Hee-Haw Hockey

When It Comes To Comradery And Charity, Being A Donkey Is Part Of The Game

 

A group of hockey teams called the Hockey Donkeys sounds seriously out of the ordinary. But what these players achieve off the ice is nothing short of extraordinary.

The Hockey Donkeys started as one team formed by Keith Swaim and Jay Sedgwick – along with a couple of other friends – who cared less about the talent of their teammates and more about what kind of people they were.

“We sort of picked our friends and formed our own hockey team, and that became very important because that was sort of the catalyst of our group and then our organization,” Sedgwick recalled. “We didn’t really care about the level of hockey player you were. We really cared about the kind of person you were on the ice, off the ice, in the locker room.”

Next came the name, which was a takeoff of Swaim’s nickname for not-so-great players. They admit it’s not a typical team name. It doesn’t roll off the tongue and part of the decision was swayed by how much their wives collectively hated the name. Thus, the Hockey Donkeys were formed, donning the colors of the Hartford Whalers, which was something Sedgwick refused to waver on. 

Now, the organization consists of over one hundred co-ed adult hockey league players on several teams across Maryland, playing in Frederick, Laurel and Reisterstown. The Donkeys have players whose ages range from 18 to 68 and span every skill level.

“I think it’s such a good thing that it’s at all different levels,” said Claire Adkinson of the Donkeys’ marketing team. “That was a big thing that they did, making sure everybody plays. We all love hockey; it doesn’t matter what level you are.”

Making sure that if anyone wanted to join the organization that there was a place for them to fit in was a key component of the Donkeys. Comradery was central, and soon after the formation of the Donkeys, charity became the focal point.

“From the very beginning, we knew this was about much, much more than hockey,” said Swaim. “It takes just as much time and effort to run a non-charity tournament so we may as well do the right thing and use hockey as a way to give back to our community. We just thought it was the right thing to do. Giving back, it’s just part of the equation of being human.”

 

The first official tournament was held in 2016 and benefitted Hospice of Frederick County, after the passing of a team captain’s wife. That event raised more than $5,000. The next year, after a teammates’ cancer diagnosis, the tournament take eclipsed $7,000 for the Cancer Research Institute. Other tournament benefactors have included the Montgomery Cheetahs Hockey Club, a hockey club for children with developmental disabilities, The Frederick Rescue Mission and the Frederick County Humane Society.

“One of the benefits of selecting local charities is that we really get to make an impact,” Swaim said. “With larger organizations, that money gets watered down through administrative costs. At a local level, it means so much and does so much more. Local charities get involved and, with that, when we can’t donate money, we can donate time and resources.”

After multiple tournaments and thousands of dollars raised, the Donkeys show no signs of slowing down. There are dreams of adding more teams located in more communities around the country – but not at the expense of staying true to what these Donkeys believe in. For those involved, the sport of hockey has given them more than they ever imagined. 

“It is our family,” Sedgwick said. “We’ve had wedding and we’ve had divorces; we’ve had births and we’ve had deaths. We’ve had near-miss accidents and huge successes. People have bought and sold businesses. People have graduated from college and people have retired. 

“It’s hard to explain the comradery and the fellowship and the way so many people from so many different places all come together and work together. That’s what hockey is.” 

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