Page 10 - VigoreChicago1

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Only a few men make their way
onto the ice at first, warming up with laps
and stretching along the boards. More
players join them, their steel blades digging
and scraping across the frozen playing
surface until the rink fills with the sound of
crunching ice and pucks pounding against
the boards. The skaters eventually split into
their respective teams and begin an
informal game in which the score is called
out loud and play rarely stops. They seem
at first to be just like any other group of
amateur hockey players, anxious to take
advantage of every second of ice time, if
not for the one important statistic that
brings this
group of
their age.
Silver Hockey Club is intended for hockey
players 50 years of age and older, offering a
chance for the men to keep taking to the ice
even though their physical prime may have
already skated past. These veteran players
come from a variety of backgrounds and
locations to attend the Saturday morning
skate, which takes place at
Johnny's Ice
House West
in Chicago, Illinois, a new rink
and practice location for the NHL's
Chicago Blackhawks
Most players are on their feet by 5 AM in
order to make the 7:30 AM puck drop. One
player drives the nearly 300 mile trip from
Detroit to Chicago every other week just to
join the skate. Anyone who frequents
Johnny's or the rink's pro shop, Gunzo's,
knows the skate's organizer as Tommy or
Big G. His long gray ponytail and
admission that he's been skating for around
50 years might suggest he has skated his
share of laps around the rink, but his
childlike exuberance on the ice and love for
the game still shows on his face every
Tommy organizes the skate via email (Evite
Invitation) and puts the rosters together
each week, posting the new teams and
schedules in the locker room. He also calls
in replacements as
early as 5:30 AM and
sometimes calls for a
sub right up until
puck drop. But
Tommy has no
problem filling the
two team, twenty
two man rosters,
because in this
popular club there
are replacements who are anxious for an
invitation to play. The high interest for
Silver Hockey is not surprising after
watching the players take the ice.
Though they may range in skill and
experience level, their love for the game is
readily apparent as they zip up and down
the ice. Teams compete until one squad
scores five goals. Then, everyone takes a
breather, goalies get a squirt or two of
water and switch ends before the puck
drops for another game. With no referees
and no face offs, the games consist entirely
of back and forth action, which makes
skating and passing critically important
skills in Silver skate play.
Moments of exceptional athleticism,
though few, are generally accompanied by
groans but result in smiles and cheers from
the benches. Despite knee replacements
and bad backs, rheumatism and arthritis,
even cancer and heart bypasses, men lace
up their skates each week and compete.
Each Saturday, the thump of the puck
against the goalie's pads or the crisp tic-tic
of a quick passing play are the sounds of
the Silver Hockey members letting the
world know they are still alive. Most of
them would agree that
the times of staying up
all night and playing
the next morning are
long past, but the
enthusiasm remains.
Saturday afternoon
naps are surely a
regular occurrence,
though no one
discusses it in the
locker room. The camaraderie built
between the players is one thing that keeps
them going, ignoring the voices that might
try to say they are, "too old" or "too tired."
These men are just like young boys on the
pond, with friendly ribbing eventually
resulting in nicknames for many of the
regulars, including: "Federalist", "High
School Boy" "the Stork", "Hef", "the Eagle".
These players ended up with pretty safe
nicknames, but others were not so lucky.
Chicago Lifestyle Over 50
What do Chicago area executives,
tradesmen,surgeons,lawyers, lobbyists,
bankers, musicians, and business owners
all have in common
ave in common
The players are old enough
to remember Gordie Howe
with dark hair and
Bobby Hull real teeth