Ed McCash and company have thought about reaching out to the media before. It seemed like the kind of thing you’d want to do if you were a 37-year-old local hockey league looking to remind people that there is, in fact, a 37-year-old local hockey league right here in Centre County.
Usually the idea is left to fall by the wayside and it’s not because club leadership lacks the savvy or that a group of seasoned hockey players has an issue with being aggressive.
McCash is just acutely aware that if he invites a bunch of folks over to play hockey, he runs the risk of them actually showing up.
“We don’t really want to grow that much,” said McCash, acting commissioner of the Nittany Hockey League.
But maybe give them a call anyway. If you’re easy enough to get along with on the ice, space can usually be made in Tuesday’s weekly pickup games. Slots on one of the league’s 12 regularly standing teams do occasionally open up.
McCash’s reticence to explore the possibility of teams 13 or 14 has more to do with scheduling than anything else. Most of their games are played at Pegula Ice Arena, where adult hockey players don’t exactly have the world on a string.
During the week, face-offs can start as late as 9 p.m., but players can at least count on having Saturday nights free as the first game of the day usually gets going just after dawn. The odd hours haven’t stopped folks from showing up, though.
“You get to dress up in a hockey outfit. That’s not to be underestimated how fun that is,” McCash said.
Fun — or the coveting of it — was why the league was founded in the first place. Tom Ray said he and a few other local hockey dads were tired of watching their kids monopolize the ice.
By 1981, all of that buzz gave way to an honest-to-goodness hockey league. There were only four teams back then and Ray sometimes still wouldn’t stumble into bed until close to midnight.
He has no regrets.
“There’s a lot of people who really love the game of hockey and to be able to play it even the small amount that I did, I think it was good for me,” Ray said.
Jay Horgas has been with the league since 1982. He started as a player and gradually came to assume the role of default referee. He excepts that a little good-natured (and some not so good-natured) ribbing is part of the gig.
They dish it out and he serves it right back in what amounts to the social component of the game.
“I’m the youngest of five kids. You can pretty much say anything you want to me. It doesn’t bother me,” Horgas said.
A piping hot one-liner is about as dangerous as they want to get. The league doesn’t allow checking and players who behave as though they’re competing for a spot in the other NHL alongside Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane are asked to leave.
Individual skill levels vary from team to team. Age is another shifting variable, but you have to be at least 18 before you’re eligible for membership.
Last fall, 53-year-old Rick Goulet spearheaded an offering called 40 Plus. Men of a certain age were provided a four-game window where they didn’t have to worry about keeping up with those darn kids.
Response was strong enough that an additional eight 40 Plus games were scheduled for the spring. Goulet is delighted but not surprised.
“I think it’s just for the love of the game. The game is a lot of fun to play,” Goulet said.