Sweat drips from Rob Lyon’s forehead as he catches his breath on the bench at Kal Tire Place.
It’s in between periods and the 55-year-old Lumby goalie is having a blast as a rookie in the 18th Vernon Senior Oldtimers Hockey Harvest Jamboree.
“It’s going pretty good today,” laughed Lyon. “I don’t remember yesterday because some guy clipped me in the head. This is a lot of fun. The compete level is up and you get out and play with new guys. You don’t get away with stuff you see in drop-in. They (referees) are good at calling that stuff.”
Lyon, a father of two, started his career as a defenceman.
“I volunteered to play goal when I was 12. A kid got hit in the head and I had played goal in street hockey and I wasn’t afraid to get hit.”
Said teammate Tim Gerwing of Calgary, a blueliner who used to run Alberta Boot Company: “He made a beautiful leg save in yesterday’s game. He looked like Terry Sawchuk.”
Players 55 through their 80s sign up individually and are assigned to teams. Organizer Mike Todd balances the rosters based on playing ability. Emphasis is on fun and fellowship. No stats are kept. No trophies are handed outs. A dozen teams were in this year’s extravaganza with several guys bringing their spouses.
“A bunch of guys went for a great steak dinner at the ANAF last night and the meal Monday night at the Schubert Centre was delicious,” said Gerwing, a father of two who played a little Junior B and one game with the University of Calgary Dinosaurs back in the day.
Contractor Ron Ollen, 63, of Blind Bay, is a longtime tournament supporter.
“The camaraderie is always good here and the hockey is good,” said the grandfather of eight, who played half a season with the B.C. Junior League Penticton Broncos in his teens. “I missed the last two years due to injury so it’s great to be back. You can’t coast out there.”
Glenn Smith, 61, grew up on a farm in Stettler, Alta. before moving to Langley when he was 34.
“We played lots of pond hockey as kids. If you wanted the puck, you had to take it from somebody. I got a late start in organized hockey. Oldtimers starts at 35 so I had to wait a year to join a team in Langley. Lori (his wife) said she had never seen someone wish away a year so much.”
Smith, who worked in electrical manufacturing, is a forward converted to defence for the Harvest tourney.
“This is my third time here and I like that there are no set teams so you don’t get that grudge stuff. He (Todd) runs a good tournament.”
Smith has also been to the Snoopy classic in Santa Rosa, Calif., a tournament started by the late comic strip illustrator Charles M. Schulz 40 years ago.
Players stay all over town, with the Village Green Hotel serving as host hotel for the jamboree. The Green donated $3 from every room booked to the NONA Child Development Centre.