SUNDRE – The informal men’s rec hockey league provides a relatively non-committal opportunity for adults who harbour a passion for the sport to enjoy some casual competition.
“Every game is just a fun exhibition game,” Mike Beukeboom, team manager for the Rhinos – one of four Sundre teams – said when asked if there are league standings and a playoff series.
“Probably a couple of decades ago, I remember when we had a league and points were tracked; it got way too competitive,” Beukeboom said with a laugh, adding the decision eventually was made to simply book exhibition games.
While there’s generally a referee and an informal score count, goals aren’t officially recorded on the scoreboard, he said.
“It’s just to get out and have some friendly competition,” he said. “Once in a while things get a little heated, but they usually settle down pretty quickly.”
At heart, the informal “beer league” is not much different than any other recreational adult sport, with the objective primarily being to exercise and socialize, he said.
“It’s a great reason to get together,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s as much a social thing as anything else.”
The remaining three teams are the Sundre Rams, Bombers, and Ice, he said.
“We have four hockey teams that have been playing for years now in Sundre,” he said, adding there had at one point in the past been five.
From time to time, the local teams go on the road as visitors to rinks in communities including Carstairs, Bowden, Caroline, Cremona, Olds and Didsbury.
Although there are no practices, teams generally play at least two games a week on average, he said.
“We have 46 games booked this year,” he said about the Rhinos.
And since there are four Sundre-based teams, Beukeboom figured between 60 to 70 per cent of their games are played at the local arena.
“Then we have our handful of away games,” he said. “But because three of our competitors are right in Sundre, that means we play all of those away games in Sundre.”
Beukeboom said he’ll play just about wherever he’s need on the ice, with one exception.
“Don’t let me play goal, even though my kid’s a goalie,” he said with a laugh, referring to son Adam Beukeboom whose hockey career led him to play in Germany this season.
“I’m getting too old for that; that’s a whole different sport, playing net,” he said, expressing a reluctance to risk pulling something that prevents him from walking properly for the following day or even the next week or two.
“For someone my age, it’s more about flexibility and a whole different group of muscles that you need to use.”
While bragging rights are always up for grabs, what Beukeboom said what he considers most important is that the beer is served cold and nobody gets injured.
Dues collected are allocated largely to cover the cost of renting ice from the municipality, he said.
Some players join up after aging out of minor hockey, others are parents with a number of priorities pulling them in different directions, while “the old farts like me” tend to be more available, he said.
“My kids have grown and I don’t have to worry about chasing them around rinks anymore, or other sports,” he said.
Beukeboom added that he tries to encourage new players to stick with their respective team, even if they only ever get around to playing a few games throughout the entire season.
While the Rhinos already have a full roster, he said some of the other teams could be in a position to welcome new players or perhaps spares.
And if it ever came to it, there could also be the possibility of having enough players to once again start up a fifth Sundre team. Beukeboom can be reached at 403-559-6356.