Beginnings: Beer League Hockey Players Speak Out

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Beer league hockey players
Scott Gilroy

More stories from beer league hockey players

 

 

Brian Altman (forward); Architect

“A very soft-spoken and gentle friend of mine, who was a fellow hockey father from my son’s youth team, had told me that he plays hockey and that I should also consider it. I was in such disbelief that he played that I decided to go check out one of his games.

“It was a Tuesday night at 10:45pm. Those guys didn’t look like they were moving very fast, so I figured if they can do it, so can I. So at the young age of 46 I started searching the internet for adult clinics in my area.

“I bought myself some used equipment, signed up for a lesson, and showed up that first night, eager to go. I basically just spun around out of control and swatted at the puck a couple of times. When the one-hour session was over, I was drenched in sweat and guzzled my bottle of water in total exhaustion.

“As I got in my car, I smiled to myself. I was officially hooked and have been taking clinics and playing on various teams ever since. I’ve played several sports over the years, but the teamwork needed, the effort you put forth, and the thrill of winning together as a team, simply can’t be matched by any other sport.”

 

“The only downside is the late games
and waking up at 4:30 am for work.
But it’s worth the tradeoff…”

 

Neil Hamilton (goaltender); Electrician

“I started playing roller hockey on Chicago “quads” in the street, shortly after my dad took me to see a New York Rangers-Boston Bruins game when I was a kid. Once I saw Bobby Orr, I needed no more! After a couple years of street hockey, I made it onto the ice. A neighborhood coach, Anthony Taranto, booked some ice time so we could practice and join the Greater New York City Ice Hockey League. I played left wing until I saw Andy Brown play maskless, in 1973. Also, I met Eddie Giacomin around that time and then decided goaltending was for me.

“I was a better goalie than a wing, so I started on the high school varsity team, while also playing on travel teams all over the northeast and Canada. After a few years, hockey didn’t seem as important as girlfriends and partying, so I gave my goalie equipment to my neighbor and became a mere spectator.

“Twenty years later, at 40 years of age I found myself developing some lazy habits (and a beer gut), so I decided I needed some sort of physical activity and outlet. So I joined a karate dojo where my wife worked as an instructor. I trained with a woman whose husband was an avid beer league hockey player. At some point, in my mid forties, I was asked by them, ‘Didn’t you use to play goalie as a kid? We always need goalies for our scrimmages. Why don’t you get some pads together and see if you don’t make a fool of yourself?’ So after almost 30 years, I was back!

“At those scrimmages I met some guys who played in a league, and then signed up. As far as the fitness and fun factors, nothing else can compare to hockey. The only downside is the late games and waking up at 4:30 am for work. But it’s worth the tradeoff…”


 

Dan Meltzer (defense); Social Worker

“For a long while I was going to evening public sessions at a local rink. Backwards, forwards, clockwise, and counter-clockwise turns around the rink soon got old. At the same time I started noticing guys dragging their CCM and Easton hockey bags in at around 9:00 pm, and eventually decided that hockey was the next logical step for me. So at age 50, having never so much as held a stick, I took up the sport.

“I then signed up to play in an organized league, took their eight beginner classes, and got assigned to a team. Ten years, a broken ankle, a dislocated shoulder and hundreds of games later, I’m still in it.”

 

Ira Handschuh (defense); Dentist

“As a child, my older brother and I were huge hockey fans, watching and playing street hockey. It was my brother who forced me to start skating, and once I entered high school, to start playing hockey. I organized pickup hockey games while in dental school, and eventually met a group of guys who have now been playing together for more than 15 years.

“Playing in both an Over 40 and Over 50 league is a fantastic form of relaxation from life’s daily routine, not to mention the strong friendships that have developed (it also leads to new clients, since I am a dentist!)”  Read on…

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4 COMMENTS

  1. 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.

  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 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!

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