Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Meet The Duffers: An intergenerational hockey team with a standing reservation in Downers Grove

     A bonus column this week, written for a special Sunday section on community. 

     It’s Wednesday, it’s noon, it’s Grand Dukes, an Eastern European restaurant in Downers Grove. Which can only mean one thing. The Duffers are assembling.
     “Hey, Bob!” says Jim Glynn, the “Young Guy” at 61, sitting at the bar. Bob Granato is hockey royalty, the uncle of Tony and Don Granato Jr., NHL former players and current coaches, and Cammi Granato, the first woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
     Everyone has a nickname. Greg Lopatka is “the Beak” for obvious reasons if you see him in profile. Arvetis M. Dikinis is “Harvey” — you can’t expect the guys to handle “Arvetis” — and wears a Duffers jersey, which expropriates the Hamm’s Beer bear (artfully if not legally) as their mascot.
     And what are the Duffers? Well, that is a long story, starting in 1970, at the new ice-skating rink opened in Downers Grove. Shortly thereafter, the future Duffers found themselves in the stands, watching their sons play hockey.
     “Most of us had kids playing at the rink,” says Lopatka, 84. “The original guy, Jim Miceli — we call him ‘The King’ — he said, ‘This looks like fun. We should do this.’”
     So they started playing Sundays at the rink.
     They never stopped. For the next 53 years. They hang out, they play. They even take the team on the road, traveling to distant cities — they’ve taken 42 road trips over the last half-century — to play at actual NHL arenas after the pros have vacated the ice.
     “We’ve had a lot of fun, thanks to the Granatos,” says Greg Zerkis. Tony Granato’s brother, Don Sr., is also a member.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. How old is this Bob Granato? Late 70s? Gotta wonder if it's the same guy I knew in college. I'm vaguely remembering that he may have been fond of hockey. Big Blackhawks fan, same as I was. He was from the LaGrange area (Lyons Twp.), which is not all that far from Downers Grove. Very Italian.

    We tried being roommates, during my last semester in the dorms, and that proved disastrous. Differences of opinion became major disagreements, in an astonishingly short time. While we were both very much into Sinatra, his playing of the same LP every morning, after the alarm went off, was the final straw. We parted on bad terms.

    But somehow, seven months later, I was actually talked into sharing an apartment with Bob, and two other guys from our former dorm. Huge mistake. It was early 1968, in a rapidly fracturing America. There was a major war on. We were three rights and a left. One guess who the lefty was. I moved out after six weeks.

    Could this be the same dude? If so, it really IS a small world, Mr. S.

  2. How sweet is that? And they have a locker room!

  3. What a great story - thanks for sharing this.

    It's funny to think of Downers' Grove as a "new" rink. The newness has long since worn off that place -- but it's still plugging along, as far as I know, well-loved and with plenty of life left, warts and all. I guess it's like most of us who were "new" at that time period.

  4. An enviable bunch of good old boys, minus the irony.

    I would fit right in if they let me bang away with my Bobby Hull style slap shots...off the ice. Never could skate worth a damn!


  5. So is he the same guy Grizz remembers? Could they get along now? Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. Never found out, either way. I wanna know, too...

  6. How cool; it’s never too late to have fun!


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.