The Cleveland Heights 50+ Hockey League has a special rule: Each team needs at least one physician on its roster. “That's by design,” Ed Weston, a retired Navy captain who serves as league treasurer, told Crain's Cleveland Business.
So far there haven't been any serious injuries since the league—which doesn't allow checking—started in 2013.
“I would not use this league and competitive in the same sentence,” said Dr. John Wood, who has played in the 50-and-up league since its inception.
Friday is game night, with the action getting underway after 8:30 at the Cleveland Heights Community Center. The 21-game regular season runs from mid-October through early April.
Dr. Margaret Bigg is one of at least eight women in the league. The Cleveland Clinic hospitalist didn't start playing hockey until she was in her 30s—when her two sons, Joey and Teddy, took up the sport.
She hasn't had to tend to any fellow players very often. “For the most part, there's not much you can do on the ice for people, unless it's an emergency,” Bigg said.
Another player/physician has two attributes that would seem perfectly suited for the league. Wood is from Canada and an orthopedic surgeon. But 50-and-up is nothing to someone whose uncle plays in an 80-and-over league in Ottawa. “They keep an AED (automated external defibrillator) on the bench. If someone falls over, they stop the game and make sure he's OK,” Wood said of his uncle's league.
Wood, who works for the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, said he can only give “generic curbside advice” to Cleveland Heights league players. But he was once forced to use a defibrillator when a player went into cardiac arrest during an adult league game in Shaker Heights. “That had a happy ending to it. He turned out fine,” said Wood, who was aided that day by another physician competing in the league.