The spirited run of the Bruins to the Stanley Cup finals may be fading to an agonizing memory, but recreational hockey players still have many options for keeping their own icy dreams of glory alive.
“I just love to play, for the competition, the exercise, and because I enjoy the people I’ve met,” said Steve Mulcahy, a 37-year-old goalie from Quincy after a recent 6:30 a.m. game at Hingham’s Pilgrim Skating Arena in the Has Been Hockey League.
“I also play in West Roxbury on Saturdays and Andover on Mondays,” he said.
With rinks dotting the recreational landscape south of Boston — including Bridgewater, Dedham, Hingham, and Kingston — there is no shortage of places to don the blades in leagues or pickup games and play all year long for nothing but love of the game.
And free coffee, in some cases.
“I can’t play basketball because of my back, or football because I’m too old,” laughed Tom Bowen, 62, of Plymouth, as he and other players loaded up on java, juice, and snacks offered post-game in the Has Been league, where the social atmosphere is as much a part of the experience as the game.
“So I play hockey. I’ve always loved it. I was out of it for a while, but got back in, and always find myself about 10 years ahead of everyone else.”
Recreational hockey is growing, according to Hobie Taylor, who has run the Pilgrim arena for decades. That’s particularly true of opportunities for women.
“That’s jumped up about 10 percent a year,” Taylor said. “We started a women’s league five years ago and now have seven teams, with a waiting list to get in.”
The game is mostly populated by people who have played for years, but with more wanting to try, beginner’s programs are popping up all over, including at Boch Ice Center in Dedham, said rink manager Jeff Armando.
“We have programs and leagues available for all levels of players,” said Armando, a former league all-star at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree who also played junior hockey. “We have learn-to-skate programs, a women’s league, and all sorts of programs for youths.”
The Bog Ice Arena in Kingston started a learn-to-play-hockey program this January, and has filled four sessions in a row, said Thomas MacDonald, head of hockey operations.
“They learn to skate and graduate into hockey,” he said of the program, which runs 10 weeks and costs $275 per player. “There’s a waiting list to get in.”
New England Senior Hockey League is a popular option for recreational players, the largest independently run league in North America, according to James Lawlor, regional director of the league with 348 teams in more than 50 divisions statewide, including in Foxborough, Hingham, Rockland, and Walpole.
“And we’re growing every year,” he said of the league, now in its 31st year.
Public hockey is a good option for those looking to start or resume playing, or just hone their skills in a casual setting.
At Bridgewater Ice Arena one muggy Tuesday morning, about a dozen players, from children to adults pushing 60, took to the ice to shoot around and, when a rare goalie showed up, play an impromptu game.
“I love public hockey, the pickup games remind me of my youth,” said Matthew Pilotte, 42, of Freetown. He was there with his son, Jameson, the boy adding with youthful enthusiasm: “You can skate for two hours for 10 bucks and do what you want. It’s great.”
“I didn’t play for years, I used to in the ’70s, then he got into it,” said 57-year-old Steve Josefek of Freetown, of his son, Dante, 11, who was skating with him at Bridgewater. “Next year, I won’t be able to keep up with him.”
The cost of getting into league play varies from rink to rink.
At Pilgrim, the cost runs around $500 per player for a 13-week season, which may seem steep, but it’s all relative, Taylor said.
“I was walking my dog in Weymouth one day and saw a fast-pitch baseball game, and I asked around. It was $500 a season there, too,” he said. “But they don’t have refrigeration to pay for, Zambonis to run, a building to maintain. Hockey is a bargain.”
Has Been Hockey, founded by Scituate resident Dennis McMath in 1995, charges $220 for 13 weeks, a season that he joked “comes with world-class trophies awarded the winning teams.”
The league’s lower price owes to the time of day: Games are played from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. In most leagues, games are at night. Has Been also has regular pickup sessions every Monday and Friday morning.
Cost of play aside, you’ll need gear, which at Pure Hockey in Braintree is roughly $400 to $500 for entry-level head-to-toe equipment, said store comanager Jim Genovese, also the varsity boys’ hockey coach at Foxborough High. If you’re a goalie, figure at least $800, he said.
Players can also buy used gear at places like Play It Again Sports in Dedham, or online at Craigslist or eBay.
No matter your skill level, hockey is a sport enjoyed any time of year, Taylor said.
“Adults want to stay in shape,” he said, adding that years ago, summer hockey was nonexistent and now abounds at most rinks. “Hockey players don’t want a season, they want to play all year long.”
Steve Cassevoy, 55, owner/chef at Toast in Hull, got into the game when he was 32. As a relatively late bloomer, he was asked if he’s getting better.
“Well,” he said, laughing over coffee and bagels at Pilgrim one morning, “I’m still upright. I’ll take that.”