Leaders on the ice come in different shapes and sizes. The latest winner of the Apex Adult Hockey League, the Ice Monkeys, is led by a captain whose best weapon is having a knack for being in the right place at the right time in the rink.
Actually, that’s her second best weapon. Her best?
“I like organizing,” says Dr. Liss Gruen, who co-founded the Ice Monkeys 12 years ago.
“I am good at knowing who’s going to work well together because I’m actually a pretty active captain.
“And, I like to keep everyone happy.”
Gruen excels at “diagnosing” (no pun intended) things in her hockey preparation and everything else in her life. More on that in a moment.
The Ice Monkeys have won two previous championships, once before at Apex in Arvada and one other time in another league. This time, at the Low D league championship on April 17, the Ice Monkeys beat the Mopdogs 3-2.
“It was just fantastic,” says Gruen. “Everybody acted like it was the Stanley Cup.”
Gruen plays in two leagues at the same time; the Apex league on the co-ed team that includes two other female players, and in another women’s-only league.
Gruen’s has two day jobs; one as a geriatrician at Rocky Mountain Senior Care, the other as medical director at Gateway Hospice. It was at one of her previous posts, during her orthopedic research fellowship at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, that Gruen’s eyes opened to the hockey world.
“The clinic was right next to a rink,” says Gruen. “I bought a pair of skates and every day for lunch I would go skate. I taught myself how to skate from the book, Power Skating, by Laura Stamm.”
A rec league career grew from there. Gruen’s love of the sport has rubbed off on her 17-year-old daughter Rebecca, who played hockey at East High School and recently at GW High School.
“She was the first and only girl ever to have played on the East High School team,” Gruen boasts.
The two shared another bond from another one of Gruen’s organizational skills when she formed Girl Scout Troop 1737, which at one time had over 20 members.
“We started the troop 12 years ago when Rebecca was in kindergarten,” says Gruen. “Now she’s an ambassador, which is 11th and 12th grade. I think it’s a really rewarding program.”
Gruen’s core endeavors, no doubt, are her geriatric patients.
“When I get a new patient, I tend to look into their history and see what’s gone on,” says Gruen. “From that perspective, it’s really interesting and it’s nice being able to make a difference.
“Sadly, our world doesn’t really think that much about elderly people, which is ironic, because our parents are hoping to become elderly people.
“People just don’t really respect the elderly, even though you’re supposed to. Even within medicine, people don’t, so these patients haven’t necessarily gotten the best of care over the years.”
Between Denver’s geriatric set, playing in two hockey leagues and leading a Girl Scout troop, Liss has to rely heavily on her organizational skills to weave all those quadrants of her life together.
All of these pursuits – whether advocacy for senior care, helping discover opportunities for young women, or piecing together an effective scoring line on the ice, get accomplished effectively with one other personal trait.
“Persistence,” says Gruen. “It’s part of my personality.”
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