Chasing Hockey Dreams

by Richard Diem

We were roller hockey roughnecks

Young boys on pavement streets

In our Union Hardware skates

Little Rangers fast and fleet

Black tape and white adhesive

Sticks not curved but straight

Black and blues, clamps on shoes

With dreams of playing great

 

From dawn to dusk we played

An ever changing group

Chalk line goals, tin cans or rocks

And nets of chicken coop

 

One kid goes home as one comes out

A game could last all day

Tough words with fights soon broken up,

Nice pass, great goal, good play

 

We were roller hockey roughnecks

On the streets of Sunnyside, Queens

In our Union Hardware skates

Chasing hockey dreams

My Lifelong Love of Hockey

          I’ve had a lifelong love of hockey.  As a young boy I played roller hockey in Queens, New York, mostly in Sunnyside where I grew up, and also in the Astoria area which was really a hot bed of hockey at the time.  For me, it all began on my own street - 42nd between Queens Boulevard and 43rd Avenue.  As I’ve seen references from other writers, hockey was played on many Sunnyside streets.

 

          As teams were formed, we played a lot by the Schirmer music Company on 48th Street in Woodside where there was a big wide street with no cars.  The best was when Torsney Park was built where the lots had been, and there were even lights for night games.  In time, some of my earlier hockey friends went on to other activities.  With my friends, Nat Rosenzweig and Paul Vlachos, I managed to get on one of the good Astoria clubs that played travel teams in the very well run YMCA league.

   

          Hockey was always my favorite sport and I used to pester my mother to move to Canada so I’d have a chance to play professional hockey.  Here is quite a coincidence: My mother was adopted and at the time, she didn’t know much about her biological parents.  As I eventually found out, her father was born and grew up in Montreal. 

          When I was thirty five I had an idea to stop smoking and start playing ice hockey, so I bought some good skates and started going to the rinks to improve my skating.  I was always a good skater.  I then bought all the necessary equipment and showed up at Superior Ice Rink in Kings Park for a pickup game, and so hockey was back in my life.

          I had the good fortune to play with some very good players.  An amazing day was my 60th birthday when I played in a game with an ex NHL player Pete Stemkowski.  Besides it being my birthday, my first grandchild was a week old.  I told Pete, and he said, “You’re going to have a good game.”  With his great play making and passing, I had three goals.  I also played in a couple of tournaments with a 50 and up Fire Department team, so I had some wonderful experiences, and it all began on the Sunnyside streets.  I was not a fireman but my friend Ray Downey was.

          I played for fifteen straight years and then, due to job circumstances, I stopped playing from the age of 50 until I was 55.  Then one morning, I laced up my skates and went to a pickup game in Syosset.  There, I met a fellow about my age and he told me about a club called, “The Old Pucks,” that played in Freeport, Long Island.  I met with this group of mostly retired police and firemen.  I enjoyed playing with them until the age of 71, and then due to health issues, I had to stop. 

 

Hockey in my family continues. My son, now in his fifties, still plays and I have three grandchildren who now play too.  I even coached for three years at Superior Ice Rink.  I guess you could say I’ve had a lifelong love for the game of hockey.

Hockey%20Card%202_edited.png
Richard in Hockey Gear.JPG

Photo of Richard taken by Nat Rosenzweig,  Torsney Park, 1952

Richard Diem came to Sunnyside early in life, attended PS 150 and JHS 125. and L.I.C. H.S., after which he entered the Marine Corps.  He went on to become the franchised manager of a newspaper home delivery service and later, a Postal Service mail carrier.  He is a minister to the homebound through his church and a professional caregiver forced into retirement by Covid-19.  He loves writing about his childhood memories.