For The Lawyers Hockey Team, it’s not a joke; it’s just another game
By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI
It is not uncommon for The Lawyers Hockey Team to be late getting on the ice for the start of their weekly adult hockey game because they are engaged in riveting dialogue.
The team, which plays in the Masters Hockey League out of the McFetridge Sports Center in Chicago, is comprised of 17 players: 14 of whom are lawyers, along with two local television personalities and a CEO of a technology company.
“Our locker room conversations are just fascinating,” The Lawyers team captain Steve Demitro said. “We have experts in each area. We have religion, law, news, business. Everything revolves around the law. Incredible, incredible locker room conversations.”
The guys bounce legal theories off of one another and discuss their cases.
“This is highly intelligent people presenting good points of view on different topics,” Demitro said.
When the game ends, that dialogue continues right back where the guys left off.
“A lot of the locker room conversation centers around legal cases,” said team member Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who is a bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois. “Most people would be baffled by our conversation. A lot of the guys have their own legal practices, so it’s an opportunity sometimes for them to talk shop a little bit and frankly to ask each other for advice. They’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m working on this case. How would you handle it?’ There’s some very interesting locker room banter back and forth.”
The Lawyers formed in the early 1990s after Demitro founded the Masters Hockey League, which is now the longest running adult hockey league in Illinois.
There isn’t much turnover on The Lawyers. Once a player is admitted to the team, he generally stays for the long run.
The team members share great camaraderie with one another in the locker room having been friends for decades. The guys’ close-knit relationships transfer over to the ice.
“Because we’ve been together so long, we have a really strong bond,” Demitro said. “We’ve been playing together once a week for 20-plus years, most of us. … We’ve watched each other grow. We’ve watched each other succeed. And we’ve been there for the good times and the bad times with each other.”
“When we get in the locker room or we’re on the ice, it’s just being with the guys,” said Paprocki, who also has his law degree. “Nobody acts like he’s more important than anybody else and we just have a real good bond of friendship amongst us.”
The team, which donates thousands of dollars annually to charities and plays in a number of local charity hockey games, includes names such as U.S. representative Mike Quigley, who serves the 5th Congressional District of Illinois; Chicago Alderman Patrick Thompson; lawyer Kevin Magnuson, son of former Blackhawks player Keith Magnuson; Ryan Chiaverini, host of Windy City Live; and Ravi Baichwal, ABC 7 anchor.
“A lot of people like to come into our locker room just to meet the players,” Demitro said.
The guys, who range in age from the 40s to late 60s, gladly shed their everyday sport coat and tie once a week for hockey pants and ice skates.
“Everybody’s extremely busy, but yet they find a time once a week to be there on the ice,” said the 56-year-old Demitro. “They don’t want to miss because they don’t want to let their teammates down.”
It’s a time for the guys to have fun and unwind.
“Lawyer is an extremely stressful profession, one of the most stressful professions there is, so when we get a chance to play hockey, it’s kind of our chance to put all that aside and have fun — just for that hour and a half,” said Demitro, who was a high school dropout turned lawyer. “I think that’s why everybody comes back every year because we have very strong camaraderie, and it’s just our way of having fun.”
Paprocki drives six hours round trip every Thursday to play hockey with his friends. It’s a great diversion for him after a long week.
“Especially as a goalie, when I get out on the ice I just think about that little black puck and try to keep it out of the net, and any other concerns or worries that I’ve got all those kind of get put to the side,” Paprocki said. “It’s just really great to have that time on the ice of really changing your focus from your kind of day-to-day concerns to just as simple as keeping a little black puck out of the net. It’s really a lot of fun.”
Paprocki started his career playing roller hockey and was always a goalie. He was christened with the nickname “The Holy Goalie” a number of years ago.
“I think that’s pretty cool,” said Paprocki, 65. “That was given to me by one of the parishioners at one of the parishes I used to help out on the South Side of Chicago. I hope the ‘holy’ is referring to the sanctity and not so many holes in my game.”
Paprocki likes to joke about his game, but his game and The Lawyers’ game as a team is top notch. The team has captured its league title about six or seven times over the years, noted Demitro. The league awards a replica Stanley Cup — specially made in Montreal — to the winning team each season.
But it’s not all about winning for The Lawyers. It’s about having fun on and off the ice.
“It’s great because that’s one of the main reasons why I play — it’s not just the activity of playing hockey, which, of course, I love very much — it’s the social aspect,” Paprocki said. “These guys are buddies. They’re guys that I’ve been playing hockey with for a long time.”
And the guys plan to continue playing hockey together — and engaging in enthralling, deep discussions — for as long as they can.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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