Ray Carlson and Ron Graves have never let age slow down their hockey game.
And last week they celebrated with a cake on the ice for Carlson’s 87th birthday. The cake was presented by Graves - who is just a few weeks younger than Carlson - and other members of the Ice Agers, their 55-plus hockey team.
“I love doing this. When you reach this stage of your life you got to do two things. You have to keep your body and your mind active,” Carlson said. “Hockey keeps my body exercised and working as a full-time realtor keeps my mind busy - that’s all there is to it.”
Carlson, a realtor with Royal LePage 100 Mile Realty, picked up the sport in his 30s while living in White Rock and kept it up when he moved to 100 Mile 47 years ago. He has played with various old timers leagues, usually in goal.
“I play goalie because I don’t skate that well,” he said. “All my hope is that these guys hit me with the puck more often than they get by me.”
Graves, a forward on the team, has been shooting pucks at Carlson for many years. He said the trick to scoring on his friend is to avoid his glove side because years of drag racing have given him great hand-eye coordination.
“If you try it on his glove side you’re likely not going to score. If you go low or he’s a little off balance, you’ve got a chance,” he said.
Graves, who picked up skating at 36 when the Stan Halcro Arena first opened, said he enjoys the workout on the ice. After several years as a referee for minor hockey, he joined the Oldstars and then the Ice Agers.
“I find skating a lot easier than walking because there’s no jarring, it’s a gliding action,” Graves said. “As long as my health stays with me I’ll be out here.”
The two men say the camaraderie keeps them coming back week after week. If anyone takes a fall, the Ice Agers are right there to make sure they’re OK. The team also prohibits contact and slapshots. The team plays Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the South Cariboo Rec Centre.
“I know my skill level is very low but the fact is, you’re accepted for what you are,” Graves said. “It’s amazing the number of friends you make from all over.”
Carlson said he plans to keep playing hockey until his body dictates otherwise and then maybe he will take up curling.
Graves has a similar outlook.
“I’ll be out here as long as I can and as long as the others accept me,” Graves said. “I think the worst thing you can do at our age group is nothing. You got to stay active mentally and physically.”