SPORTS

Octogenarians redefine old-timers hockey game in Ottawa

02/25/2013 10:47 EST | Updated 04/27/2013 05:12 EDT
Roger McNabb said his grandfather Larry McNabb has been playing hockey for as long as he can remember, and taught him a few tricks too, including how to fight for position in front of the net.

On Sunday, the elder McNabb and another more than two-dozen octogenarians taught another lesson: how to keep your stick on the ice into your eighties.

Two teams from Ottawa-Gatineau and Saint-Hubert, Que., played at Scotiabank Place Sunday in an attempt to set a Guinness World Record as the first game where all the skaters were at least 80 years old. One goaltender substitute in the game was 79.

"I just think it's really impressive that they get all these guys together who still play hockey," said Roger McNabb. "I hope I have the constitution to do that when I'm that age."

Larry McNabb, 85, said he admits the idea of playing a game with players in their eighties would have been inconceivable to him 20 years ago.

But he said some players just never lose the desire to play what he calls "the best game in the world."

Play stops when a player falls

"It's a reason to get out of bed, for one thing, and get up and get out of the house," said Larry McNabb. "And I firmly believe it's good for you. You can come to the rink feeling down and spend an hour on the rink, and it doesn't matter whether you're good or bad at it ... and you go home feeling great, you really do."

Players in the game admit they move much slower than what spectators at Scotiabank Place are used to, and the shots aren't as hard.

There is also none of the hitting or checking McNabb passed on to his grandson, and if a player falls on the ice, play stops so the others can help the player up.

McNabb was the captain of the Ottawa-Gatineau team, and also the elder statesman in the game alongside fellow 85-year-old Doug Palmer, who led their opponent, Les Sages Rive-Sud from Saint-Hubert.

The teams played three 15-minute periods on Sunday. The final score was a 4-4 tie.

'It gets me off the couch'

Most players at the game were less concerned about the outcome than they were with just getting out there.

When asked his position, Bob Russell put in succinctly: "I try and play on the left side."

"It gets me out of the house, off the couch," said Bobby Vezina, an 82-year-old who didn't pick up hockey until he was 55.

"Meet all these nice people, tell a lot of lies and a lot of stories, go out for a beer after and talk some more. [You] never know who won the game, the score keeps changing. Especially after the game."

"Just being here, we're lucky," said Vezina.

Larry McNabb said he's had doubters, including his doctor, who told him years ago to hang up his skates. He said that same doctor now holds up McNabb as a trophy of the quality of his care.

"There's incidents where people have had heart attacks on the ice, but there's people that have heart attacks in parking lots," he said.

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