Hockey? is a first person hockey game by Cryptic Sea, developer of other games such as Bridge Builder, A New Zero, Gish, and Sub Rosa. Unlike other sports games there are no prerendered animations. All movement of the player and stick is directly controlled by the keyboard and mouse, allowing players to improvise and create their own moves. Rather than being limited by a narrow set of animations, the only limitations are physics, and the player's skill. Because of this, hockey?'s skill curve is very steep. Fortunately there are leagues for players of all skill levels, so even new players can play competitively.
At the moment there are two versions of hockey. The version that is played competitively is version 0.55f. There is also a prototype version being updated occasionally, currently at 0.62a. In its current state it is still not ready for competitive play, but it promises several improvements such as puck-body collision, and more realistic physics. Unfortunately, for some reason neither of the most up to date versions are available on the game's website, but links to both can be found on the community subreddit.
At first you're going to be terrible. It's a fact. Everyone who plays this game starts out almost completely useless. Once you get the hang of the controls and can start to focus on team play rather than not losing the puck, you'll get better very quickly.
When you're first starting out, playing on a server by yourself might be helpful to get the hang of stickhandling without having the puck constantly taken from you. However, you should move on to public servers after a while, since playing with ping affecting your movements is very different than practicing alone. Once you've got the basics down, most players will want to join a league.
Currently there are several leagues available depending on your skill and location.
The first North American League. This league only plays on Fridays, and is less competitive than the LHL. Starting this season the league will be split into an upper and lower division, with 2 team promotion and relegation at the end of the season. To join the HQML simply find a team that wants to sign you, or create your own team at the beginning of the season. This is currently handled on the subreddit, but will soon be moving here.
The other top level North American League, LHL is entering its 5th season. This league is more competitive and set up more like the NHL. Unlike HQML players do not make their own teams. Instead there is an NHL style draft at the beginning of each season. There are currently 9 teams in the LHL. Currently signing up for the league is also done at the subreddit.
Formerly affiliated with the LHL, this is a minor league aimed at newer players. All players not chosen in the LHL draft can be signed in the subsequent RSL draft.
Founded in 2011, the IPHL is the oldest hockey? league, and contains some of the world's most skilled players. It caters mostly to Russian and Eastern European players. Unlike the North American leagues, the IPHL holds a few tournaments a year, rather than have regular seasons with playoffs. Teams in the IPHL tend to last much longer than teams in the North American leagues, which are often broken apart at the end of the season. IPHL teams often keep the same team with only a few roster changes for several years. The European Leagues are mostly organized around Vk, the Russian equivalent of facebook.
A more recent league created as a minor league for IPHL.