UMass forward Cal Kiefiuk inherited love of hockey from family

  • UMass left wing Cal Kiefiuk (7) hands the puck away from Minnesota State defender Andy Carroll (4) in the third period during the season opener at the Mullins Center in October. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

  • UMass forward Cal Kiefiuk is returning home to the state of Michigan for a pair of games against the Wolverines this weekend. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/6/2022 5:13:18 PM

Judy Kiefiuk gave her grandson Cal his first pair of hockey gloves at age two.

It was a gift passing down her love of the sport, but also an initiation into a family raised with pucks and sticks.

Judy, UMass junior forward Cal Kiefiuk’s paternal grandmother, first gravitated to the game around a radio with her brother listening to Detroit Red Wings games. Her father finally took her to the old Detroit Olympia to see the team play in person, and that cemented it. She waited outside the locker room for autographs from the Red Wings.

“I fell in love with the sport, and I’ve been a nut fan ever since,” Judy Kiefiuk said.

She also played with her friends when they could find ice time. The team wore figure skates.

“We didn’t know any better,” Judy Kiefiuk said.

She eventually wrote to legendary Detroit News Columnist Pete Waldmeir, who wrote a story about the team and took a picture of them on the ice at the Olympia. Former Red Wing Jack Stewart helped organize a game against another girls team in Chatham, Ontario.

Judy Kiefiuk’s team had seven players total. Their goalie wore shin guards and wielded a goalie stick. The team they faced had full uniforms. The team from Detroit prevailed 6-2. When Judy Kiefiuk tried to organize another game, they wouldn’t play again. They apparently disbanded not long after.

She tried to get a league going in Detroit, but there wasn’t enough interest to sustain it.

“They did the story and it kind of fizzled,” she said.

Now she marvels at how far the women’s game has come with multiple avenues to play professionally as well as competition at the collegiate and international levels, including the Olympics.

“I just wish I was there,” she said. “I wish I could’ve been there.”

But Judy Kiefiuk kept hockey in her life. She met her husband Ed Kiefiuk at the Olympia during boys league games on Saturdays and Sundays. He played for a little bit once they got married and started having kids, but stopped because he didn’t want to get hurt with three boys to raise.

Don was the oldest and biggest, while the middle child Tim had the most desire for the sport. Joe, Cal’s dad, the youngest, possessed the most talent.

“I always said if I could put my three boys together I’d have one hell of a hockey player,” Judy Kiefiuk said.

They raised their kids around the rink, and that tradition was passed down. Cal Kiefiuk’s older brother Chase played roller hockey, and that’s where Cal got his first taste. He began playing roller hockey before eventually transitioning to the ice.

“I love watching my grandson play,” Judy Kiefiuk said. “I’m so proud of him.”

She and Ed regularly drove him to practice when he needed while playing for Detroit’s elite HoneyBaked youth program.

“Noni and Poppa were always the first to step up. They always came on road trips and different things,” Cal Kiefiuk said. “From a young age they were always so supportive and engaged in my hockey.”

That hasn’t stopped. The family was thrilled when Cal Kiefiuk verbally committed to Michigan at age 14. But when it came time to matriculate, the Wolverines had too many players and asked him to spend another year in juniors. There were seven schools interested in him, so he weighed the options. The Kiefiuks were less excited when he heavily considered Ohio State, what with the blood feud between the schools and all, but it would’ve still been closer to home.

“As I grew up and lived away from home a little longer, I realized that things that I was looking for changed and I found the perfect home at UMass,” Cal Kiefiuk said. “I couldn't be happier.”

As long as he’s happy, Judy Kiefiuk is happy. The 84-year-old doesn’t miss tracking a game whether it’s watching it on TV or streaming it on her laptop. When no video is available, she’s more than happy to listen on the radio – it’s how she first learned the game. Once she pulled up the live stats and waited for the Minutemen to score.

“I don’t miss (a game),” she said.

Occasionally she’ll offer tips or advice. It usually boils down to “play your game.”

“He’s great at passing. He’s great set up kid,” Judy Kiefiuk said. “He’s not a goal hog. If he sees someone he can set up, he sets them up.”

This weekend’s series against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor is her first opportunity to see him play since he was 16 years old on the Chicago Steel. Judy Kiefiuk has tickets for both games but needs to find a qualified caregiver to watch over Ed while she’s gone. He’s been feeling ill lately, and taking care of him has occupied a lot of her time.

“I can’t get somebody skilled here to take care of him then I will probably just stay home and give my tickets to the rest of my family,” Judy Kiefiuk said.

Either way, they’ll be put to good use in a family that loves hockey.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.


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