By Lisa VanderVelde
The passion on the ice is palpable, but after the final buzzer, the tension breaks as jokes are made while players shake hands.
The 19th annual Vernon Senior Oldtimers Hockey Harvest Jamboree brings together players ages 55 and over from all across North America.
Their love of the game brings them together, but the friendships they make keep them coming back.
“I’ve met guys from so many other places,” says Marc Dibblee, a goalie from Salmon Arm.
A player that Dibblee looks forward to seeing every year is 82-year-old Bill Well of Calgary.
“I’ve known him since I was five and we get to catch up,” he said.
One of the draws to the tournament is that it’s filled by individual players and teams are made according to age, ability and position.
“The games are fun and the winning and losing means nothing,” says Dibblee.
His friend Gord Mackintosh, also of Salmon Arm, chuckles as he comments that the winning or losing doesn’t matter when it’s over, hinting that the score matters in the heat of the game.
The competitive spark of the Vernon Essos, who won the 1969-70 B.C. Junior Hockey League championship, keeps Mackintosh battling for the puck 45 years later.
Said Roger Benson of Anchorage, who has been making the trip to Vernon for 12 years: “I come for the friendship and the exercise.”
Wayne Foggo of Chilliwack is proud of the fact that he still plays hockey with his buddies, including his 86-year-old teammate.
“We all feel really lucky to be able to still play, it’s a privilege,” said Foggo.
Vernon player Harvey Robatzek, 75, played junior hockey in Saskatchewan, took a break from hockey for a while due to work, then took it up again and has played for the last 32 years.
“I play up to 100 games a year — it keeps me healthy.”