been playing in it for 3 years now...I think it is a little expensive for what you get especially since they've been stripping it down year after year.
Teams tend to enter in lower divisions to win more. For example, last year I found out that one of the beginner division teams I was playing against had a player who was playing for the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds (the captain actually). We figured out a way to beat them in the 3rd round of the playoffs but like I said, be prepared for destruction if you don't have a team that has some experience.
As for roughness, it really, really depends on who you play. I've had pleasant games where the other team will actually apologize for tripping you and genuinely say "good game" even when they lose though these teams are few and far between. Most of the time teams will do whatever it takes to win. I've seen whole team brawls occur on more than one occasion.
Reffing is a serious issue as they are all volunteers. I once had a 13 year old kid ref a game (and his mom was there too!) so it was kinda hard for him to crack the whip on penalties and stuff. It kinda got out of hand with the other team swearing at him when he called them for penalties. I've also had another ref who called me for hooking the guys stick! Some refs I've noticed even watch the game in the next rink and forget what the score is.
Make sure you know the rules. There are some odd ones like when you are allowed to cross centre after a goal is scored and what the many types of penalties are. Of course, each ref will call the rules as they see fit and my team's had to pull the rule book out on a ref or two to settle something.
Last year my team had a debacle where we had a game rescheduled and they updated the online schedule but not on the main "master scoreboard" so the game went on as planned originally and we were given a forfeit for not showing even though the online schedule was up-to-date. So we lost that game and had to seed lower for the playoffs. Just make sure you pay attention only to the physical master scoreboard for your schedule cuz that really pissed me off that we didn't get to play one of our games when we already have to pay over $50 for 3 games min.
Overall, there are few good things I have to say about it except that it is so much fun playing hockey I keep coming back. Sorry to be a downer!