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These blades are on skates, not scalpels

It's cold inside Hanover's Campion Rink at 5:00 a.m. On the ice is a mismatched group of players skating, with varying degrees of skill, after a puck that only occasionally gets near the net. This is "Gas Attack Hockey," named by the anesthesiologists who started the group. Well padded and wearing a random assortment of jerseys, the players are unrecognizable; only the odd ponytail indicates that this is a mixed-gender game.

Carter Dodge, who at work wears scrubs, suits up here for the ice.
Photo: Flying Squirrel Graphics

In the locker room afterwards, as the pads come off ("Most players begin playing Gas Attack wearing a minimum of protection," according to the group's official rules, "and gradually add padding after an unprotected site has been abraded, cracked, imploded, or required costly surgical reconstruction"), recognizable figures emerge: anesthesiologist Carter Dodge, administrator Ronald Sliwinski, surgeon John Birkmeyer.

"The goal," says Dodge, "is to get some exercise, play hockey, and have fun." The group's recruitment strategy is to ask if new members of the department can skate. "Either forward or backward," Dodge says. "You don't have to do both."

Gas Attack Hockey has been going on for "at least 16 years," Dodge says. The Department of Medicine has a hockey group as well. "It's kind to aging bodies," Dodge says of hockey. "In basketball, people are always tearing Achilles tendons" or hurting their knees. Games are unscored, and there are no referees. Although Birkmeyer says that "the key to success is persistent dirty play," skaters are more apt to be injured by insults than by checking. (During the locker-room banter, one player is described as "an embarrassment to the Canadian race.") Moreover, adds Birkmeyer, "it's the one place surgeons can criticize anesthesiologists without them canceling our cases."

Privately, anesthesiologist Mary "The Slasher" Fillinger re- flects that, all joking aside, the games provide a valuable bridge among players who at work can sometimes have conflicting perspectives. "It's a whole different way of knowing other doctors," she explains. "It's hard to be mad at a person you're having this much fun playing with." —M.M.C.

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