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.