Ice Pimps making hockey look mean

Aaron Kirscht

Aggressive hockey is back in Minneapolis.
Fueled by the sensual tones of Barry White and pre-game meals of lettuce and unsweetened tea, the Ice Pimps have lit a fire under the rear end of the University intramural hockey league.
Similar to the Hanson brothers in their beloved movie “Slap Shot,” the mission of the Pimps — Kraig “Toe” Haenke, Mitz “Tuttle” Del Caro and others — is to play a brand of hockey unfamiliar to casual fans of the game. This is real hockey, they say, born on the Iron Range of Minnesota.
Punishing. Painful. Bloody. Aggressive might be too soft a term.
“Hockey has really gone down the toilet since the 1970s,” said Haenke, who leads the Pimps in every penalty category and is a two-time winner of the coveted Ogie Oglethorpe award, named after the mangy character from the movie. “Now, you look at a guy wrong and you get a penalty. A few wild swings of the stick and a good cross-check to the back of the neck and people think you are a dirty player.”
Haenke, a senior from Lakeland, Minn., and Del Caro, a senior from Biwabik, Minn., are the (ahem) founding fathers of Pimps hockey. The idea was hatched after they tried out for the University club team and were asked after the first practice to not come back.
But the intramural league, they knew, would take anyone — even a bunch of guys you might see traded for a used puck bag. Toe and Tuttle assembled a roster of players who, if they weren’t from the Iron Range, at least had to “play the game the way it was meant to be played.”
“Typically, Rangers, Canadians, Finns and Russians are the only guys you’ll find playing our style of hockey,” Del Caro said. “City hockey players skate around in their $500 skates made in Korea, with huge pads and hair that looks straight out of Melrose Place, and they call themselves hockey players?”
The Original Pimps recruited a pair of scorers from the club team and a like-minded gaggle of goons before hitting the Mariucci Arena ice in January 1997.
But the season didn’t last long. On the way to the short end of a 7-2 blowout in the third game of the season, the Pimps lashed out. Well, Haenke at least; he racked up 15 minutes of penalties and was ejected from the game. Haenke later received a lifetime ban from the league supervisor, and the rest of the Pimps were suspended for the rest of the season because of rough play.
“People just shake their head at us like we’re doing something wrong,” Del Caro said. “I don’t get it.”
But a new, more sympathetic league supervisor, Jason Lamon, was in place for the 1998 season, thus giving Toe and the Ice Pimps a second chance.
“There’s a no-contact rule, and we try to enforce that as much as possible,” Lamon said. “But it’s hard for someone who’s been playing contact their whole life to play another way. We try to get this point across to them and they just laugh. They didn’t take us too seriously, I guess.”
The Ice Pimps went 5-6-1 in their second season, winning their first-ever playoff game before losing in the second round. Haenke wasn’t around for the first round, of course, having been ejected for a check-from-behind in the final game of the regular season.
Del Caro had his share of brutality as well, breaking a stick over the ankles of an opponent “who got a little too chippy around the boards.” But the mood among the Pimps at season’s end was somber. Penalties were still amassed at an impressive rate, but the toned-down 1998 season seemed more like a rebuilding year. Next season, they said, they plan on being even meaner.
One can only enjoy old-time hockey for so long.
It might be the off-season for the Pimps, but the games go on in their minds. The National Hockey League playoffs give them a chance to relive their own glories and see professional goons do what they do best.
Marty “Mr. F” Kirchner, one of the Pimps’ earliest recruits, asked Del Caro and Haenke if they ever think of anything but Pimps hockey.
“Yeah,” Del Caro said, “but there aren’t any good-looking girls on campus.”
With comments like that, a good slashing technique might come in handy off the ice, too.

NOTE: The Ice Pimps are online at www.angelfire.com/mn/westbank/main.html