You’re an older rec hockey player. So what! That doesn’t mean you should stop playing hockey…
By Warren Tabachnick
If you’re an older rec hockey player, you know that with age come the inevitable aches and pains: the smell of Ben-Gay permeates many a rec league locker room. Bellies may be hanging over belt lines; skin tends to be a little flabby. And for those who are lucky enough to still have hair on their head, more often than not it’s gray.
In the locker room one night after losing a game to a team comprised of mostly young hockey players, I heard the expression, “The older we get, the faster we were.” That may be so, but it’s still no reason for anyone to give up playing hockey well into their golden years.
I myself am an older rec hockey player; in fact, several of my teammates are in their sixties and play better than many kids a third of their age. I’ve been playing the wonderful game of hockey for over 25 years, and I plan to lace them up until I can do so no longer. I just cannot stop playing.
Many dignitaries who are up in age regularly step out onto the ice for some hockey. Take for example 68-year-old former state senator and current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. In a recent New York Times interview, he was asked if he still gets to play hockey sometimes: “The great thing about hockey is you can play it your whole life.” As a senator, Kerry played pickup games with other members of Congress, among them Representatives Mike Quigley of Chicago, Brian Higgins of Buffalo, NY and, for a spell, Anthony Weiner of New York, who played goalie. But after suffering a broken nose and a black eye from an errant puck in one such game, Kerry was urged by President Obama to “stop playing hockey.”
It’s a well-known fact that Charles Schulz, of Peanuts comic strip and cartoon fame, played well into his seventies. In 1975, he formed the Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament at his Redwood Empire Ice Arena, in Santa Rosa, Calif. (This year, from July 11 through July 20, teams will travel from around the world to compete in the world’s premier Senior Hockey Tournament. Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament is a week-long celebration of sportsmanship, camaraderie and seriously competitive hockey.) And in 1981, Schulz was awarded NHL’s Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to the sport of hockey in the United States. In 1998, at the age of 76, he hosted the first Over 75 Hockey Tournament. And in 2001, the Highland Park Ice Arena in St. Paul, Minn., was renamed the Charles M. Schulz Highland Arena in his honor. He was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.
Each year, in Ottawa, Ont., Canada, the Molson Canadian Seniors Cup brings together older hockey players of all abilities who are in their fifties and sixties. Sure, maybe they’re a bit slower than they used to be. But the main thing is, after all these years they still manage to have fun.
Also based in Canada is the CARHA Hockey World Cup, which features age divisions up to and including 70+ (along with a women’s division). It is organized every four years in a select Canadian city, and is an event that attracts participants from all across Canada, the U.S., and Europe. Over 120 teams from more than 15 countries will travel to a designated host city for this week-long event, which has been labeled the “Olympics of rec hockey.” Since its inception it has grown to be the largest international adult rec hockey tournament in the world. The next CARHA Hockey World Cup will be held in 2016, with Windsor, Ont., Canada selected as the Host City. For more information visit their website: CARHA Hockey World Cup.
So if you’re a bit long in the tooth, not to worry. Recovery may take a bit longer and maybe you skate a bit slower than you used to. And sure, there’s always the fear of broken bones, sprains, etc. But if you’ve been playing hockey for a good many years, chances are you’ve strengthened and conditioned your body.
If you’re an older rec hockey player, our best advice to you is: Keep on skating!
Warren Tabachnick plans to keep on playing until they pry the hockey stick from his cold, dead hands.