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Silver Skaters With Hearts of Gold

As you grow older the ailments start creeping in. It could be diabetes, prostrate problems, blood pressure or surgeries due to slips and falls. It is at this stage that many seniors give up rigorous tasks and sports.
Albert J. Fernando

As you grow older the ailments start creeping in. It could be diabetes, prostrate problems, blood pressure or surgeries due to slips and falls. It is at this stage that many seniors give up rigorous tasks and sports. You can't blame them for taking things easy. Then there are the people who continue to play their favourite sports regardless of age, injury or the aches and pains that come with it. Hockey is one game that you wouldn't expect to see many octogenarians playing. It demands lot of energy, physical strength and mental fitness. Therefore, I was really surprised to meet the Golden Eagles, a team of retirees who play hockey at Edmonton's Knights of Columbus Twin Arena, three times a week without fail. “We get lot of fun playing,” says retired power engineer Bob Hood. “We never think for a moment about our age.”

The team was founded over two decades ago by Charles McKeen, the father of journalist-turned-city councilor Scott McKeen. They were known as “Charlie's Angels”, but after the senior McKeen's death they changed the name. Their goalie George Carlson is now 86 years old. The team members surmise Carlson might be the oldest active hockey player in Canada. As I watched, Carlson was taking his role quite seriously, stopping the puck every time it came, no matter the menacing speed.

“Why do you play this game at your age?” I asked team member, Norman Pon. “Oh, that is easy to answer,” Pon said. “Hockey gives us good exercise and keeps us healthy. We all love this sport and enjoying playing it, and meeting here three times a week gives us an opportunity to socialize as well.” All were good and valid reasons, I thought, but hockey is also a dangerous sport. Pon has undergone surgery several times and is also a cancer survivor. Most of the Golden Eagles have had heart bypass surgery, prostrate surgery and treatment for various other ailments. But they always return to the ice.

“Yes we know that,” admitted Pon. “When we get injured we get treatment, sometimes surgery. We rest and then we are back again.”