Beer League Hockey Players Speak Out

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More stories from beer league hockey players

Greg Smith (forward); VP of Marketing and Corporate Communications

“As I was coming up on my 40th birthday, my oldest friend goaded me into joining an adult beginners’ hockey program, which he had joined a year or two earlier. I knew I could stickhandle a little bit from the roller hockey of my youth, and could ice skate a little bit too. Just not so much at the same time, I discovered.

“It was great fun and good exercise, so I invested in a new pair of skates. After a month or so, based on a teammate’s advice, I figured it was time to get my skates sharpened. The guy in the hockey shop looked at them and asked, ‘How long have you been using these? The blades are flat; they’ve never been sharpened at all.’ Apparently, contrary to my assumption, skates do not come pre-sharpened out of the box (good thing to know, so I am pleased to pass the knowledge on to other would-be beginners).

“Not surprisingly, having concave blades with sharp edges did wonders for my turning radius and other ice skating skills. However, another word of caution: after learning to cut tight turns on the edge of an ice skate, one should avoid using the same technique on roller blades. (Which brings up another potential article topic: Hockey bruises—where beer league hockey players get them and the astonishing range of colors they turn.)”

“Ten years, a broken ankle,
a dislocated shoulder
and hundreds of games later,
I’m still in it.”

Peter Noris (forward); President & Chief Investment Officer, insurance group

“I grew up by a river in New Jersey. Since it was a tidal river, the brackish water needed a solid week or two of freezing weather before it was safe enough to skate on. My mother will tell you that there were plenty of times we went onto the ice prematurely and paid the consequences. Anyway, there were also plenty of cold winters when the ice got even thick enough for ice boating (I guess global warming is a fact, as I haven’t heard of any ice boating in decades). Another feature of a tidal river is that the ice doesn’t touch the shoreline at high tide. Without any boards around our “rink” we needed to bring along extra pucks for the errant shots that went overboard.

“I started playing ‘organized hockey’ (if you want to call it that) in high school and college. But those were club teams and we didn’t bother with niceties, such as practice sessions or learning the fundamentals of skating, shooting, and stick handling. I guess that accounts for my skill level today.”

 

Bill Abram (defense, forward); IT Consultant

“I started playing at age 6, in northern Minnesota. We only had outdoor ice, which was in very good shape between Thanksgiving and Easter. I stopped playing at age 14 when all those northern Scandinavian kids got so much bigger and stronger than this (then) chubby Jewish kid. I played on a fraternity intramural team in college, and then stopped for 25 years.

“A business associate invited me to try out for a team in an organized league. I was nearly laughed out of the locker room when I showed up with 30-year-old steel-blade skates. Needless to say, I had to update all my equipment.

“When I started playing again, I was hoping to play until I was 50. Then I changed my mind and decided I could go to 55, then 60, and now I’m hoping to keep on skating until I’m 65. And then, we’ll see…”

Will Gensburg (forward); cross-border ecommerce

“I grew up in northeastern Vermont where hockey abounds. Seemingly you either skied or played hockey, but not both with any level of dedication, and I did the former. I laced up and played a game from time to time on a pond or two, but if I did that 5 times in my childhood and adolescence combined it was a lot (though the endless social laps at the rink on Friday nights after they built it in my high school sophomore year were more common).

“Fast forward to age 40. While nursing the latest touch-football injury, a friend asked me to consider signing up at “beginner school” with him to play in an organized league. My wife was enthusiastic about my participation (essentially she was trying to add up the hours I’d not be home snoring, drinking, or complaining), so me and my friend drove to a local arena and scrunched into a dank, cold room for a “meeting” with a bunch of similar characters (I am being kind). The grizzled curmudgeon running the meeting said that ‘this will be the most addicting thing you’ve ever done. Now go out and spend $800-plus on equipment. And get me a check for $500 for beginner school.’ OK—I’m in.

“Our first beginner session started at 10:30 on a February night, when it was 10 degrees below zero. At an outdoor rink with very poorly heated trailer-style locker rooms (‘Don’t worry, Will. It won’t always take an hour to put on your equipment,’ I was told). The (very good) instructor had a hairdo that would have done Def Leppard proud (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), all of which soon had me commenting to my friend, ‘For this we spent $1,300?!’

“Around the third session I started to get into a groove and noticed I was scoring at will—that is, until I was informed that it was against the rules to simply stand in front of the goalie all the time waiting for the puck to come back over the blue line so I could shoot.

