Angelo Taormina walks off the ice on a Saturday morning in December. For the last  three decades, the 58-year-old has played drop-in hockey, dubbed the “Knapp Skate,”  every Saturday morning with friends and family.

Angelo Taormina walks off the ice on a Saturday morning in December. For the last three decades, the 58-year-old has played drop-in hockey, dubbed the “Knapp Skate,” every Saturday morning with friends and family.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Staying in the game

By: Christian Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published January 15, 2020

 After a hard skate, players from the Knapp Skate share some laughs in the locker room. According to Dr. Barry Franklin, Ph.D., staying active as you age is a vital component to staying healthy.

After a hard skate, players from the Knapp Skate share some laughs in the locker room. According to Dr. Barry Franklin, Ph.D., staying active as you age is a vital component to staying healthy.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Though the Knapp Skate is about family, friends and being active, there are still bragging rights on the line each Saturday morning.

Though the Knapp Skate is about family, friends and being active, there are still bragging rights on the line each Saturday morning.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

METRO DETROIT — It’s another early Saturday morning, and Angelo Taormina is lacing up his ice skates.

Like he has done for the past three decades, he’s preparing to take the ice at Hazel Park Ice Arena with friends and family for their weekly drop-in hockey game. The puck drops at 8:20 a.m.

The ages range from early 20s to players into their 70s. The group still calls it the “Knapp Skate,” after Larry Knapp, who started it 30 years ago.

At 58 years old, Taormina said getting up and down the ice is a great way or stay active and healthy.

“It’s a good way to get all these older guys skating on a regular basis. They come from all over,” said the Washington Township resident, who plays two to three times a week. “I belong to a gym and work out, but you just can’t get the same feeling, the same sweat, same fun, while still getting good exercise. You can’t beat it.”

Some 20 miles away in Livonia, the self-named “Sunrise Hoops” group is on the court. Mike Thomas, 58, of Rochester Hills, has been playing in the weekly Saturday drop-in games for nearly 23 years. Tipoff is at 6:30 a.m.

Thomas said 14 or 15 people show up consistently, with the ages ranging anywhere from 20s to 50s.

On top of Sunrise Hoops, Thomas belongs to the Older Persons’ Commission, an institution in Rochester that provides programs that advance active and healthy living for the 50-and-older community.

Thomas plays basketball at the OPC, and his endeavors there eventually led him to participate in a Michigan Senior Olympics basketball tournament in August of 2019. At that tournament, he was given the remarkable task of playing against Eastern Michigan University alumnus and 15-year NBA veteran Grant Long, who played with the Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics.

“That was a lot of fun and humbling,” Thomas said of guarding the 6-foot-8 forward. “He was a great guy and a good sport. I scored a couple baskets on him, so I was happy about that.”

Thomas understands the benefits of good health. He stressed the idea of consistently moving, whether that be through working out or playing sports. Aside from health reasons, Thomas plays basketball as a stress relief. He also enjoys the social aspect.

“I want to keep active; I don’t want to be a 70-year-old that can’t walk or is just in such bad shape,” Thomas said. “I don’t know how many years I’ll be able to keep the basketball up. I enjoy it, so I work through the pain that it causes me. In general I just think it’s really important to stay active. It’s not only the physical benefits for me — it’s the mental as well.”

Taormina looks forward to his Saturday skate every week, even if he is feeling a little sore beforehand.

“I think that’s the secret, if you can stay active. By (the) time you stretch and get on the ice, that adrenaline takes over, (and) you forget about it all,” he said. “You’re out there playing and having fun.”

Dr. Barry Franklin, Ph.D., is the director of cardiac rehabilitation for Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

He said people who are more physically active over the age of 50 have a decreased risk of chronic diseases. He added that the more active you are, the less likely you are to develop obesity and diabetes.

“A blockbuster new study that just came out said life (expectancy) at age 50 is seven to eight years greater for the most physically active cohorts of men and women,” Franklin said. “So, that really further substantiates the fact that people should be involved in active sports, active walking programs, hiking programs, etc. We also know that people who are middle-aged and older who are active and fit have lower rates of complications and even death after elective or (emergency) surgery.”

Franklin added that if an active older person experiences a cardiac event, it is more likely to be “far less severe.”

“So, for all those reasons we try to encourage people to be physically active in their middle age and older years,” Franklin said.

Despite that encouragement, there is also reason to exercise caution.

“Many older people have developed or have adopted high-volume, high-intensity interval type training,” Franklin said. “They’re getting involved in marathons and (triathlons). And although more vigorous exercise does have more benefits, it’s also associated with greater cardiac events, cardiac risks.  … Exercise is medicine. Exercise, sports are good, but recognize if exercise is medicine, you can overdose and underdose.”

People in their 50s and 60s who may be interested in a medically supervised cardiac fitness program and/or want to have their heart and fitness evaluated can call Beaumont at (248) 898-6553.

John Brandow, 54, of Clinton Township, plays in a hockey D-league in Fraser.

Brandow said he has been in the league for about two years, and he considers playing in it probably the best workout he’s had since playing football in college.

Brandow doesn’t plan to call it quits anytime soon.

“It’s primarily to keep me moving, and it’s the guys that I play with. … It’s the camaraderie,” Brandow said. “We don’t care too much about winning and losing, but we hoot and holler on each other a lot.”

Despite having a limited skill set on the ice, Brandow is glad he decided to don the skates and jersey.

“I’m not good, but I don’t care,” he said. “It’s fun, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Taormina understands that the value of staying active is more than just health-related.

“It’s all about family and friends,” he said. “Sometimes after the skate, you’ll have a few pops — or as Mickey Redmond would say, a few ginger ales.”