Watertown’s Semi-Pro Hockey Team Features Former Pros, College Players and Even Rec League Skaters

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Members of the Boston Gold Kings hit the ice at their home rink, John A. Ryan Arena in Watertown. The semi-pro team starts its first season on Jan. 6. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

For some, playing for the Boston Gold Kings is a second chance to keep their hockey career going, for others being on the semi-pro team based out of Watertown is the first time playing with an organized adult team, and it’s fun for all.

The first game for the Boston Gold Kings will be at Ryan Arena on Saturday, Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. against the Holyoke Papermen. On Dec. 27, members of the first year team skated with their families at John A. Ryan, just a few days before their first official game in the fledgling Union Hockey League.

The team is captained by Watertown native Christian Faggas, who had a brief pro career in the minor leagues. After playing for Belmont Hill and Babson College, he played a year in the Southern Professional Hockey League with the Huntsville Havoc in Alabama and then was traded to the Vermillion County Bobcats in Illinois. Faggas expected that to be the end of his career on the ice.

“I had a knee injury that kind of prevented me from keep going with it so honestly I took a year off last year and honestly was pretty content with kind of hanging them up,” Faggas said. “Then I saw this, and someone reached out to me, and I came out to a skate and got the fire back. No turning back now.”

Christian Faggas, is one of the Boston Gold Kings’ most experienced players. Here he skates with a youngster at the skate with the team event. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

The Gold Kings squad has a wide range of talent and experience, Faggas said.

“I would say there are some pretty good players. There is a mixed bag of skills, a lot of college guys, a lot of (college) club hockey guys that are pretty competitive,” he said. “There are a few guys in the league that played professional (hockey), like myself. There are a lot of guys who fizzled out at juniors.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Brian Cole, 29, last played competitive hockey at the youth level.

“I did kind of skate a little bit when I was young and played three years of town hockey, Bantam Level, like eighth grade, ninth grade, 10th grade,” Cole said. “Then I stopped for a couple years, and got back into (pickup games) when I was in college, but I was obviously pretty far behind guys who started younger than I did and stuck with it.”

Russ Childers, left, will be playing organized hockey for the first time in two decades with the Boston Gold Kings. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

This will be the first time Cole plays as an adult in a full-contact league or with referees. The game is different from the men’s leagues and pickup games he has been playing.

“I realized I was just used to playing with civilized gentlemen, where this is a little more, you gotta watch out,” Cole said. “There is no room for these little trick moves. You’ve got to do the smart play, the safer play.”

The games are played on the weekends, and practices are at night, which is helpful for Cole, who works Monday to Friday as an engineering technician for a medical device manufacturer in South Boston.

Russ Childers was one of the guys who last played on a competitive team int he juniors, skating for the then Canton Rangers when he was 21. That was 20 years ago. Since then he has kept up his skills playing in beer leagues and tournaments.

When he spotted a Facebook post about tryouts for the Gold Kings, Childers sent a message expressing interest. He got a call from Ven Thangaraj, the team owner.

“Ven and I have been friends for years, and I had no idea he was running this whole thing. So, when he called me it was a Friday afternoon and I thought he was calling me asking me, ‘What’s up?'” Childers said. “I was like, ‘Hey, what’s up man?’ and he was like, ‘You’re an idiot. You’re crazy.'”

Boston Gold Kings owner Ven Thangaraj looks out on the ice during the team’s event on Dec. 27. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

Childers didn’t know that Thangaraj was behind the effort to start a hockey team.

“He said, ‘You want to come and hit and get in fights and do all these other things and full contact hockey at 41?,'” Childers said. “I was like, ‘Ya, why not? It’s fun.'”

Thangaraj said that after he thought about it, Childers was a good fit.

“To his defense, every story I hear from him is how he gets into fights in men’s leagues and he gets kicked out of games, so, I’m like, ‘Here you can do it and you won’t get kicked out,” Thangaraj said.

Members of the Boston Gold Kings and their families pose during the recent Holiday Skate. (Courtesy of Boston Gold Kings)

Childers was also one of the few natural defensemen.

“I think we’re about 26 (players) so far,” Childers said. “Every game you suit at least 15 (players), maybe 18. Believe it or not, back in July when we had our first real skate we had six goalies show up. Goalies have not been the problem, it’s been defense.”

Childers looks forward to playing games, and weekend road trips, but now he has a family to get back to after practice and games, and runs his own gym, Paramount Performance & Rehab in Newton. Childers’ kids, ages 9 and 12, play hockey and he co-coaches the teams.

He doesn’t feel his age when he is on the ice with the rest of the team, which is mostly made up of guys in their 20s.

“You don’t realize you are older than them until the next day when you get up and you’re sore and they’re not,” Childers said.

The new league is coming together, Thangaraj said. The schedule was just finalized this week, after some teams that planned to skate this year announced they would have to wait.

The UHL has 12 teams, split into two divisions. The Gold Kings will play in the Eastern Division, along with the Canton Mallards, Conway Yetis, Holyoke Papermen, Hudson Valley Vipers, and North Shore Nighthawks. They won’t play the six teams in the Western Division until the playoffs, which Thangaraj said is planned to be held at a central location that is yet to be determined. See the Gold Kings schedule here.

The Gold Kings also seek help on game day. The team seeks volunteers to sell tickets, a public address announcer/DJ, a scorekeeper and a photographer. Those interested can email goldkingshockey@gmail.com

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