Brendan O’Rourke has placed his passion on ice. For nearly 10 years, the corporate and real estate lawyer has been an active member of the New Canaan Winter Club and its men’s hockey teams.
The sport has been part of his life for most of his 49 years, never more important to him than after a grueling day at the office. “Ice hockey is a tremendous psychological release,” O’Rourke said. “It enables a better life balance.”
The concepts of self-discipline, unselfishness, identifying weaknesses and pushing oneself to the limits mirror the qualities needed to succeed in the legal profession, O’Rourke said. One difference, though, is the camaraderie felt among hockey players who gather after each game to share a beer. “The social aspect is a universal quality” among hockey players, he said.
A native of Pelham, N.Y., O’Rourke played youth hockey before his family moved to Wilton, where he was on his high school squad. He earned his undergrad and law degrees at the University of Virginia, then returned to Connecticut to practice with Day, Berry & Howard in Stamford and play pickup hockey. In 1988, he ventured into a solo career in which his hobby often intersected with his professional life.
He provided legal services on two projects that created the Stamford Twin Rinks and the Danbury Ice Arena, both of which are now regular haunts for him.
The New Canaan Winter Club sponsors men’s teams on three levels. The B level team consists of many players who competed at the highest collegiate levels, while the C-1 team is mainly for guys in their 30s. O’Rourke plays on the C-2 level as a defenseman.
“Our hockey is pretty good, too,” he noted. “It definitely catalyzes a lot of passion.”
On the C-2 team the average age is about 50, so there’s a tendency to shy away from the brute physical contact that’s an integral part of the professional game. That’s not to say O’Rourke’s teammates and opponents are creaky milquetoasts.
“Because you’re moving around fast and chasing pucks into the corner, there’s hitting going on,” he said. “We’re mature enough, for the most part, that we keep it in check, although sometimes there is some jostling around. We’re all used to the culture of hitting [in hockey], and everyone wants to win.”
O’Rourke logs two to three games per week. He also takes lunch breaks at a local rink, when he fits in some skating, puck-handling and shooting drills.
Though he is the lone lawyer on his team that includes banking and finance executives, other lawyers are active hockey players in Fairfield County. Former Superior Court Judge Robert A. Fuller competes on an over-60 team and plays at least one game a week when he’s not practicing land use law in Wilton. “I maintain it’s the only team sport that older people can play because it’s easier on the joints,” Fuller said.
The Connecticut teams often play other squads within their own club but sometimes branch out to play club teams from neighboring towns. O’Rourke’s team has “healthy rivalries” with squads in Greenwich and Darien, and he noted that Danbury also is a difficult opponent because of a concentration of French-Canadian players.
O’Rourke is planning to beef up his playing time because he’s having so much fun.
“At one point, I was a pretty good hockey player, and I feel I’ve slipped a notch or two,” he said. “I’m going to try to play more because I want to improve.”