Jerry Mucha has played competitive ice hockey for over 50 years and has four missing molars to prove it. However, the 56-year-old medical researcher has concealed the evidence with a thick mustache that has remained unshaved since the early 1970s.
The Chicago native from Canadian stock recalls a Mighty Mites hockey scrimmage between periods of a Blackhawks game. At age 4, Mucha was already a skater and eager to add a hockey stick to the repertoire.
At age 7 or 8, Mucha was the first line center-forward when his team’s goalie went down with an injury. The coach drew names out of a hat to find a replacement, and Mucha moved to the net.
“Goalies are a different breed, have a different mindset, more blunt social skills,” Mucha said. “The position is more black and white; either you make the save or you don’t.”
Mucha played goalie for rink and high school teams, his college club team and later in Europe, where he made enough money defending the nets finance his education.
The resident of San Francisco’s Castro district still works 60 hours per week, yet finds the time to man the goal for two local hockey teams. On Thursday nights, Mucha plays for the San Francisco Earthquakes in the Yerba Buena Adult Hockey League, and on Sunday mornings with the Whalers of the over-40 league in Oakland.
The morning after the Earthquakes’ 3-1 loss on Dec. 1 in the six-team league at the Yerba Buena skating rink, Mucha realized that he had a partially dislocated shoulder. No big deal for a guy accustomed to injuries and who, before the advent of steel goalie masks, suffered a broken right orbital socket.
“The German doctors went through my mouth to reset the bones,” said Mucha, who has had a series of other mishaps on the ice: broken ankles, hyper-extended knees and, of course, busted blood vessels in his catching hand.
Recreational leagues don’t allow checking, but that doesn’t protect the goalies from slap shots and breakaways.
Mucha counts on his Whalers and Earthquakes defensemen to protect him on the ice. The fact that he is the lone gay player on the Whalers or the elder statesman on the Earthquakes doesn’t detract from the camaraderie that he feels both on and off the ice.
“The number of years that I have been playing hockey is longer than many of the players have been alive,” Mucha said.
Asked what makes a good goaltender, Mucha simply stated: “You don’t have a fear of death.”
San Francisco Earthquakes
WHAT: Gay and gay-friendly ice hockey team.
WHERE: Thursday night games at the Yerba Buena Ice Center
OPPONENTS: Six teams comprise the Yerba Buena Adult Hockey League
TWO SEASONS: Fall and summer