“During my time in beginner school, I ran into quite a number of characters, including one notable who inexplicably sang at the highest decibel, ‘Koho, Koho, it’s off to skate we go’ every time he went by me. My friend noticed this as well, and we retaliated against this obnoxiousness in the only way we felt was right: When it came time to pick a captain for our first team, we led his campaign (Footnote: in my 11 years of playing I think I’ve had one year where I didn’t end up on a team with him).

“Rec hockey has been an awesome part of my life, way more than I ever could have imagined. It is exercise, competition, a social outlet (the ability to banter as we do is priceless), and just plain fun all rolled into one, year after year.”

Dave Shuster (forward); Tax Controversy Attorney

“I began with makeshift equipment, out of busted yardsticks, duct-taping “blade” to “shaft” and stickhandling with a Nerf ball in my parents’ basement at age 9 or so. My first “organized” game was a year later, a floor hockey game in a gym. I remember scoring 6 goals in something like a 7-3 victory, and I was hooked. I guess you could say that was my start.

“Playing on ice, though, didn’t happen for another 4 years, and since then I have played on and off sporadically. My most recent stint has been in a 50 and Over league for the last 2-plus years, driven by a desire to get back into playing a game that I then believed (and still do) has always been the best full-body workout. While that has kept me coming back for more, another reason, perhaps even more so, is the unique camaraderie of that league—playing with and against beer league hockey players that have, respectively, been opponents and teammates in the past.

“I support my habit by defending taxpayers against the tyranny of government during the day (and sometimes during nights and weekends).”

Benny Santella (center, defense); Accountant

“When I was young I skated on some of the local ponds. I had figure skates and mostly just skated for fun, occasionally grabbing a hockey stick if there was an extra one around. When I got to high school, a new friend tried to get me interested in hockey and playing on a local team sponsored and run by the recreation department. This meant buying a pair of hockey skates and some used equipment. Hockey skates were very difficult to get used to, but when I started playing I loved it. This rec team scrimmaged a lot of the local high school teams, and we were actually pretty competitive and beat some of them.

“I got better and better and played in some local house leagues for a year or two, and actually was on an “all-star/travel team” there. Then in college, I tried out for the hockey team; I made the team and played for 2 years there. After graduating I was a beer league hockey player for a couple of years. I really didn’t play any hockey for almost 20 years, until a new rink opened and so I joined the beer league hockey players at about the age of 40.”

Do you remember your first time as a beer league hockey players? Let us know in the comments below!

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I also have to put in a plug for Hockey North America — they have a beginner/developmental program in the cities they operate in, and many of my teammates started with that program when they were in their 30s and 40s. Theyve been improving up the ranks (C-level, B-level) while I have been working my way down (with time and age)… It’s fun to meet them in the middle

    • Go ahead and plug away, Chris. HNA is where I got my start in rec hockey over 23 years ago, and continue to play in that league to this day. And I can more than relate to your quip about time and age!

  2. Great post! I just wanted to emphasize what I have found in my experience in rec hockey, and I think it echoes many of your profiles — and it’s that rec/beer hockey is full of professionals and can be a great way to help develop your professional network as well. Many leagues will be intergenerational (some of my recent teams have 22 year olds alongside 50 year olds) and there is great opportunity for mentoring, career advice, etc. Plus, if you work for a large organization, you may very easily have 15 players amongst yourselves and can start a company team — we have two Big 4 accounting/consulting firms in DC that have teams, as do several Federal and other public sector agencies…

  3. I started playing in the beer leagues when I graduated high school. My friend’s dad called me up the third to last game of their season, saying that their goalie had quit so they needed one. Of course I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to play the sport that I grew up watching, loving, playing. I finished the games 2 W’s, 1 L.

    I started playing hockey when I was 5, just on foot. No one around me really played so I was in the driveway or the garage if it was winter (sorry Dad for all the broken windows growing up), so I enjoyed getting the feel for the stick and hockey ball. When I turned 6, I found some fellow hockey lovers like myself down the road. They insisted I try goalie. I threw on the pads and instantly got hooked, making big saves, not getting down on myself if I let in weak goals.

    So I stuck playing goalie growing up, on the street playing street hockey until I went to the community center. I found some new friends and hockey enthusiasts like me, only I was a goalie though. So ever since I was 6 I’ve been in net. Now I never got to play juniors or college (my mom and dad didn’t have the money), so now that I play ice hockey in a beer league it’s way different than street hockey. I’m giving my son however the opportunity I never had growing up. He’s been on his skates since he was 3 and doing excellent for his bulldog team.

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