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One Of A Kind: The CAHL Experience

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There is a very good reason why playing professional sports is referred to as "living the dream."

Mainly because that's exactly what is: almost averse to reality, an accomplishment so rare we pay good money to watch those who have achieved it. The National Hockey League is far and away the greatest collection of hockey talent on the planet, but perhaps one of the most passionate collections of hockey "lifers" rests within our city limits.

If you grew up in this city like I have, The Chiller name is synonymous with hockey and childhood memories. I put my first pair of ice skates on at their Dublin location, and showed off my average skating on that very sheet of ice several times during grade-school field trips.

Back when the Fairgrounds Coliseum wasn't available to host Columbus Chill playoff games, the team held its postseason home games at The Chiller in Dublin. They did their best to pack over 1,000 people in there and I was in attendance, with my dad, face pressed against the glass in an attempt to heckle the Wheeling Nailers or whoever they were playing.

How could I forget one of my middle school classmates trying a triple lutz and breaking his nose in the Ice Haus? (No, I won't divulge his identity. But his name rhymes with Justin).

Those were the days, I tell you. And for 171 teams filled with hockey-crazy adults in Columbus, those days happily live on.

The Chiller Adult Hockey League is one of the largest adult hockey leagues in the United States, with (currently) four main divisions -- B, C, D and E -- and several subdivisions accordingly based on skill level. I have several friends who regularly participate in the CAHL and, just like the teams they love to watch, it has become a significant part of their lives.

Work days don't seem to drag as long when you know Thursday D-league is waiting in a few hours. Sunday isn't always "the day before Monday" when you have an important B-league matchup just before Sunday Night Football kicks off.

Right there lies the beauty of the CAHL: it has a way of making the bad days not-so-bad and making the distractions of "real life" go away for the hour you spend on the ice with friends, co-workers, relatives, whoever it may be.

For one night a week (and sometimes more), you're part of a team that plays for each other not because your job depends on it, but because you love the game.

Or, because it keeps you from watching "Dancing With The Stars" or vacuuming the crawlspace, both of which are the opposite of desirable.

The league means a lot to the people involved, too. You desperately want your team picture to be hanging on the hallway as you enter the rinks and you strive to get better as a team to climb up a league someday.

That's what it's all about, and that's why we're taking on this story. dropped in to catch some Monday night CAHL action at The Chiller Easton earlier this week, took some pictures, and talked to some of the folks involved. They're passionate, they're thankful for the opportunity to play but even more grateful for the friendships they've forged along the way.

We hope to capture all of that and more as the weeks go by. If you see us at the rink taking pictures, stop and say hello because you're an integral part of our story.

Pardon me -- YOUR story.

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