’re just super grateful that I’m there. And if we play, if we get a win then they’re even more grateful. But even if we lose — just the fact that they didn’t lose the opportunity to play their game — they’re always quite grateful. I helped them save the game.”
From the Archives: Let’s Sweep the Ice!: It’s not hockey. It’s curling.