The senator has a slap shot.
Tuesday night, less than three hours afterhe had cast his vote on the U.S. Senate floor in favor of confirming Griffin Bell as attorney general, Sen. Wendell R. Anderson (D-Minn.) was scooting shooting and whooping it up all over the Ft. Dupont ice rink in Southeast Washington.
Late in the second period of a Chesapeake Hockey League game, the senator - No. 19 on the program got the puck at the left point, would up and unleashed a 35-foot slap shot. The disc sailed cleanly past the goalie into the left-hand corner of the net, the seventh goal in a 10-4 victory for the Washington Olympics.
The senator's teammates rushed him, pounding his pads and slapping his back a bit more vigorously than normal. After all, this was no ordinary goal. It was the first ever in the league by a member of Congress and this was not ordinary senator.
The man his teammates, colleagues and constituents called "Wendy" has been playing hockey all of his life - as a younger growing up in east St. Paul, as a solid defenseman for two NCAA-finalist University of Minnesota teams, two U.S. national teams and the 1956 Olympic team, a silver medalist at the Cortina Games.
Anderson will turn 44 next week, although it hardly shows. Save for the flecks of gray above, the senator is a dead ringer for actor Joseph Campanella, a regular hearthrob from the north country.
For the moment, however, Anderson simply prefers to be taken for a hockey player. "He's a little hesitant about you coming out to watch him," one of his senate aides said the other day. "He hasn't played for a few weeks, and he doesn't want to look bad."
No fear, ma'am, this politican can play.
"I love this, I really do," he said the other night, sitting on the Olympics' bench, waiting for his shift to take the ice. "Back home, I've been playing in a 35-and-over league. We've been together for 14 years. When we started, it was 30 and over, then 32, 34 and now 35. The average age of our team is 42, but there's a big different between that league and this."
Then he leaned over with a sheepish smile. "Look at this," he said, pounding himself on the shoulders. "This is the second time in 15 maybe 16, years I'm actually wearing shoulder pads. These guys check you; I'm not used to that."
Still, wearing a helmet and face mask, the senator did not miss a shift the other night against the Bowie Hockey Club, arriving a few minutes before the opening face off after donning pads," I just always hustled," he [WORD ILLEGIBLE] pads and tape at his Senate office.
He said he has never been a flashly skater or a slippery stick-handler - "I just always hustled," he said - but he more than held his own playing on a team made up mostly of 18-to 20-year-olds.
The competition was a little more seasoned, average age about 25. Many of the Bowie players also are veterans of the rugged and now dofunct semipro Washington Chiefs team, and most have come from solid hockey backgrounds in high school and college.
"So the senator's playing tonight," snorled Bowie's Ty Anderson, a semi-surly captain in the Air Force, and clearly no relation. "Well, maybe I'll just introduce myself, real polite, know what I mean."
"Yeah, they all know he's a senator," said Olympic coach Larry Lumsden. "But once he gets out on that ice, he's just another hockey player. I'm sure he'll get hit, and I'm sure he'll hit back."
The senator says he is not looking for all that much contact, that he is delighted just to be playing against.
When he first was named to fill the Senate vacancy created when Vice President Walte Mondal Joined the Peanut Brigade, Anderson immediately began shopping around for a staff, a house ("It's expensive to find a place around here") and a hockey league.
He still looking for a house, but the hockey league was no problem. Austin Sullivan, a former Washington Chief now living in Minnesota, recommended the Chesapeake league. Anderson said. "I never thought I couldn't play in Washington."
Hockey has been a way of life for him. From his days as the youngest representative in the Minnesota legislature at 25 to his six-year term as governor of the state, Anderson has never lost contact with his rink roots.
While serving as governor, Anderson often took an old-timers team touring the state, playing benefit games to raise money for civic and charitable groups, and he will do it again next month.
A few yeas ago, the late Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA even drafted him. "Just a joke, really," he said. "But I did get a kick out of it."
And that is why he still plays hockey, and will keep on playing. "I jog at least three times a week," he said, "and I'd like to keep going in this league if they'll have me (theywill). How long can I keep going?Well, I think I've got a good 20 years left. I play with guys 60 and 62 back home."
Anderson also said he will try to show up as often as possible every Thursday night at Tysons Ice Arena to play for two hours in an over-30 league that bars checking and point-blank slap shots.
"We all think it's great," said one of his aides, "except the coach for his team (Lumsden) is kind of a pain. The other day he called and wanted to talk to the senator. I told him he was on the Senate floor. The guy says, "Well, can't you go get him?" He was insulted when I said no."
every politican has his priorities, don't you know. But this senator also has a slap shot.