A priest, a 77-year-old Jewish man and a Canadian mom walk into an ice rink.
Sorry, there’s no punch line because this is not a joke. It’s a snapshot of what you’ll see at Summit Hockey’s Tuesday night adult skills sessions at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe.
In their fifth year under the current staff, the skills sessions offer beginning- and intermediate-level adults a chance to learn or hone hockey skills in a social club atmosphere.
That opportunity is so enticing that an average of 30 adults, including 77-year-old Scottsdale resident Art Horowitz, show up each Tuesday and lace on the skates.
"We really gear this toward adults who have always wanted to make this jump but never had the incentive to do it because the environment wasn’t right," said Scott Ferris, one of three coaches who run the skills sessions. "We take people who have never even put on a pair of skates and help them achieve whatever goals they want."
In Father Christopher Leith’s case, the skills sessions are a means toward settling an old score.
"I belong to an international order, the Society of St. Pius X. We have seminaries throughout the world and one is in Minnesota," said Leith, 43, who is the assistant pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel and Retreat House in south Phoenix. "For the past 15 years there’s been a hockey game between the priests and seminarians and the seminarians have always won."
"I took that as a challenge so I’m trying to sharpen up my skills."
Tuesday night skills sessions run year-round and cost $20 for drop-ins, or $150 for a punch card of 10 sessions. The major cost associated with hockey is, of course, the equipment. Ferris said Summit can outfit most people for about $400, although goalie equipment is more expensive.
Tuesday sessions begin at 10 p.m. and run until 11:30. In that span players engage in a series of skating, agility, passing and shooting drills before breaking up into teams for half-ice and full-ice scrimmages.
"It’s fun and it’s very social," said Gilbert resident Mary Dawson, 47, an Ontario transplant who has been attending the skills sessions for four years. "You don’t always stay on the same team, year after year, so you get to know a lot of people.
"A lot of times, we even have a barbecue afterward."
The social aspect is one of the sessions’ biggest drawing cards.
"There’s always been programs for kids but there are very few programs geared toward adults," said Ferris, who usually buys beer, sodas, water and chips for after-session socializing. "If people have always wanted to do this, but were just looking for an excuse, we give them that excuse.
"Once they make it, we want them to meet the guy who did it two weeks ago or last year and find out that that guy was a beginner too. People can feel like ‘It’s a little club that belongs to me.’ "
Once adults’ skills progress, they are encouraged to take part in Summit’s Saturday night (beginning level) or Wednesday night (intermediate to advanced) hockey leagues, which are co-ed and offer parents a chance to play with their kids over 15 years of age.
But Ferris said the skills sessions are never closed to advanced players.
"Everyone is always welcome," he said.
• Summit Hockey’s Tuesday night adult skills sessions at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe begin at 10 p.m. and end around 11:30. Cost for the year-round sessions is $20 for drop-ins and $150 for a 10-session punch card. Summit also offers co-ed Saturday and Wednesday night leagues for anyone 15 or older.
• To play hockey you will need the appropriate equipment. Basic equipment includes skates, a stick, hockey gloves, a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin guards, hockey pants, hockey socks, an athletic supporter, and a jersey. Summit can outfit forwards and defensemen for about $400 with goaltending equipment costing more.
• For more information call coach Adam Mims at (480) 586-6838 or visit Summit’s website at: www.summithockey.com