Chicago is a town steeped in hockey tradition.
The Blackhawks rule the area, and adults who play the sport are out in full force on the ice every night during the season.
It’s not unusual for adult players to be on more than one team in the Chicago suburbs.
“Chicago’s pretty crazy hockey-wise,” said Ryan Brichetto. “There’s a lot of leagues. You can ask anyone, usually people are in two or three different leagues.”
Brichetto’s Shelle Jewelers squad has been around for over a decade and he joined the group two years ago. The team plays in the A division.
“It’s pretty competitive,” Brichetto said. “It’s good hockey. It keeps us all in shape, and we love playing hockey.”
Sam Mergler moved to Chicago six years ago and met some guys playing in a league in nearby Skokie. He was added to Shelle Jewelers two years ago as well.
“They brought us in, there’s about six of us in our 20s, 30s — the other guys are in their 40s, 50s,” said Mergler, who is 32 years old. “They like us because we come out, we pick up the slack a little bit.”
“It’s a pretty diverse group age-wise,” Brichetto said. “We’ve got a couple of younger guys like us, couple of older guys. We get along together.”
The team ranges in age from the mid-20s to mid-50s — with Brichetto holding down the low end at 25.
It has proved to be a great mix of talent at every age level. Playing with 55-year-olds has been fun for Mergler.
“I thought going into it maybe it would be a little bit slower, but it’s a very fast league,” Mergler said. “The guys that are 50, they were probably much faster than me when they were 30.”
“They hold their own,” said Brichetto about his teammates who are in their 50s. “They’re still pretty good. I guess we keep them young and they add a little bit of dynamic to our team as well.”
Shelle Jewelers’ defensive pairings usually consist of an older player and a young skater. It’s a nice balance.
Since the team has been in existence for a while, there are more than 80 guys on the roster. However, it’s getting the players to come out on a consistent basis that is key.
“The hard part is getting people to show up — 10:50 [p.m.] games are rough,” Brichetto said. “Usually, we’ll have eight or 10 guys, so that’s kind of our Achilles’ heel is having people actually show up. But when they’re there, we’re pretty good.”
“There’s a lot of guys on the team, but usually only about 12 show up,” Mergler said. “It’s perfect for everybody.”
For the last two years, the guys on Shelle Jewelers have been bonding outside of their regular adult hockey league games. Six players, including Brichetto and Mergler, have made the trip up north to compete in the annual Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships in Eagle River, Wisconsin. The guys play as Poppin’ Tarts in the 21+ Intermediate Division. The team finished 2-2 in 2018, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time.
The players’ chemistry on the pond has been reflective of their time together on their adult team.
“From what I’ve seen, I think we’re one of the better passing teams,” Mergler said. “We like to control the puck rather than just push the puck up the ice.”
Sharing a boys’ weekend together should help build camaraderie with the Shelle Jewelers players. Brichetto loves competing with his teammates.
“They’re hockey guys – just the locker room is a great time,” Brichetto said. “We take it seriously, but at the same time we want to have fun so it doesn’t get too crazy.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.