By John MassonDec. 20, 2012
Sure, Michigan Law is chock full of the leaders and best—but we're getting close to having the champions of the West, too. The far western Detroit suburbs, that is. Because Michigan Law's club hockey team, the aptly named Ambulance Chasers, could capture the championship of their men's league this week.
The group of 15 or so skaters, most of whom are Michigan Law students or graduates, plays twice a week at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube, said team co-captain and 3L Max Hensley. The games are usually late-night affairs, and the following day's classes come pretty early, but for Hensley and his teammates the games are well worth the sacrifice of a little sleep.
See a photo gallery of a recent Chasers game.
"Getting out two times a week and not thinking about the law is a good thing, in my opinion," said Hensley, 28, who grew up in Alaska and has played hockey almost all his life. "I've showed up bleary-eyed for my share of 8 o'clock classes, but you just have another cup of coffee and get to it."
Andrew Park, who continues skating with the team even though he graduated in May 2012, agreed.
"Any physical activity helps so much when you're in an intellectually demanding institution like Michigan Law," Park said. "The league's playoffs happen to coincide with the finals schedule pretty harshly every winter, but when I was on the ice I was able to clear my mind of anything that wasn't that game. Being able to do that for an hour and a half a couple of times a week, there's no doubt it helped preserve my sanity."
Hensley said the Chasers is home to a wide variety of skill levels, from those who played hockey through high school to others who may have skated on their university's club teams. It's fun to compete, he said, but that's not the real point.
"We do try to win," he said, "but we mostly just have fun."
Sometimes the winning doesn't come easy. The team's first playoff game was a tight one, with the Chasers fighting back from an early deficit to end regulation time tied at 4-4. An overtime period didn't settle matters, and neither did the first round of one-on-one shootouts. It wasn't until an extra round of shootouts that the Chasers' Mark Collyer was able to stuff one past the opposing goalie for the 5-4 win.
The next game was settled in regulation time a couple of days later, with a 5-3 victory. One more game remains in the season.
The Chasers have been around since at least 2004, Hensley said, and the team is a social fixture in its players' lives.
"It's a really good way to meet folks," he said. "I really appreciated, when I was a 1L, having the older guys around, and also the alums. It helps you get perspective on things, which is easy to lose when you're trapped in the middle of law school."
Park agreed, but added that for him, graduation didn't mean it was time to hang up his maize-and-blue sweater.
"I started skating with the team my 2L year, and somehow the guys that join the team are always good people," Park said. That's one reason he still travels from Detroit's northern suburbs for twice-weekly games. "Great sport, good people, worth the drive."
In March the group is set to host the annual Justice Cup, a tournament featuring teams from four Michigan law schools: Michigan, Michigan State, Wayne State, and University of Detroit-Mercy.
But between now and then, there's a tradition to uphold. A whole new beer league season beckons.
"We're definitely all friends," said Hensley, who is heading to Seattle for a clerkship on the Ninth Circuit this spring. "We go to concerts, there's a pond hockey tournament in Whitmore Lake that we play in. ...It's one of those rare social things you can do in law school that helps you get out of the bubble. I think everyone appreciates the release."
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