A 'venue' of a different sort for league booster

By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

When not in the legal arena, Jordan Bolton is apt to be spotted in another competitive venue a hockey rink.

Some 13 years ago, Bolton spearheaded the formation of the "Lawyers Hockey League of Metropolitan Detroit," which plays weekly games over the course of a 26-week season at Hazel Park's Viking Arena.

"We were created as an exclusive league for law firms and independent lawyers in Metropolitan Detroit," said Bolton, a retired net-minder who now plays left wing for the Clark Hill squad. "Over the years, team rosters have been expanded to include non-lawyer types in an effort to keep the league competitive and interesting."

League games are scheduled each Tuesday evening in Hazel Park, according to Bolton. The puck drops at 9 and 10 p.m. for the 45-minute contests, which feature three 15-minute running time periods. Ties are settled by a sudden death shootout.

"We can get pretty gassed by the end of the game," Bolton said with a smile, noting that the clock continues to tick for very good reason. "The games are generally quite competitive and the skill level is surprisingly good for a league where there's a mixture of players. We have some former college and professional players to guys who are novices in terms of competitive hockey."

The age range of players varies from the late 20s to early 60s, Bolton indicated, and has included some judges along the way.

"They get a clear path to the net," he joked of those in the hierarchy of local jurisprudence.

The league traces its roots to 2001 when several teams from various law schools in Michigan battled for statewide supremacy, according to Bolton. The first year, the championship was held at Joe Louis Arena, rotating to Yost Ice Arena on the University of Michigan campus and then to Munn Arena at Michigan State. Proceeds from the championship contest supported the Access to Justice program, which provides low-income individuals with needed legal services.

Bolton began his collegiate hockey career at Michigan State, transferring to the University of Arizona, a desert domain not widely known as a hotbed for the sport.

"Arizona actually had one of the top club programs in the country," said Bolton, who started in goal for the Wildcats. "They typically drew between 5,000 and 7,000 fans at the Tucson Convention Center. Hockey is big out there and we had some nationally ranked teams, competing against the likes of Penn State (now Division I), Illinois, Iowa, Arizona State (now Division 1), and Ohio University."

In his bachelor days, Bolton played in several hockey leagues each week, honing his goal-tending skills against hockey snipers who could shoot the puck in the 80-90 mph range. He described himself as a "read and react type" goalie who no longer is up to doing the splits for good reason.

"Over the years, I've undergone two knee surgeries, two back surgeries, and one shoulder operation," Bolton recounted. "The sport has taken a bit of a toll on my body."

The love of the game pulls at his hockey heartstrings, however, drawing him back to the ice for another weekly opportunity at sporting glory. Such devotion, unfortunately, often goes unnoticed by the casual fan.

On most game nights at the Hazel Park rink, fans are in decidedly short supply. On one typical evening years ago, the "attendance" figure would have been just one had it not been for a dutiful member of the Fourth Estate in search of an interesting feature story along with his hockey host, who was sidelined with an injury. The real fan, by all appearances, was a girlfriend of one of the hockey combatants, perhaps hoping to score a few brownie points that could be cashed in down the road.

But perhaps of most significance that evening was the continuance of a league tradition, according to Chris Winkler, an attorney who played forward on one of the legal teams in 2007.

"This is pretty amazing, considering who we are dealing with here, but we haven't had anyone sue each other yet," Winkler said.

Published: Thu, Apr 21, 2016

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