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Golden Knights’ popularity a boost for pickup hockey group

At age 76, David Holm plays ice hockey and doesn’t plan to quit anytime soon.

Holm and about a dozen others stretched and warmed up before a morning pickup game with Ronnie’s Hockey Club Aug. 8 at the Las Vegas Ice Center.

Playing ice hockey is better than going to the gym, said Holm, a goalie with the club for seven years. Plus, the indoor ice rink is a refreshing break from the heat.

“In the summer here, it’s ideal,” he said. Holm plans to continue playing with the club “until they kick me out,” he said jokingly, “or until I’m too feeble to play.”

And he’s not even the oldest club member. A man who’s 82 travels from St. George, Utah, once a week to play.

Ronnie’s Hockey Club, a Las Vegas pickup ice hockey group, typically has nine or 10 games each week — some in the mornings and some in the evenings. Club members respond to invitations via email.

“It’s organized pickup hockey,” founder Ronnie Ferrise said. “It’s not a league.”

The club — with members 18 and older — plays mostly at the Las Vegas Ice Center in the city’s southwest, but also at City National Arena in Summerlin.

Ferrise, who lives in Henderson, founded the hockey club eight years ago. It started with just one pickup game each week and gradually grew.

“It’s more than hockey,” Ferrise said. “The friendships that have been made are lifelong friendships.”

Ronnie’s Hockey Club is among about six ice hockey clubs in Las Vegas, Ferrise said, noting his is likely the second oldest. “With the Golden Knights, hockey has just exploded.”

The Vegas Golden Knights — a professional team that started playing in the 2017-18 season — set a great example, Ferrise said, adding that many of Ronnie’s Hockey Club members skate because of them.

The club has about 425 intermediate-level members and 250 at the advanced level. They’re not all active, Ferrise said, and some people take breaks from playing for reasons such as work schedules or recovering from injuries.

Club members include police officers and firefighters, Ferrise said, and women, including a few who played college ice hockey.

Ferrise, 70, aims to get out on the ice with the club twice a week. The rest of the time, he’s organizing schedules, handling club finances and checking people in before each game.

Each pickup game typically has 16-24 players. It costs $15 per daytime game or $16 per evening game to participate. Fees cover the cost of the facility rental.

‘Camaraderie is the number one thing’

As he was getting ready before a game Aug. 8, Bob Eggert said he joined the club for the exercise and “being with the guys.”

“Camaraderie is the number one thing,” the Summerlin resident said.

Club member Eric Plante — who’s originally from Montreal but has lived in Las Vegas for nearly 10 years — said he started playing ice hockey when he was 5. The southwest Las Vegas resident works for Cirque du Soleil.

As for Holm, he heard Ronnie’s Hockey Club needed a goalie. He agreed to fill in and ended up staying with the club.

“It’s a lot of fun and a challenge,” he said.

Holm grew up playing ice hockey on frozen rivers in Michigan. He played on his high school’s varsity team, which won a state championship his senior year.

“Ever since then, I’ve been playing everywhere I can,” he said.

Playing pickup ice hockey, Ferrise said, allows people to leave the real world behind for 90 minutes and get back to doing something they enjoyed as a child.

Ronnie’s love of ice hockey

When he was 8, Ferrise started playing ice hockey on frozen ponds in Detroit. He played for years after that, but family and work obligations eventually led to him to put the activity aside.

At a class reunion 12 years ago, Ferrise talked with a classmate who was playing ice hockey three times a week. He was inspired to play again.

“Now I’m more addicted to playing hockey than when I was 8 years old,” he said.

Initially, Ferrise joined an ice hockey group that had “a bully or two,” he said, adding it became an ugly situation about four years in. Ferrise said his options were biting his tongue, quitting ice hockey or forming his own group.

He launced his own club. It’s a tremendous amount of work, Ferrise said, and he’s at games six days a week.

Ferrise retired six years ago after 25 years as a sales representative and trainer for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. He said he needed something to do with the rest of the day after he finished breakfast and walking his dog.

“It’s just been a godsend to me,” he said of running a hockey club.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

How to get involved

For information about Ronnie’s Hockey Club, contact Ronnie Ferrise at 702-339-8084 or ron4shel@aol.com.

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