Observations on senior hockey players from an aging defenseman
By Bill Wagner
This article originally appears on Beer League Inc. Check out their kick-ass podcast! They are on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify.
Generally, a guy fresh out of juniors, college or even the minors. Still has that higher-level ability that all teams seek to win league championships. You’ll hear things like “that guy is sick”; “great hands”; “bullet shot”; or “young legs.” Doesn’t have a pot to piss in so don’t expect any financial contribution from this guy. In fact, you’ll be lucky to ever see him bring beer—or a towel to shower with for that matter. No one cares, especially the Stage 5 senior hockey players (see below).
That mid- to late-20s guy. Been around the league for a few years and is starting to learn how to play as a senior hockey player (actually passing and not trying to do it yourself). Still has those “fresh legs” and may actually have a job now, which is nice. Trouble is brewing here because they either just have or will be thinking about getting married (see Stage 3). May not always want to, but has the ability to pay his league fee. Can be counted on to bring beer occasionally as well. These are good times.
Usually in his early to mid-30s. Still has a lot of ability but is cracking under the strain of life. Kids are young and demanding, wife is pissed that you are gone too much as it is, and you realize you have to get up for work in the morning. Going home with a black eye or fat lip again just doesn’t go over well at that big presentation you have tomorrow. This guy will commit to the team, pay the fee, and then become generally unreliable. Sometimes you’ll hear “who’s the new guy?” when he walks into the locker room after a few absences.
Uh oh, what happened to my “silky mitts,” my “fresh legs”? Why can I know what to do but my body cannot do it anymore? These are hard times for most senior hockey players. You are in your late 30s or early 40s and the crushing impact of life and aging have finally taken its toll. You’re probably heavily involved in coaching your kids so those 10pm or later game times are killers. You tend to do a lot of apologizing—“Sorry about that goal, guys; my fault”; “Sorry, that was my guy in the slot”; “Sorry, I shouldn’t have pinched again that late in the game.” You know all the regular beer league excuses.Classic Hockey Rock music playlist
This is the mid- to late-40s guy. His abilities are fading fast and he knows it. Has money and may even sponsor the team because that is really the only way they still let you play. He’ll bring beer, food; buy jerseys—whatever it takes to hang on to that last fleeting moment of glory playing with the better guys. Used to be the go-to guy for the power play or the “last minute of the game” guy, but now volunteers to sit so the Stage 1 and 2 guys can get out there and win it. Has become a clutch-and-grab artist and a hack because that is the only way to stop those young kids. This is a particularly bad stage if you are a goaltender. The minute you walk out of the locker room, you know the whole team is scheming of ways to get a new, younger guy in net.
An end and a beginning at the same time. This is the point where it’s finally time to move to the “old guy” division and say goodbye to the “open” division forever. Kids are grown; the wife no longer cares if you are home or not. Probably playing on 3 or 4 teams just to get out of the house. Sits and drinks beer with the fellas telling old stories until the wee hours of the morning, because he either doesn’t care what his boss thinks or is the boss. These are good times and your new home until you decide to hang them up completely.
Anyone who plays or has played the game can fully understand and appreciate these stages. No matter how good you are or where you played, “All roads lead to senior hockey” and that’s OK. Hockey is an amazing sport and there is a league and level for everyone, regardless of age or ability.
I hope you all enjoy the game as much as I have because it has brought many moments of joy to my life. I can tell you that winning that “35 and Over” championship feels just as good as that big tournament when you were 9 or anything in between. I salute all of my fellow warriors out there, young and old. Keep playing for the love of the game and the lifelong friendships you will build along the way.
If you want to take a walk down memory lane, do you remember these?
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I’ve been through all stages. Started skating as a youngster in the the 1960s. I was able to hang with young guys til my mid 40s (mostly pick up). Hung ‘em up at 61 (mainly due to worn out knees). I was pretty fast as a teenager through my 20s with decent skills. I am amazed at the speed and skills of these kids today! I always appreciated younger guys letting me skate with them. They pushed me and actually taught me some new moves. Just sticks and pucks for me now.
Depending on where you are located the Syracuse Gray Wolves senior ice hockey org. is holding their annual tournament the wk end of 4/21-4/23 2023. They set up 3 age divisions of two skill levels, age 50, 60 and 70. The skill level by group is 50 A, 60 A and 60 B, and 70’s A B and possibly C. There will be 4 teams in each div/skill group. Friday and Saturday are the qualifying rounds for the Sunday playoff rounds. A detailed tourney info letter can be sent to any interested party. The teams come from the Montreal area, Maryland area, Connecticut area and the NJ area. Team application fee is 900.00, with a 400.00 deposit. The first step is to make contact and get the full tourney info page. Contact email@example.com.
