League allows older players to put love for hockey on ice

AT PLAY

Piney Orchard teams come for the competition and stay for the socializing

October 26, 2005|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Bill Kerruish knew plenty about hockey while growing up. His father played with the old Buffalo, N.Y., team in the American Hockey League, but the lure of the sport never attracted Kerruish - until he became an adult.

Kerruish, a Severn resident, started playing the game when he was about 26 in a Baltimore league before moving to Piney Orchard's Adult Hockey League in 1993. When the 44-year-old government employee is not coaching the Hazmats in the Piney Orchard League, he is playing the sport.

His hockey career started when a co-worker got him interested in the game, and Kerruish eventually joined a league for beginners in Baltimore. But when the drive to Baltimore proved too much, Kerruish made the move to Piney Orchard Ice Arena.

Kerruish loved the game from the start and, like many others, says just getting a chance to play has been the best thing about this league. As coach, Kerruish gets to select players on the team. Kerruish said that's what he enjoys the most because it lets him keep "hot dogs" off the team.

The Hazmats don't try to imitate National Hockey League teams. This is just a group of guys who have been together for quite a while and enjoy playing hockey.

"We don't win a whole lot any more; it comes and goes," he said. "We've had some tough seasons, but we just like to remain competitive."

That's what this program is about: getting a chance to play good hockey and hanging out with some friends while doing it. The program runs almost all year long over two sessions.

The fall league starts this week and runs through May, with a total of 21 games plus playoffs.

A second season runs from May through September. That one lets teams play 18 games plus the playoffs. Teams are split into three divisions based upon ability, and there's no checking - although incidental contact is allowed.

Games are occasionally played on Sunday afternoons, but most are on weekdays, starting about 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. There are times when Kerruish doesn't get home until around midnight and needs to get into work by 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. That can be taxing both physically and mentally, but he doesn't mind.

"For the guys on our team, and I've got to imagine it's the same for other teams, it's not enough to keep you in shape, but it keeps the blood pumping," Kerruish said. "A lot of guys use it as a release. After the game, we relax together. It gives us a chance to [kick back]."

Piney Orchard general manager/hockey director Gary Cremen said the league has been in place since the rink opened in 1990, and this fall's league has about 325 skaters in 20 teams in the three divisions.

It's one of the rink's most popular programs. There also are many players who have competed together on the same team for very long stretches - like the Hazmats.

"It's a good place for guys to play, and our times are reasonable," Cremen said. "It's [about] playing with their buddies and going somewhere after the game and relaxing."

Cremen said the league is always full. The rink can't handle a league with more than 22 teams in it, so this group can't grow much more.

Piney Orchard is the Washington Capitals' training facility, but the team is scheduled to move to a new home in Virginia next season. However, Cremen said that won't affect the league because the Capitals work out earlier in the day.

The league finds players from all over the local hockey map. There are many Anne Arundel athletes, but players come in from the Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland, Baltimore and elsewhere.

Dave Bishop drives to compete in this league. The 36-year-old Ellicott City resident didn't participate in the game until about eight years ago when a friend suggested he try the sport.

Bishop, who is the coach/captain of the Renegades in the C League, knew about hockey from his younger days on the Jersey Shore, when he played street hockey.

But Bishop was immediately hooked when he tried it on the ice, and that's a big reason he's played for so long.

"It's fast; it's fun; it's good exercise," said Bishop, who works in financial services. "It's good being around the guys in the locker room. I had skated before but never really played on an organized basis, and I loved it."

Josh Land is one of the league's younger players. The 23-year-old Laurel resident works in communications and began playing hockey at age 8. He's played for the White Caps in the B Division for about four years.

Land serves as the team's assistant captain. He's a big Washington Capitals fan and said the league lets him keep having fun with his favorite sport.

"It was a way to play competitive hockey," Land said. "I think there's just a good group of teams here. It's just a good place to play."

jseid1234@yahoo.com

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