Summer is over, and it's time to get back to the rink.
Hockey season is here. We're not talking about the National Hockey League, as training camps opened yesterday. It's the Nanaimo Oldtimers' Hockey League, the late-night version of the never-weres, almost-made-it, had-a-sniff and the still-have-a-chance players. Well maybe cancel the last one. The division I play in is for players over 45 years of age, and, unless there's another Gordie Howe lurking around the rink that we haven't seen yet, the only way we're getting to the NHL is if we buy a ticket or sit in front of the TV.
Our team went to the Pacific Cup tournament last year, and we were 'scouting' other teams in our division, when one player asked: "They look really slow out there. We're not that slow, are we?"
Nobody was willing to provide an answer, but we did note that when we played that "slow" team, we didn't exactly leave them in our dust. We were the same speed. It's amazing how much they picked up their pace when they played us. Must have been steroids.
We had our "training camp" Saturday. A total of 75 minutes of scrimmage without a referee. Yes, that's it, and ready or not, away we go. Our club is not as dedicated to its off-season program as others. One team actually brought a scale into the dressing room so players could weigh in and compare with the weight they charted at the end of last season.
Oldtimer hockey teams are really clubs. Some of the teams have played together for decades. We have two team members who have been on the team for 25 years. Actually, our club is a 'farm team," and the originals play in the over 55 league.
Some of the teams are very close and tight knit, and the players may be closer to their teammates than their own families. Others have formed successful companies and share investments with other members of the team.
Ask any oldtimer, and they'll tell you that as the years go by, the games are less and less the focus. It's the camaraderie, and the pre-and post-game chats and shenanigans that make the latenight ice slots not seem so bad. I'm not writing this so people will come out and watch the games. In fact, there's an unwritten code that there's extra ribbing for those who have someone come out and cheer.
Another player on our team said his wife asked if she could come and watch him play. His answer: "Sorry, all the games are sold out." That's the ultimate glass full: With most oldtimers' vision a little on the blurry side, a glance up at the sea of empty seats might almost look like spectators.
IT'S COFFEE TIME AGAIN.. . I'll be at Rutherford McDonald's at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Friday). Come and chat about the Daily News and issues you think we should be covering.
" Contact managing editor Mark A. MacDonald at 250-729-4224 or email: MaMacDonald @nanaimodailynews.com
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