EAST LANSING, Michigan (WILX) – When the hockey boys take over the locker room, don the gear and lace up the skates, the rink will soon be played.
This is senior hockey.
They call themselves the Lansing Merchants Hockey Association: a group of guys who just love to play.
But man when they play, they play.
It’s almost a brotherhood, you know? said Ralph Shaheen, 71. We take care of each other, we look out for each other, we make sure everyone plays well, if someone gets hurt, we stop immediately.
In this league there isn’t a list of injured people with disabilities per se, but: over the years we’ve lost a bunch of guys…certainly to uh…death — dying, said Gary Gammage, 77.
This group has grown in numbers over the years and has quite a rich history.
It started in the old Lansing Ice Arena days on Lake Lansing Road there…30 and up…40 and up…and then it turned 50, said 62-year-old Tom Hunt with a chuckle.
And now the players in the league are an assortment of ages: 62, 71, 77 and 78.
Hunt, when asked what he thinks of the older players, says: There my heroes.
It takes us more time to dress like you said than to play, Gammage said.
We’ll just play for an hour and then rehydrate, Shaheen said.
Shaheen, a goalkeeper, is a regular on the ice and a well-known Lansing car dealer.
He never played hockey until he met former Michigan hockey coach Ron Mason.
Ron gave me some gear and I was literally standing on a tripod as I held myself up with a stick and he grabs the puck and he says, Come on, get the puck off me, and he starts to skate well backwards, Shaheen said. I wanted to poke the puck and fell and broke my collarbone… the first time I came out.
They ran car dealerships, they had tool and mold shops, one even a shoe warehouse. And now they play hockey here together.
This is a religion for these guys; they don’t play occasionally. It’s twice, some guys 3 times a week.
And they don’t play for blood.
No, they just play for each other.
Why are they playing at 77?
It’s fun and a great exercise.
How long do you want to keep doing this, I ask them.
As long as I can, Hunt says.
It’s the best thing in life, says Gammage.
To that I say: Skate on boys.
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