Great article! Solid stage 6 player who gave up on open leagues 2 years ago. 53 years of goalkeeping and just found out I need a new hip. Will be back next year with new parts! Greatest game ever!
Don’t stop till you drop!
I’m 45 and trying to make it in the nhl as a goalie. Tee hee
Great stuff Bill. I agree (mostly) with your assessment. I’m 56 and still have a decent game. It helps to be in shape, especially when you’re playing against guys half your age.
Enjoyed the Stages article. I have seen similar ones. Agreed all hockey leads to the Senior Leagues. I am 64 almost 65 and try to play “up” with my rec/beer league teams. My truth is with age, speed (lack of) and inferior conditioning I am lucky to retain a “C” level. Heading to D soon I guess lol. However if I am with the correct bunch of folks playing it is shear joy as someone eloquently stated no matter what my abilities are. There were times in the last few years that I did feel like a bonified B player but the conditioning is everything. No consistency in my training therefore I am only effective in about 1/2 the game. Injuries do set in: I have not been on the ice since late March due to Covid-19 and a badly fractured clavicle and hand from a mt. bike accident I had on July 4th. ER visit and the works! I am looking forward to coming back once I get the all clear from the docs in about 2 weeks. It has taken 5 months to recover from these breaks. So it will be stick and pucks only for a while and then maybe up to the D league and we will see what happens!! Enjoy all!!
“The older we get, the faster we were,” as the saying goes. It doesn’t matter what level you play at—as long as you’re having fun.
Just found your site. I played pond hockey growing up and never had the benefit of organized hockey since there was none back in the 60’s. That was in southern NY and when I moved to MD after college, never played again…until, a new rink opened near me and I started playing again at age 45. Played in some beer leagues, never higher than B level, mostly C. Eventually cut back to just a regular pick up group on Saturday nights even after moving to the York, PA area until a few guys got “stupid” and I looked for something else.
I found a great group at the York City Ice Arena (Old Timers Hockey Club) and have been playing with them for the last 5 years and will continue as long as I can. By the way, I will turn 71 this June. Love hockey and have even turned my wife into a huge Caps fan. She loves Ovi and calls me her second favorite player.
I would take what you written with a grain of salt. Everyone is different. I’m 57 and still play a strong game, the only difference is my shifts are shorter. I play pickup in 5 groups with guys in their 20s right up to guys in their 60s, and there are a few guys in their 60s who can still make good players in their 20s look foolish. There are no hard and fast rules about aging for guys who never let go.
Gary, no doubt there are standout players. But in general the aging process inevitably takes its toll on most hockey players, whether recreational or professional. In any case, this article was not intended to be a definitive guide; it is merely for entertainment purposes.
I’m 66 and have played with a group of guys since 2003 when I was 50. Never played organized hockey as a kid (there was none). Coached all 3 of my kids. Nothing is better than playing with (and against) your adult children in men’s league. May every player be so fortunate as I.
Agree. I did all of the above (except that in Montreal, where I come from, there was hockey everywhere). I just never took it up till later in life.
I am a Stage 6 goalie. I missed last year because of a Stage 2 guy crashing the net when there was no one around him. My first game back was great: the ice, the insults and the beer. Your team is your family. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I got back.
Stage 6. Still playing and paying the price. After game night I walk the steps one at a time down the stairs for my morning coffee. Knees are done but still can’t wait to hit the ice. Invest in Voltaren stocks if u want to make money off of me.
I feel your pain. After a game, when I roll up my driveway I can barely make it out of the car—no matter how much water I drink during the game. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for the next one!
I’m sure I’m a stage 6 having played for 45 years. I’m a sixty something goalie that has gotten the opportunity to play with my kids in senior hockey. They’re only in stage 2 and 3 but I’m enjoying it never the less. I love the game and need it twice a week to keep my sanity. When to quit? No idea… I’ll let my body determine that.
My over 50 league team won last night to go to 13-0 behind the strong goaltending of Neil H. Win or Lose both teams have a great time.
Way to go, Rick!
I play in a non-competitive, old man’s league every Friday night. It is the highlight of my entire week. We don’t check, we barely keep score, and the testosterone and idiot competitiveness is gone for most of us. That makes the game a pure joy. We play purely for the pleasure of playing hockey and stepping out onto that clean sheet of ice.
There’s just nothing like stepping out onto the ice for a game.