Their shifts are shorter, and they may move slower, but on Tuesday a group of senior hockey players in Saskatoon didn’t want to leave the ice.
A television crew from Rogers Sportsnet showed up at Schroh Arena with the Stanley Cup to film the 60 Plus League in a feature for the NHL playoffs.
“I had to bite my tongue a few times,” chuckled Stan Halliwell after the TV crew left the arena.
The 82 year old who runs league had to keep the news quiet after getting the call from Greg McFadden at Sportsnet in Toronto.
Halliwell said they were all a “bunch of young kids out there” when they were being interviewed and posing with the cup on the ice.
“That was tremendous,” he said. “Growing up in Saskatoon, you think of Gordie Howe immediately being a cup winner. Just to see it – I’ve never been that close to it before.”
The senior league, which started with 18 players playing pick-up games in 1993, has grown to 190 members and is now considered the premiere senior league in all of Canada.
Gary Gentle, the league’s courtesy and wellness director, said the 60-plus group gets suited up in a 1,200-square-foot dressing room with 100 stalls. Players even have their own lockers, just like the pros.
“We have a well-run organization; full executive that looks after everything from beer to condolences lost members and illness,” Gentle said.
The league has even attracted former NHL stars like Bill Orban and notable hockey families such as Norm Skrudland, whose son Brian played 17 seasons in the league.
What’s more, the league also boasts 13 players over the age of 80. Halliwell is the second oldest, a few months behind Dave Brown who turns 83 in April.
“I don’t feel my age at all when you’re out there,” said Halliwell, who has no plans of hanging up the skates.
There’s no trophy for the winner, just bragging rights and a lot of fun.
“I’ve never had to say to someone, ‘You’re not good enough.’ As long as you want to sign up, we’ll find a spot for you.”
The segment will be featured on a Sportsnet broadcast during the NHL playoffs, however, there’s no date yet for when it will air.