Senior hockey thriving in Greater Lansing

They call themselves the Lansing Merchants Hockey Association
A player looks on during a senior hockey game at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, MI.
A player looks on during a senior hockey game at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, MI.(WILX)
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 4:03 PM EST
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - When the hockey boys take over the dressing room, put on the gear and lace up the skates, it’s soon to be game on at the rink.

This is senior hockey.

They call themselves the Lansing Merchants Hockey Association: “A group of guys that just love to play.”

But man when they play, do they play.

It’s almost like a fraternity, you know?” said Ralph Shaheen, 71. “We take care of each other, we watch out for each other, we make sure that everybody’s playing well, if somebody gets hurt we stop right away.”

In this league there is no injured disabled list per se, but: “Over the years we’ve lost some fellas...Certainly by uh...passing away -- dying,” said Gary Gammage, 77.

This group has grown in numbers over the years and has a pretty rich history.

“It started back in the old Lansing Ice Arena days on Lake Lansing road there...30 and over...40 and over...then it went to 50 over,” said 62-year-old Tom Hunt, with a chuckle.

And now the players in the league are an assortment of ages: 62, 71, 77, and 78.

Hunt, when asked what he thinks of the older players, says: “There my heroes.”

“It takes us longer to like you said get dressed than it does playing,” said Gammage.

“We just play for an hour and then go re-hydrate,” said Shaheen.

Shaheen, a goalie, is a regular on the ice and a noted Lansing car dealer.

He never played hockey until meeting former Michigan State hockey coach Ron Mason.

“Ron gave me some equipment and I was literally tripoding around holding myself up with a stick and he gets the puck and he says, ‘C’mon Ralph, get the puck from me,’ and he starts skating backwards well,” Shaheen said. “I went to poke the puck and fell and broke my collarbone...first time out.”

They ran car dealerships, they ran tool and die shops, one even ran a shoe warehouse. And now here they are playing hockey together.

This is a religion to these guys; they don’t play just once in awhile. It’s two times, some guys 3 times a week.

And they don’t play for blood.

No, they just play for each other.

Why do they play at 77?

It’s fun, and great exercise.

How long you wanna keep doing this, I ask them.

“Long as I possibly can,” says Hunt.

“It’s the most fun of life,” says Gammage.

To that I say: Skate on boys.

Copyright 2022 WILX. All rights reserved.

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