(The Northwest Chicago THL group photo from the May 2015 gathering. Photo courtesy Don Klimek, who is in the center in the white T-shirt.)
A feature where we’ll spotlight a different table hockey league each issue. Questions were posed to NW Chicago THL founder Don Klimek.
Northwest Chicago Table Hockey League
Founded: Our first event was held March 8, 2014 after almost a year of planning and preparation.
Administrators: Don Klimek and Eric Krol have a joint partnership each handling different components of the operation. I also organize, analyze, and report the “B” and “C” (intermediate/beginner) class players that I keep separate data for, which is a mission objective for the group.
Origins: I had run a Munro league when I was in grammar school and assisted with school tournaments then. It was quite different but very popular. I wanted to try again following my first USTHA event at the 2012 US Open in Lemont. There, the wonderful people and organizers helped me so much to start the league. The list of support is so long.
Where do you play? We play at the Salt Creek Park District Twin Lake Golf Course Clubhouse in Palatine, IL. Palatine is about 30-45 minutes northwest of downtown Chicago. We have use of large rooms and the facility. The lightning and staff are especially excellent.
Format for league play: We follow the USTHA rules and are sanctioned by the organization. We conform to the event and game table requirements. Typically, we’ll play a double or triple round robin over three hours, depending on the number of players. If we get enough rookies, we put them in a separate group and have one cross-over round. We start at 7 p.m. and try to finish by 10 p.m.
Recent history/news: The league was conceived to help grow the sport, and train and improve the intermediate and beginners classes with a regular series of game play. This is also used as a practice to prepare us all for the USTHA events.
We have pushed to recruit new members, and there are plans for 2016 to widen our marketing, especially since we are across the street from ice rinks that are associated with the Chicago Blackhawks. I coached at these rinks and several of our members played ice hockey with the Chargers, the local program.
The first league night started with Buster Barton’s promotion from “B” to the “A” class. His performance since in these and other USTHA events has proven that correct.
Advice for would-be organizers? A good place to play is key to the league, along with a core group of experienced players. I searched many locations of widely varying limitations and got lucky here.
Build a core group and go from there. As in marketing in real life it takes a long time to build and patience must be strong. And if lucky, have such wonderful help from the USTHA and the regular “A” players who I can always count on.
What’s next for the NW Chicago THL? Continue to increase the number of new players. We have had 25 different people join us for at least one time so far. Unfortunately some play only once as they see how far they have to go. This is one of the keys to our mission, to not have the new players become so intimidated that they give up.
We sometimes setup an event with the all the beginner’s in one separate group where they play each other. One or two each round are scheduled to
come to the other tables for inter-conference play. So while they mostly
play each other, they do rotate through the “A” and “B” players to gain that learning experience.
Those that appeared only once played on days when not enough new people showed up to easily allow a beginner-only group. So separation is key.
(Setting up the games.)