Ice is something that you put in your drink. At least it was for Thom Loree, MD, when he was growing up in New Mexico.
When he moved to Buffalo, however, where ice hockey is part of the culture, he realized that ice can play a much bigger role.
“My children became involved with youth hockey, and I thought I would love to get out there and try it myself,” Loree, who is chair of the department of head and neck surgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, told HemOnc Today. “I attended an instructional program for adults, since I could barely stand up in the skates. It was really a lot of fun.”
From that, the Black Knights were born.
Along with two other physicians, a researcher and a nurse at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Loree plays on the novice hockey team. In addition to the players from Roswell Park, the team is comprised of chemical engineers, construction workers, lawyers and stockbrokers, among others.
“There’s a whole spectrum of people of all ages and backgrounds,” he said. “But out on the ice, we are all just hockey players.”
The team won the 2008 Greater Buffalo Senior Hockey Invitational Tournament at the end of May.
“This is a big deal because hockey is a major part of life in this part of the country,” said Michael Wong, MD, PhD, medical director of clinical drug development at Roswell Park. “We thought they’d wipe the ice with us! But we won three of our four games in the round robin and won the tournament.”
Wong grew up in Quebec City where he played hockey in high school and college. He said he never played on a top-tier varsity team, from which many NHL players are drafted. Nevertheless, it was still fun to play.
Others from Roswell Park who play on the team are Andrei Bakin, PhD, who is a researcher in the department of genetics, and Robert Wesolowski, RN, a nurse.
Greater Buffalo Senior Hockey Invitational 2008 Champions, the Black Knights.
Source: M wong
The Black Knights are part of a no contact league. No one is out there to check the other team’s members, and you get to handle the puck longer than a few seconds, according to Wong. Of course, some contact is inevitable in the fast-moving sport.
“I’m playing hockey in a way that reminds me of my youth and playing out on the river in Quebec,” Wong said. “Nobody is coming to wipe you out. It’s enjoyable to play that way.”
Another Roswell Park player, Saurin Popat, MD, also grew up in Canada, where hockey is just a way of life, he said.
Popat, an attending surgeon in the department of head & neck surgery and plastic & reconstructive surgery, became involved with the team to rekindle the passion he had for the game while growing up.
“It is great exercise and a great opportunity to interact with people outside of the medical field,” he told HemOnc Today. “We have been together for almost two years. We enjoy the camaraderie and have a great time. The best part for me is sharing the passion with my children. That is my motivation.”
One thing that Loree appreciates most about playing on the team is the escape from the profession and interacting with people from all walks of life.
“Often as a doctor, you get tied up in the profession year after year, and all you meet is other doctors and health care professionals,” he said. “This is a nice way to get away from that. I look forward to those Friday night games.”
Although they are colleagues, work rarely, if ever, is discussed while the group is playing hockey.
“The reason it is so great is that we do it outside of work,” Wong said. “It’s a great way to interact and not talk about work.”
According to Wong, there have been adult hockey leagues in Buffalo since the beginning of time. Most of the players for the Black Knights have either played before, but not for a long time, or have never played at all.
The Black Knights comprise 15 core members and about 10 others, Loree said. The team plays against other adult novice teams about once a week, and they play in the league year round. There are eight teams in the division. The fall/winter season runs from October to May, and the spring/summer season runs from May to September.
The Black Knights also rent ice time on the weekend where they play scrimmages. Some of the players bring their children and families who also participate in the pickup games.
Loree and Popat were original team members, and Wong joined the team about six months later, according to Popat. He said that all of the members at Roswell Park had a preexisting interest in the game and found out about the team simply by talking to one another. They are still trying to recruit other members.
“One of the vice presidents of our hospital is a hockey goalie, and we’ve been trying to get him to come out and play with us,” Popat said. “We talk about hockey around here a lot. Around this area or in the Northeast in general, hockey is part of the culture.”
None of the players claim to be the best hockey players in the world. Loree, who is the captain of the team, declares himself the worst skater on the team.
“We are not quite ready to take on the NHL,” Loree said. “But the game is a lot of fun and a great release.” – by Emily Shafer