Sunday, February 24, 2008

AMHL Thursday: Obeying Orders



Thursday February 21, 2008

"No talking to the media," Dave "Mr. Hockey" Losier tells us after our 7–4 victory over the Bruins.

Our captain doesn’t want our egos to inflate as we tell the hockey world about the Avalanche’s 6–1–1 record. With five games remaining in the regular season, we lead the Panthers by three points; Losier doesn’t want us to get too cocky. He doesn’t want to read about us in the paper.

“Too late,” I reply.

I spoke with a legitimate member of the media last week but not about the Avalanche per se. Melissa Reiner interviewed me and two other AMHlers—Stow’s Bobby Kilkenny and Paul Anastas—for The Stow Independent’s piece about our league.

Losier orders me to post Reiner’s story. When Mr. Hockey issues a command, I obey. Even if he contradicts himself.

So here's the text (with permission from The Stow Independent).

February 20, 2008
By Melissa Reiner

It’s 5:51 a.m. on Tuesday and Bob Kilkenny’s alarm clock is sounding. He’s been awake for awhile, thinking about the cup of joe he’ll enjoy after an early-morning workout at Valley Sports in Concord. It’s not that the coffee is that good. Actually, it’s average at best. But it’s the hockey that keeps him coming back.

Twice a week Kilkenny arrives at the rink just after six o’clock – sometimes still in his pajamas – and by 6:30, he and about a dozen others take to the ice for a friendly game of five-on-five. Members of the A.M. (as in early-morning) Hockey League, they’re part of a growing number of local hockey groupies who are willing to gather in the wee hours of the morning – and night – to play a sport they’re as addicted to as that daily jolt of caffeine.

“We’re old men… we never get primo ice time,” laughed Kilkenny, 41, one of several Stow players in the 18-and-over adult league. “The alternative is to play at 11 o’clock at night. But then again, I would do just about anything to play hockey.”

He’s not alone. The AMHL, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, has enough players – women included – to fill 12 teams that play on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings throughout the year. (Plans for a Friday session are currently in the works.) Fairness in the league is paramount: Trades are allowed if a team is unfairly stacked with talent, and all teams make the playoffs. The champion is awarded the aptly-named “Koffey Cup” trophy.

Kilkenny, who laced up his first pair of blades as a five-year-old growing up in Maynard, skates Tuesdays and Wednesdays before heading to his day job straight from the rink. “Most guys bring their work clothes to the locker room and shower there,” he said. “We do it to get out, get some exercise and to have fun.”

But mostly they do it for the coffee, crullers and conversation that have become a morning ritual after every game. “The coffee is pretty horrible,” said Kilkenny, “but all week long I look forward to it.”

Jim Dwyer of Maynard plays every Thursday and carpools to work with his goalie. He looks forward to his post-game walnut crunch and chocolate frosted donuts almost as much as donning his Avalanche jersey each week. “I think about other things, but hockey and donuts are never far from my mind,” he said.

Dwyer, formerly of Stow, is so passionate about amateur hockey that he’s currently penning a book about his experiences. “AMHL Glory: A Passion for Morning Hockey (and Donuts)” is nearly complete and awaiting publication. “It started out being about the league,” said Dwyer, 44, “but the more I started writing, it turned into my hockey memoir.”

In the book, Dwyer reminisces about everything from lacing up his first pair of skates to bonding over Rangers’ games with his father. He says hockey is enmeshed in the culture of New England. “There are a lot of knowledgeable hockey people here,” he said, “partly because of (former Boston Bruins’ defenseman) Bobby Orr. For a lot of people, he was their favorite player growing up.”

Stow resident Paul Anastas still bleeds black and gold. “I think every kid in New England played street hockey and watched the Bruins growing up,” said Anastas, 44, who moonlights for the Wednesday morning Sabres in the AMHL.

A late-bloomer by hockey standards, Anastas was a wrestler who didn’t pick up a stick until age 26. “For me, one of the reasons I play is the camaraderie and the bond that the guys share,” he said. “But there’s also something special about the game. It’s unlike any sport I’ve ever played.”

Anastas has helped organized the first all-Stow team to participate in this spring’s Chowder Cup Adult Hockey Tournament April 23-27th in Marlboro. Their moniker? The aptly-named Stow Brewins.

Now, can somebody pass the butternut crunch donuts, please?
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