Rubin: An ice bucket challenge at an ice rink

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

There’s something about a hockey rink that makes a bucket of ice water look even colder.

And yes, there’s something about that bucket being dumped on somebody’s head that looks like 2014.

But there’s a good reason the hockey teams from University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Birmingham Brother Rice will re-enact the ALS ice bucket challenge Friday, and he’ll be sitting at the game.

Not standing, unfortunately, even at the most exciting moments. Paul Apap can’t do that anymore.

He’ll be at the Hazel Park Ice Arena at 7 p.m., though, watching kids he coached in youth leagues and who probably skated on the rink he crafted in his backyard every winter.

Apap alumni populate both rosters, which helps explain how last year’s game became a fundraiser for research into ALS.

It went so well that the two teams are doing it again – an even kinder gesture, really, since now they know exactly how unspeakably frosty a bucket of ice water can be.

In true hockey style, the water was chilled with scrapings from the Zamboni.

In true Disney style, Teddy Apap scored the winning goal for UD Jesuit.

“No pressure, Teddy,” says his mother, Maureen, “but you need to do that again.”

Ice ice babies

Paul Apap, 50, played high school hockey for Brother Rice and his first date with Maureen was a Red Wings game.

Still, she says, “I didn’t know what I was getting into” until Paul put their kids on skates as toddlers.

He officially started coaching them when they were 3 years old, in a division known as Mini Mite.

“They’re teeny,” Maureen says of the 3-year-olds. “Their jerseys hang almost down to the ice.”

Then they grow. Tommy Apap, who’s nearing 20, will play hockey at Michigan State next year after spending two seasons at the elevated amateur level known as Junior A. Teddy, a senior, turns 18 Tuesday.

Their sister Ellie, 16, can skate – she’s an Apap, after all – but focuses on tennis and golf.

The three of them learned about their dad’s diagnosis on Father’s Day.

‘Worst you could have’

ALS strikes mysteriously, randomly and differently depending on the patient.

Paul Apap first noticed weakness in his arms in 2010. It took 18 months before doctors ruled out everything it wasn’t and settled on what it is.

A lawyer, he ultimately had to shut down his firm, though he remains of counsel to a former employer. Increasingly less mobile, he’s using a wheelchair.

“He’s not a drinker, not a smoker,” Maureen says. “His worst habit, honestly, is that he drinks too much iced tea.”

With ALS, none of that matters.

Years ago, Maureen read “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Mitch Albom’s book about a stricken but indomitable former professor.

“This has to be the worst thing you could ever have,” she told Paul. He read it next and said, “You’re right.”

Coleen Nasr, whose son Andrew played for Apap and now plays with Teddy for UD Jesuit, remembers hearing that Paul was sick. Then she heard no one was sure what he had.

Then everyone was hoping it wasn’t ALS, and then Maureen called and “it was heartbreaking.”

Now Nasr is one of the ringleaders for the benefit portion of Friday’s game.

The $5 admission, the proceeds of a bake sale, 50-50 raffle and auction, and any donations will all go to the ALS Therapy Development Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a favorite of the Apaps.

“The hockey world is small,” Nasr says. “You know these people for years.”

The parents have sat blearily though 6 a.m. practices with one another and bought rounds of hot chocolate. The kids have been teammates and opponents.

Friday, they’ll be cold and wet, again.

“Poor kids,” Maureen says – but bless ‘em, every soggy one.