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Hockey offers lawyers camaraderie and stress relief

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Richard Blaiklock admits he gets the occasional raised eyebrow or sideways glance when clients or colleagues learn he plays hockey.

“They generally think I’m an idiot,” quipped Blaiklock, an attorney at Lewis Wagner LLP in Indianapolis. “They think we get hurt, fight, etc. They have a misperception of what happens in our league.”

JeffFecht-8-15col.jpg Indianapolis attorney Jeff Fecht waits to take the ice during an adult amateur hockey league match at the Carmel Ice Skadium. Fecht is among a small number of attorneys who play the game. (IL Photo/Eric Learned)

Blaiklock is one of a group of attorneys who play organized team hockey. He and other Indianapolis-area lawyers participate in adult leagues at the Carmel Ice Skadium. “I try to protect that one evening each week. There’s great camaraderie with the players, and I have been fortunate to develop some great relationships with a lot of people.”

Like many hockey-playing lawyers, Blaiklock played youth hockey – he played from age 10 to 13 – then left the game behind only to pick it up again years later.

That’s the same path that Steve Krohne took. “I started playing at like, 5, then started playing again as an adult,” said Krohne, a partner at Hackman Hulett & Cracraft LLP in Indianapolis. He dropped the game in law school, but picked it up again when his son, Ethan, started playing about 10 years ago at age 4.

“It’s kind of like riding a bicycle. You never really forget how to skate,” Krohne said.

Like Blaiklock, he acknowledges some folks don’t seem to understand. “I do get the head shake, and people say, ‘Are you crazy?’”

While many people equate hockey with violent behavior, the league the attorneys play in forbids checking and slapshots. Teams include not just lawyers but doctors as well as other professionals and people from all walks of life.

“It’s the same as any exercise, although it’s just for me more fun,” Krohne said. “It’s definitely a stress-reliever, and probably the thing I value most is the friends I’ve met.”

Another Indianapolis lawyer who’s gotten into the game is Jeff Fecht, a partner at Riley Bennett & Egloff LLP. “We work in stressful jobs, and when I get on the ice I always forget what’s stressing me,” he said.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Fecht was a hockey fan, but he didn’t take up the game until later in life at the encouragement of his older brother.

Fecht said there’s a special bond among fellow hockey players.

“Part of it is, in Indy, hockey is kind of a fringe sport,” he said. “You’ve got the camaraderie of playing a sport a lot of people don’t follow, and it’s a unique sport because you’re playing a sport on ice.

“For me, it’s been a great experience. I’ve made a lot of friends and business connections, and I think it’s just a really good group of guys,” he said.

Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman P.C. attorney Zachary Jacob, who also plays in the Carmel adult league, said putting a stick on the ice is a tremendous release.

“I’m a transactional lawyer, so I don’t get a lot of confrontation,” Jacob said. Hockey “is something that really scratches that competitive itch.

“This has always been something I do for me, and I just love it,” he said. “You’re there to have a good time with it and enjoy a little intensity.”

The lawyers and others who play have been able to turn their amateur sports pursuit into charitable efforts. Last year, some of the league members set up a weekend tournament to support the Leukemia Man of the Year Campaign of one of the league players, a leukemia survivor. Both Blaiklock and Krohne played on teams and provided other support for the event. 

pond_hockey-15col.jpg Indianapolis attorneys Steve Krohne (second left) and Richard Blaiklock (far right) pose for a photo at a pond hockey tournament in Wisconsin where teams played outdoors in temperatures as low as minus 17 degrees. (submitted photo)

With team entry fees, sponsorships and an auction, more than $14,000 was raised during the Light the Lamp Against Cancer 2013 charity hockey tournament. Blaiklock said it looks like this will become an annual event; this year’s tourney is scheduled for May. Other charitable events coincide with the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays.

Blaiklock and Krohne also competed in a pond hockey tournament this year in Eagle River, Wis., where they played in temperatures as low as minus 17 degrees.

It’s not just Indianapolis attorneys who gear up and hit the ice.

“There’s something to be said about putting on all the equipment … you’re not giving up the dream. There’s the locker room and the banter and all the stuff that ended abruptly before,” said Bloomington solo practitioner Will Spalding.

Spalding plays in leagues at the Frank Southern Ice Arena, as does Mike Scarton, an attorney at the Shean Law Offices in Bloomington.

“We’re just some old guys who said, ‘We can still do that,’” Scarton said. He took up the game in law school, and Spalding started playing even later. Both now have 8-year-old sons who play.

“The kids love it, and it’s been wonderful for us,” said Spalding, who didn’t begin playing until about age 38.

“To start a new sport like that at that stage in life, it’s tough,” he said. “But I ice skated a lot when I was younger.”

Scarton said the amateur teams in Bloomington have gotten a big assist from former Fort Wayne Komets and Indianapolis Ice player Kevin Schmidt, who helps beginning and novice players understand and improve their games.

“He plays with us, and he kind of dumbs it down a little bit,” Spalding said.

“As far as skill level goes, we’ve got everything,” Scarton said, from those just learning the game to players who’ve honed their game for years.

“It’s a love of the sport, plus it gives you some physical fitness along the way,” he said.•

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