Getting out of bed Monday is a lot more fun if you can sneak a little hockey before work.
That may be the secret behind Houston’s popular morning hockey league—a mix of teachers, foresters and others who have cheated the work-week blahs every Monday and Friday morning for more than 15 years.
“It makes it fun to get up in the morning,” says goaltender Chad Chartier.
Chartier and the other 20 or so players who make each game roll into Houston’s Claude Parish arena at about 6 a.m. They hit the ice for a quick warm-up at 6:30, divvy up into one of six team combinations and play hard until 7:30.
That leaves just a half hour to shower off, drive to work and slide behind a desk, but Chartier said the wake-up makes it all worthwhile.
“It’s a good way to start a work day,” he said, stepping off the ice after a game. “Go out and have some fun before you start!
This is Chartier’s second full year in the morning league, and only his third-ever year playing as a goaltender.
The fun-loving league attracts players with widely ranging skill levels said Paul Wandler, a defenceman who doubles as league president.
Wandler said he could “barely skate” until his mid-thirties. He said he got the hockey bug after watching his son and daughter play for Houston Flyers teams.
“I ended up skating more and more, taking a bit of Power Skating, and now I’m zooming around the ice,” Wandler said. “It’s awesome—I wanted to do it as a kid but never did.”
To keep injuries down, morning leaguers play old-timer rules—no body checks and no slap shots.
“We look for the type of player that fits our mould,” Wander said.
If a player knocks another down by accident, Wandler said it’s the kind of game where you stop and check on them.
“If anyone does get hurt, it’s more because of age,” he added, laughing.
Seven of the 25 players who signed up for this season are women, Wandler said, which also helps set a good tone.
Most morning players are in their late thirties to mid-fifties, though one of the all-important goalies is just 17.
Wandler said they almost always have two goalies, but there is spare equipment in case someone has to stand in.
“I try to avoid it like the plague,” Wandler said, chuckling. “There is an art to being a goalie.”
Houston’s morning league usually plays about 50 games a year, and they also hold two day-long tournaments in October and March.
Burns Lake usually puts a team together, as does Smithers, which modelled its own morning hockey league on Houston’s.
Joining the league is relatively inexpensive if you can get a spot, said Wandler—the team usually has a waiting list of people who want in on the action.
“You get some exercise and have some fun,” he said. “That’s our motto.”