“Hockey provides the opportunity to continue to play long into adulthood, and more importantly, to be able to meet and play with remarkable people on and off the ice,”
By day, the majority of The Lawyers hockey team members are fierce while immersing themselves in a case in court. It’s a win-at-all-cost mentality.
When the guys hit the ice once a week for their adult league game, their level of competitiveness is still high. However, winning isn’t the most important thing.
“As a hockey player, you have a desire to win and as a lawyer you have a desire to win — that’s your bread and butter,” The Lawyers captain Steve Demitro said. “That’s how the world operates, you have to win. You’re extremely competitive. On the ice, you want to win but I think at our age we probably put fun as more important [than] winning. We just want to have a good workout and we want to be safe.”
The guys know after their night of skating is over on a Thursday at the MB Ice Arena, they have to head to their day jobs in the morning in the Chicago area.
ADULT HOCKEY HOME
The team, which Demitro founded in the early 1990s, is comprised of all lawyers in different capacities along with two television news anchors. Demitro calls it the most interesting hockey team in the world.
“I’ve played hockey for 35 years and The Lawyers team is both remarkably unique and notably traditional in that off the ice — in the locker room or after the game at the local — we discuss the law and politics. But on the ice, we chide one another just like the players on every other team do,” said team member Kristofer Riddle, who is a lawyer. “It’s a good feeling to tell your linemate, who also happens to be a Congressman [Mike Quigley], that he asked great questions during the Intelligence Committee hearing or that if he crashes the net, you'll send the puck to the far post.”
The Lawyers — which play in the Masters Hockey League and have won the playoff championship eight times since 2001 — is a close-knit group that rarely has players leave the team. Once they are on the team, they’re on it for life.
“Hockey is a brotherhood wherever you play. It has afforded me an instant circle of friends in all the places I’ve lived through a wandering journalism career,” said Ravi Baichwal, who is an anchor at ABC 7 in Chicago. “My Lawyers team is the height of that dynamic, comprised of brothers from such diverse aspects of life. Its members truly make Thursdays meaningful.”
“Playing goalie for The Lawyers Hockey Team for over 20 years has been a great experience,” said team member Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who is a bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois. “I enjoy the friendships that we have developed over the years, which makes playing hockey with these guys not only a fun sports experience, but also an enjoyable social occasion as well. I hope more people get to have an incredible opportunity like this as well.”
There’s been a core group of about 10 guys who have skated together for The Lawyers for a quarter century.
“If you’re with a friend for 25 years once a week, week after week, month after month, year after year, you literally watch them grow — you grow with them,” Demitro said. “You see the good times and the bad times. You see their kids grow, it’s a family. How many people have relationships with friends that have lasted that long? There’s a very special bond, and I don’t know if words do it justice.”
The guys enjoy spending time together on the ice but also away from it.
“We took a trip as a group to Washington D.C. to be sworn in before the U.S. Supreme Court a few years ago,” said team member Kevin Magnuson, a former national champion with Michigan and son of former Chicago Blackhawks star Keith. “That experience is definitely a highlight of my legal career and to be able to share that with my teammates created a unique bond that I will always cherish.”
Not seeing each other for a week between league night creates some enthralling chatter before games. The team has been known to be a couple minutes tardy for the opening faceoff because they are so engrossed in conversation.
“You have brain trust from all over in the locker room, so when a subject comes up you have very good points of view,” said the 57-year-old Demitro. “Myself, I’m a high school dropout who went on to become a lawyer, which is not an easy thing to do.”
The average age of the players on The Lawyers is in the 50s. The guys still love the sport and what it provides for them in their hectic lifestyles.
“Hockey provides the opportunity to continue to play long into adulthood, and more importantly, to be able to meet and play with remarkable people on and off the ice,” said lawyer David Vander Ploeg.
“The Lawyers team embodies this. Now my hope is that my kids are fortunate enough to play with as great of a group of guys like the Lawyers."