Kevin Barnas loves to host gatherings for his adult hockey team, the Cavemen.
The guys bring their families, and usually the entertainment ends up in Barnas’ basement. It’s an area Barnas has dubbed “Hockey Central.”
It’s a shrine of sorts, paying homage to the Cavemen. It’s a hodgepodge of hockey items, including seven banners the team has received for winning various USA Hockey-sanctioned tournaments over the years, a few lockers, jerseys, bags, gloves, can coolers, flags and cardboard USA Hockey displays.
It’s an impressive collection amassed over the 11-year history of the Cavemen.
“It really just shows a sense of accomplishment,” said Barnas, who is a founding member of the Lansing, Michigan-based team.
The Cavemen team members will also congregate at the Barnas household and watch Detroit Red Wings games on television.
“There’s a hockey net in his basement,” said longtime Cavemen player Doug Moran. “We’ll go downstairs and play H-O-R-S-E — right cross bar. He has a bucket so we can sauce it in there. It’s a lot of fun. My kids go down there and play.”
Barnas and Moran are the only two guys on the team who have been a part of all seven championships won over the years in various tournaments.
Every time the Cavemen capture a championship banner, all the players sign their name. Their legacy is forever etched in stone, or in this case, on the priceless banners that find their way into Barnas’ shrine.
The Cavemen have played in every USA Hockey-sanctioned tournament in Lansing and Kalamazoo since 2007. The guys love competing in USA Hockey events and make it a point to enter in multiple teams when at all possible.
“There are probably three teams who identify as Cavemen, maybe even four teams,” said Sean Huberty, who has been on the Cavemen for about six years. “We play at different levels, and we’re focused on fun for sure.”
The Cavemen have had a lot of success in their home state, winning in Kalamazoo in 2014 (Bronze 21 Division), 2015 (Bronze 21), 2016 (Novice 21) and 2017 (Novice 21) plus another in Lansing in 2012 (Novice). They also won tournaments in Las Vegas (Bronze 21) and Brighton, Michigan (Bronze 30), both in 2016.
“Anytime you win, it’s always more fun,” Moran said. “But win or lose, we always have fun. It’s an experience just to get to travel with a group of guys, and also the families; the kids are invited, the girlfriends are invited, the wives are invited.
“It’s not just a boys’ trip somewhere; it’s a family trip.”
Yes, it’s a family affair at the tournaments for the Cavemen. The guys wouldn’t want it any other way.
“We make it so much more than just a weekend of guys,” Barnas said. “We bring the whole clan. We really enjoy hearing the people cheer for us in the stands; they’ve got their own jerseys and hoodies. We make a weekend out of it.”
Barnas — who is 45 and didn’t pick up hockey until he was 31 when his boys started playing — is the ringleader for the group. He’s the one who organizes all the tournaments, books travel arrangements and locks down houses for the gang to stay in.
“He’s a really organized guy, and without him a lot of these things wouldn’t happen,” Huberty said. “He’s a master planner and we’re very appreciative of his work in signing us up for these tournaments and getting all the logistics squared away and notifying us well ahead of time so we can make work adjustments, all that kind of stuff.”
Last year, when the Cavemen traveled to Las Vegas, Barnas spent two years planning the trip. In all, 24 players and family members made the trek to Nevada. It was well worth the time and expense as the Cavemen brought a banner back home to “Hockey Central.”
“It was probably one of the most memorable moments on the ice and we absolutely burst into tears when we won the thing,” Barnas said.
It’s those memories with teammates and families that will last a lifetime that are much more important for the players than the banners.
“We do so much on the ice and off the ice together as a group,” Barnas said. “It’s about making those relationships and it’s a true sense of family. We get those together for cookouts, hockey games, dinners. We actually move peoples’ weddings because a tournament’s coming up.
“Hockey’s a way of life, it’s my therapy. I tell my wife, I need my therapy.”
The Cavemen, which played in the Nashville Adult Classic in early November, love to have fun on the ice and never take the games too seriously. That’s a major requirement for players who are looking to join the team. A new person has to play loose and be a good teammate at all times.
“If someone’s not behaving properly, we will call them out,” said the 39-year-old Moran. “This is not a competitive skate, this is for fun. This is fun time, this is family time. This is grow your skills time.
“He’s created that environment where everybody’s welcome regardless of skill.”
Huberty, who is 38 and plays goalie, noted the team adds about one or two new players per season.
“Kevin’s really careful about who those people are going to be, making sure more than anything they’ll fit with our team and act responsibly and be a good friend,” Huberty said.
Barnas is going to keep having fun on and off the ice with his teammates and continue to book the Cavemen in USA Hockey tournaments all around the country. It’s Barnas’ passion.
“I’m going to grow old and die playing this game,” Barnas said. “I want to keep doing it as long as possible.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.