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At 53, John Carroll III is a veteran of the Hamilton Center Adult Summer Hockey League.
And he has played ice hockey for only five years.
“About five years ago, my son (John Carroll IV) was playing hockey,” Carroll said. “He asked me if he could play in the adult league. I thought maybe I could play, too. That’s how I got here.”
Although Carroll, who is director of innovation and patents for Cummins Inc., learned to skate growing up in Wisconsin, he never had played organized hockey.
That’s the beauty of the Hamilton Center Adult Summer Hockey League. It fits players who didn’t pick up the sport until their late 40s as well as players like Dakota Hooker, who played collegiate hockey at Indiana University and now runs the Columbus league.
“The league has been going on since I was young,” said Hooker, who is 24. “I played in it while I was in high school here.”
There are six teams and about 90 participants (both men and women) in the summer session, which is one of the biggest turnouts the league has drawn to this point. Hooker makes sure everything runs smoothly.
“I just kind of set everything up,” he said. “The schedules, rosters, times and rules.”
Carroll said he benefits from the league in a number of ways.
“I like the activity, the competition and the exercise,” he said. “I try to skate two times a week. For someone who’s 53, it combines a lot of good things.”
The league is non-contact, but Carroll said it plays more along non-checking rules, where it’s unsportsmanlike to hit another player into the boards. There is contact, and despite the regulations, players do rough each other up at times, even though that is discouraged.
“I always say that I have to get up and go to work in the morning,” Carroll said. “I am doing this for exercise.”
It all works despite the fact that some players are looking for some cardiovascular exercise while others continue to crave something to fill their competitive spirit.
“The games are a lot slower, less serious,” Hooker said. “But they are still pretty competitive.”
Players routinely vault their bodies in front of shots in an attempt to block them, and bodies still fly into the boards as players chase the puck into the corners. Of course, the goalies do whatever they can to get in front of a rising slap shot.
“It varies, but the youths take it pretty seriously,” Carroll said. “I’m having fun. There is a lot of competition.”
Besides the competition, Hooker said the league gives him a chance to connect with old friends.
In more ways than one.
The arena has an adult drop-in night every Friday that allows beginner and intermediate players to scrimmage and figure out if an ice hockey league would be right for them.
“We encourage adults to come out,” Carroll said. “Some have skating experience, but they never have played hockey. And for those who want to do something, but they haven’t learned to skate, there always is broomball. Working at Cummins, we’ve got a lot of interns and new employees coming to town, and they are pleasantly surprised that we have such a nice facility here in Columbus. It’s a great resource.
“There also are a lot of improvements in recent months at the arena. There are brand new boards and more coming. There is a campaign to improve the facility and make it nicer for everyone, both spectators and the people skating.”
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