BOLINGBROOK – Old school hockey is alive and well in Bolingbrook.
Every Friday since Oct. 4, a group of about 50 players – all of whom are at least 50 years old – are burning the midnight oil, competing in the inaugural season of the Hockey Five-0, recreational league at local Rocket Ice Arena.
There are currently four teams – the Gray Wolves, Olde Tyme Hockey, Pond Hockey and the Rusty Blades – rotating game slots and opponents, either playing at 9:30 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. on Fridays.
All the players, including the goalies, wear full pads and helmets, and each individual was physically evaluated prior to the league commencement. While the game pace is still fast, all checking and rough play is banned from the league.
Established by Bolingbrook brothers Don and Dave Bolger, as well acquaintances Don Shedor, Dave Carlson and Charlie Zarazecki, Hockey Five-0 arose from a mutual want for a non-competitive league with men their own age.
“I have played hockey my whole life – my mom says I was born with a hockey stick in my hand,” Dave Bolger said. “But I reached a point where I could no longer compete at a high intensity level. I needed something fun and relaxing that was still ‘hockey.’”
A former minor league hockey player, Dave Bolger insists that competitive spirit is sometimes hard to quell, explaining that he’s played in men’s leagues that often became too physical.
“Hockey is a contact sport,” Dave Bolger said. “It’s a fast, physical game and can sometimes get chippy. But at my age, I cannot do that anymore. Everyone in Hockey Five-0 is out here to have fun.”
His brother, Don, agreed, adding that playing a sport requiring extensive communication is a great way to build and foster friendships.
“Hockey is the ultimate communication sport and presents a great opportunity to really get to know these guys,” Don Bolger said, pointing to his teammates. “You have to always know who is coming off the ice, who is going on the ice. It’s a lot of fun.”
Don Bolger knows a lot about communication techniques, too. The 54-year-old is currently employed as an instructor at the Illinois Center for Broadcasting and has been in the broadcast field for more than 25 years.
Communication and chatter among teammates must increase as hockey players age, Don Bolger said. As athletes age, they are unable to battle along boards, finish checks, chase the puck into an opposing zone and make precision cuts, he added.
Although Hockey Five-0 team captains attest that they now have to approach the game differently – longer warm-ups, more stretches and staying hydrated – they are still having as much fun now as they were as children and young men.
“I have played recreational hockey since I was young, but never played for an organized league until I met this group of guys,” Don Bolger said. “It might be the most fun I’ve ever had on the ice.”