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Hockey guidebook explores NYC’s niche scene, from beer leagues to sports bars

There is a “Fight Club” mentality, in which players don’t talk about it to non-players, says author Evan Gubernick.

A hockey game underway at Chelsea Piers, home

A hockey game underway at Chelsea Piers, home to a lot of the city's league play. Photo Credit: Max Parrott

It’s not easy being a hockey fan in New York City. There’s not a lot of ice, and space to store bulky, smelly equipment is at a premium. Luckily, hockey players are accustomed to punishment, physical or otherwise, in the name of the sport they love.

Evan Gubernick, an amateur player and self-proclaimed hockey fanatic, wrote a guide that explores New York’s rinks, bars and restaurants through the eyes of the hockey community.

“Hockey Addict’s Guide: New York City” ($14.95, Countryman Press), out earlier this month, was inspired by his experiences in the community of New York’s adult hockey associations — aka beer leagues.

Gubernick’s goal: to get more New Yorkers out on the ice.

“I found a romance to it,” Gubernick, 55, said. “It was a real ‘Fight Club’ mentality — like this is something we do, but we probably don’t talk about it a lot to people that don’t play.”

A hockey fan since his childhood, Gubernick didn’t start playing until the age of 44 when his son was getting into the sport. When he tried out a league, the community drew him in.

“I’ve seen guys who join the team, then they get the girlfriend, then they get married, then they have the kid,” he said. “You see people from a completely different angle. It’s like having a whole other family outside of your regular life.”

Since New York only has five rinks spread across the boroughs, most players have to travel long distances to get to a league. Leagues end up being cross sections of the city’s social fabric, weaving together fanatics from all professions, neighborhoods and economic backgrounds into one tight-knit and inclusive community.

Many teams are also coed. Since league play is so limited given the scarcity of rinks, leagues don’t have time for teams separated by gender. “If someone can play, they can play,” Gubernick said.

Chelsea Piers is known to offer the most organized and robust leagues in the city. It caters to a wide range of skills, from top dogs to total novices. On a recent Saturday night, Bernard Sun was cracking open a Bud Light outside the Chelsea Piers ice rink with his teammates. His team, Velocity, had just lost after a shootout tie breaker.

“It’s addictive,” Sun said. “It’s like a drug habit, except it’s probably more expensive. You pay with body parts — I’ve broken two collar bones and thrown one hip.”

For many players, that sense of camaraderie keeps them coming back.

“I started playing when I found the New York City Gay Hockey Association,” said Velocity teammate Matty Gaffney, “and discovered a warm, welcoming community there.”

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