WASHINGTON –Mike Quigley, a Democratic Congressman from Chicago, thought Delaware County’s Pat Meehan must have been legally blind.
After all, Quigley said, Meehan used to be an NHL referee.
“I can still put you in the penalty box, Quigs,” shot back Meehan, now a Republican Congressman in his second term.
The two traded playful jabs at a meeting of the Congressional Hockey Caucus last week, with both the Stanley Cup and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in attendance. The meeting was held a few hours ahead of the annual Congressional Hockey Challenge pitting lawmakers from Congress and the Canadian parliament against a team of lobbyists.
Meehan took the ice as a defenseman, pairing with Rick Dykstra, a member of Parliament from Ontario.
“It was actually quite fun,” said Meehan, 58. “I go into it each year - my biggest goal was to survive, and I think I did again. The second: to not overwhelmingly embarrass myself.”
The game, played Wednesday, featured four Congressmen, three members of Parliament and staffers against a team of lobbyists who paid to play, with their contributions going to charity. Each team included an ex-pro, both former Washington Capitals, and a member of the USA Warriors, a hockey team of wounded military veterans.
The lawmaker team won 7-5 – one of the veterans scored the go-ahead goal, and the winning team then added an empty-net score, Meehan said.
Meehan grew up playing hockey in the Philadelphia area, mostly at the Wissahickon Skating Club, and was an NHL referee from 1979 through the 1982-83 season, before heading to Temple Law School and eventually becoming the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
When he got to Congress in 2011 he was recruited for the Congressional team.
“I honestly had not skated or played hockey really in 25 years,” he said.
“I sort of went out there thinking it was just going to be an exhibition and about halfway through, the competitive juices started flowing and I say, hey, this is a fun game and I’m going to win,” Meehan said. “There’s quite a bit of talent out there.”
This was Meehan’s fourth year participating in the event.
Meehan's defenseman pairing with Dykstra was fitting. For some 50 years, Meehan said, the Wissahickon Skating Club and Merritton Athletic Association, in Dykstra's district, have had a hockey exchange program letting athletes from the two areas compete against one another.
The lobbyist contributions were donated to the Warriors program, local hockey clubs and a scholarship program run by the NHL and Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which goes to hockey players who come up through an NHL program intended to expand the sport to minorities in cities.