Atlanta and professional ice hockey don’t mix –ours is the only city to have lost two NHL teams-but recreational hockey thrives thanks to the influx of Northern transplants. The Atlanta Amateur Hockey League (AAHL) began in 1974 with two teams jousting at a ragtag rink. The league now has close to 100 teams playing at six metro-Atlanta rinks, some with multiple ice surfaces. Doc has been there to see it all. Dr. Alan Dever –“Doc” to his teammates –is a Professor and Dean Emeritus of Mercer Uni-versity School of Medicine, as well as Medical Director of Preventive Medicine at the Atlanta Medical Center.
A native of Canada, Doc’s medical studies brought him to Buffalo, NY; Michigan and, finally, metro-Atlanta where he has lived since 1971. Hockey has been a constant companion. At age 75, Doc is the oldest active player in the AAHL, and one of a very few who have played in the league continuously since 1974.
The Roswell resident is currently on the injured list.
In March, while playing for Team Black in the AAHL Over-35 League, Doc had a collision and suf-fered a mild concussion, a dislocated jaw and collar bone, a fractured humerus and a torn rotator cuff. He vows to return.
We corresponded by email.
Q: What was your early hockey experience?
Doc: I learned the sport on a backyard pond at age 6. I progressed through all the Canadian youth leagues, and was fortunate to have played with [NHL legends] Bobby and Dennis Hull. There were no hockey schools or clinics in those days; we learned from our fathers and each other. I played varsity hockey at Buffalo and Michigan universities. I was the captain of the Buffalo team for four years and was awarded the scoring championship.
Q: What are your early recollections of hockey in Atlanta?
Doc: I first played with the semi-pro Atlanta Knights [no relation to the minor league Atlanta Knights who played here in the 1990s]. We practiced at the “iron bar” Igloo on Roswell Road –so named because it had iron bars around the rink instead of boards- and played our games in Macon. When that league dissolved in the early 70s, I joined the AAHL. In the beginning we didn’t wear hel-mets, and checking [intentionally colliding with a player] was allowed. AAHL players must now wear helmets and facial protection, and checking is prohibited.
Q: What are some of the injuries you’ve incurred over the years?
Doc: This was laughable when I started to tabulate! Not counting the current ones, they include: two bro-ken noses; deviated septum; broken wrist, leg, thumb and T7 vertebra and a couple of cracked ribs. I’m not counting bruises and lacerations. A few years ago, my dean at the medical school was going to write into my contract that I couldn’t play hockey!
Q: In your opinion, why has professional hockey failed in Atlanta?
Doc: It was a number of factors. The transplants from hockey-loving areas tend to live north, east and west of Atlanta, so playing at arenas located in the city was a poor choice [the minor league Gladiators continue to thrive at their home in Gwinnett County]. Also, the player salaries were too high for a small fan base to support. And it didn’t help that neither NHL team [Flames and Thrashers] was ever competitive.
Q: How long are you going to continue playing?
Doc: Until I can’t crawl or I die!