When 74-year-old Tom McCausland and 22-year-old Annie Griswold get a chance to skate on the same shift, it’s a special moment for both hockey players.
The 52-year age gap is quite unique, but what’s even more unique is McCausland gets to play the sport he loves with his granddaughter.
The pair are in their first year playing together on the Mad Dogs in the Park City Hockey League of Park City, Utah.
“Hockey is something that’s real big in our family and it’s really great to share something you love with a family member,” Griswold said.
“Everyone who I tell I play hockey with my grandpa who’s 74 years old and I skate all the time with him and do all of these athletic activities with him, people don’t believe me. Then they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s so cool.’”
Griswold will always remember the first shift when she looked over to see her grandfather on the ice.
“It was pretty awesome,” Griswold said. “The whole time I was like, ‘Oh, I’m playing hockey with grandfather.’ I don’t know anybody who has been able to say that.”
McCausland, who has played for the Mad Dogs for 11 years, has even been able to assist on a few of his granddaughter’s goals.
“Even the guys on the other team think that’s pretty cool,” McCausland said. “Most of them just want to be able to play with their sons no less play with their granddaughter. They’re all kind of jealous there’s tradition through the family … It’s great that we’re at least able to stay up with her and play.”
When Griswold is on the ice skating with her grandfather, she treats him like any other teammate.
“Obviously he can’t do as much as he’d like to,” Griswold said. “But he makes awesome plays and everyone on the team loves him, too. He’s very much like a regular player.”
Griswold, who played Division I college hockey at Sacred Heart for a year and a half before transferring to New England College where she graduated last May, never thought she’d get to play hockey with her grandfather. But things changed in December 2015 when Griswold’s father, Ken, died unexpectedly. Griswold’s mother, Amy, decided to move her family to Park City last fall to be near her parents.
“I said, ‘If you come out, you’ve got to be a Mad Dog,’” McCausland told Annie.
Mad Dogs captain Randy Hanskat got Griswold a roster spot and the rest is history.
The Mad Dogs squad came together in 2006 when a number of skaters who were playing drop-in games formed a team at the newly built Park City Ice Arena.
The team hasn’t had much turnover in the last decade with six original members still skating. Players tend to stick with the Mad Dogs because of the team’s free-flowing attitude. The team’s philosophy is: “We’d rather be friends than be the best,” noted McCausland.
The Mad Dogs have been the best, though. They have won three league titles, the last coming during the spring session in 2015. Not bad for a bunch of older guys on the ice. The six guys who are original team members range in age from 56-74.
“Our average age is probably 25 years older than any other team,” McCausland said. “Everybody’s played for some years and knows how to play.”
Hanskat’s son, Harry, is the youngest player on the team at 20. Two years ago, there were five sons playing with their fathers on the Mad Dogs.
The Mad Dogs players have a broad range of skill level playing in the league’s Silver division.
“One thing that we said is we’d never kick a person off the team that started with the team,” McCausland said. “If you’re a Mad Dog, you’re a Mad Dog. The only way is you’re a jerk or you decide you want to move up or something else. We’ve always welcomed everybody and said our objective isn’t to win the league, our objective is to play and have a good time and just kind of hang out together.”
Even though Griswold, who is the only woman on the squad, has only played on the Mad Dogs team for about six months, she’s really enjoying her time with the guys. She loves the attitude of her teammates.
“In our league you can tell there are some guys who think this is like the NHL Stanley Cup Final or something like that,” Griswold said. “All the guys on my team are super chill. They all have great attitudes. They’re super funny. They’re really happy to play hockey.”
Griswold is hoping to get to play with her grandfather for a couple more years. But McCausland isn’t sure how much longer he can skate as he approaches his mid-70s. McCausland’s goal is to get on the ice with Griswold’s 13-year-old brother T.J.
“If I can hang around, but that’s not going to happen,” McCausland said. “[Annie] has a sister that plays post-college in Connecticut and she’s a goalie, so maybe I’ll get a chance to play with Sam at maybe a drop-in game or something like that before I hang them up.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
If you think you’re in pretty good shape – or even if you know you’re not – it’s possible to step into, say, a touch football game or a casual softball game without completely embarrassing yourself or winding up on the couch for a week with myriad pulled muscles.
But if you want an honest assessment of your current fitness level, try jumping into a hockey game. You will get a splash of cold water – or better yet, ice shavings – on your face.
While it’s true that many adult hockey league players are perhaps primarily motivated by the camaraderie and enjoyment of the sport, the fitness benefit cannot be overlooked, says Kevin Universal, a member of USA Hockey’s Adult Hockey Council and the president of the Carolina Amateur Hockey Association.
Once you start, you don’t want to stop. But once you stop, you’ll feel it once you start again.
The beauty of hockey
A shift in hockey combines the controlled dash of a 400-meter race with the urgency of an even shorter race.
“There are perishable skills – the combination of having the short, sprinter-type lung capacity, then getting back for a quick rest and sprint up the ice over and over,” Universal said. “That’s challenging for a lot of people."
That’s why it’s important to keep playing, even if it’s just once a week. If you fall out of that routine, you will feel it.
“I think we have at least a handful of guys on my team who travel a lot and don’t have time to work out except for hockey,” Universal said. “That’s their one or two days of exercise a week, and it’s so beneficial. Aside from just hanging out and having fun, joking around with the guys, they’ll use that as a primary means of exercise.”
Other workouts don’t measure up
Unless you like to race the person next to you on the treadmill or try to beat yesterday’s distance on the bike or elliptical, there isn’t much true competition in gym exercises. That doesn’t mean you aren’t working, but you aren’t working the same way you are when you truly compete.
“Being a part of the game and having something on the line, it makes you dig a little deeper and makes you get into it more and get more benefit,” Universal said. “When you’re not doing that and just out recreationally exercising and trying to burn calories, you don’t get the benefit. I have friends that run or lift weights, but if they aren’t getting that type of hockey workout consistently, they feel it after games and you see it in their play.”
Universal notes a recent example to emphasize his point: a guy who had played on one of his teams a decade ago before moving away has just returned and started back in hockey a few weeks ago.
“He had regularly exercised at the gym, but he was so gassed the first four or five games,” Universal added. “He’s finally getting his legs back. It’s funny. He regularly works out, lifts weights competitively. It’s not the same when you have to go out and sprint.”
Never too late to start
That said, don’t let the conditioning learning curve associated with hockey be a deterrent. If you used to play and are trying to get back into it, it’s never too late. Same goes for adults who have never played before.
Universal falls into that latter category. He says he grew up playing street hockey, but he never played in an organized league on the ice until he was 34. He picked it up after his kids took up the sport and he “got the itch” when some other newbies convinced him to try a beginners camp.
“I regularly run into people as adults and I encourage them to pick up the game,” Universal said. “You don’t have to have grown up with it. You just have to have the desire, and you can have some fun out there and get fit.”
Now 48, Universal can’t imagine life without the sport in so many ways – with fitness being primary among them.
“I feel the difference. I feel the lung capacity and I’m able to work harder in other areas,” Universal said. “This past weekend I did a hike with a 1,700-foot elevation drop over 1.3 miles. That’s like doing 170 flights of stairs. My legs aren’t sore, and I attribute that so much to skating. I’ve tried lacrosse, football, track, swimming, baseball, and this is definitely by far the most beneficial workout.”