A Jersey Shore Hockey Story

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“A Jersey Shore Hockey Story”

“Hey, so how is your new hip doing?” It’s a question I get asked a lot lately and you would think it might get a little tiresome. But even after two years I’m still so full of gratefulness and wonder that I don’t mind. It’s like telling one of my buddies about a new power tool I picked up at Home Depot. The amazing thing is, except for that scar on my backside, I can’t even tell I got a hip replacement.

Let’s rewind to three years ago when I never would have expected anything like a hip replacement to happen to me. 35 years in the roofing business and I might have missed five days of work total due to health reasons, but then out of nowhere I started getting this intense pain in my left hip. It hurt to walk, it hurt to work, but worst of all it hurt to play my favorite pastime — ice hockey.

That was a BIG problem for me. I know someday I’ll retire from the roofing business but I can’t comprehend life without hockey. Can the funeral home pick me up at the rink?

I’m no great hockey player, but hockey sure has been great to me. I started playing when I was 12-years old. A new kid from Boston moved to my neighborhood and he had played youth hockey out there. It wasn’t long before my whole group of friends were playing pond hockey. As soon as the pond melted, we moved on to street hockey.

1974 Brookdale CC State Champs — Are any of you guys still around? — Front Row L-R: Paul Chung, Rod Harris, John Mulligan, Douglas Bonora, Ken McQueen, N/A, Bill Hill. Back Row: Marc Stallwerck, Bob Ellison, Steve Cote, Rich Glazier, Al Greenleaf, Oakley “Buzzy” Smith, Ed Ott, Mike Milchak, Fr. Holly Knight.

If playing hockey was a crime, I would’ve been convicted! Jim Gunning of Boston — wherever you are — thank you!

Within a couple of years, I got to play high school club hockey for the Eatontown Schooners, then Junior College where my coach was a Lutheran Priest from Canada. My parents became hockey parents driving me all around the state to games and practices, Bricktown, Navesink, New Shrewsbury, Branch Brook Park in Newark… What GREAT times! I was so lucky. Thanks mom and dad and thank you Fr. Holly Knight of Canada.

Now there’s an old saying in hockey, “Sooner or later all players end up in the men’s league” and so it was with me. Hockey was in my blood and I loved every minute of it. 10:45 game? No problem. Bad ice, only 5-6 skaters filling in on the worst team in the league? I’m there! Did hockey contribute to the break-up of my first marriage? Maybe, but I’d like to think that hockey helped me find the woman I was meant to be with. Thanks for being a great, supportive “hockey wife” Josephine.

1975 Eatontown Schooners action at the Old New Shrewsbury Ice Rink

In 2014, I began my 46th year playing hockey, the last 44 exclusively as goalie when my hip wore out. I went to see an orthopedic doctor and learned about osteoarthritis and hip replacement surgery. Of course my first question was, “Would I still be able to play hockey?” And the answer was, “maybe, but your days of playing goalie are over.” Hip implants have restrictions for activities that have lots of hip rotation. “Maybe you can learn to skate up,” he said.

HMPH! Hearing that was like a slap shot to the groin! All these years and my biggest worry was whether or not I’d get to play hockey in heaven some day. It looked like my earthly days of goalie are over. Denial now kicked in and I tried to forget about the pain. Hockey players don’t succumb to pain, forget getting a new hip. Yeah, that lasted about six months. I must have reached my stubbornness threshold when after I made a save from the butterfly position — I’d have to turn around, grab the crossbar of the net to pull myself back up. Did I mention it was pretty rough climbing around the roof at work too?

1973 Eatontown Schooners. Front Row L-R: Billy Green, Bill Cote, Douglas Bonora, Mike Amato, N/A, Billy Davidson. Back Row L-R: Doug Ousterman, Pete Norris, Brad Banos, Hank Rakowski, Bob MacDonald, Steve Brand, Steve Capozzi.

Now, what I thought was limited to just a hockey problem was turning into a quality of life problem. I guess I finally reached the point of the acceptance stage when I asked my son to play for me in the men’s league playoffs so I wouldn’t cost my team a chance to win.

It was then I got the phone call that changed everything…

I didn’t recognize the phone number, but when I answered I realized it was a fellow netminder that I’ve played against for years. He’s an orthopedic doctor and knew of my situation. He said one of his partners at University Orthopaedic Associates might be able to help me. With a glimmer of hope, I scheduled an appointment with Dr. David Harwood. Thanks for giving me hope fellow goalie, Dr. Chris Doumas!

“I think I can help you,” Dr. Harwood said as he explained to me that a bone resurfacing procedure will not have the restrictions of other hip implants and that I should be back in the net in 9-to-12 months. He might have even said that I could keep working on the roof too, but my mind was already in fast forward, “Sign me up Doc, as soon as the men’s league playoffs are over.”

Within a few months I had dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s and it was time for the procedure. Hockey player or not, I’m nervous in the Pre-Op. I’ve had plenty of stitches in my career, but now I’m going to let a guy I hardly know cut my loins to pieces. Thank God the anesthesia kicked in because the next thing I know, my wife is squeezing my hand in the recovery room and I’ve got a cobalt steel “Birmingham” hip. Some day an archaeologist is going to dig up my skeleton and say aliens must have done this. Thanks Dr. Harwood!

That night, using a walker, I made it to the bathroom on my own. Next morning, my rehab began in the hospital. I was home in three days. The visiting nurse and physical therapist came right to my house the first two weeks. Leg lifts, knee bends, using with the walker, safety bars in the shower, stool softeners and extra strength Tylenol.

Within a couple weeks, I was using a cane and going to physical therapy. There’s a lot of work to do to regain my full strength and range of motion but I could see and feel results every day. In a month I was back to driving and put the cane away. In 12 weeks, I’m back to work on the roof and can even get around the golf course. Thank you to my friends at Andrus Physical Therapy!

Seven months after hip replacement surgery, I finally stepped back on the ice. It was definitely a little scary but I stretched out and warmed up and started taking some shots and next thing I know, I was playing hockey again. I was a little rusty and spent a few months just playing open hockey (not that much fun for goalies), but it was a small price to pay to get back into hockey shape.

After now, after 12 months I’m back playing in our men’s league and dreaming about playing goalie in heaven. Thanks all, my new hip is doing just fine!

Written by Doug Bonora/Special to Hockey Clan

The HockeyClan Player’s Blog is a forum written by and published by you — the players. It is an opportunity for you to tell your story to the Hockey Community. We want to hear from you too! Submit your story, your pictures and video to main@hockeyclan.com

Steve and Doug Bonora.



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