Old Timers in action. DON RICKERS

Pick-up hockey “the best hour of the week”

There is a 10 AM Friday morning mantra at Pelham’s community centre, in Fonthill: the older we get, the faster we were.

Slowed by osteoarthritis and a host of aches and pains, a dozen or so seniors gather to celebrate the great game of hockey.

Ralph Middleton has the distinction of being the oldest player, at 74. DON RICKERS

“It’s the best six bucks I spend each week,” said Mark McGlynn, who has been a regular since a 60-plus slot was built into the schedule at the centre. “Nice to see the Town is keeping it affordable for pensioners.”

Most of the players are in their mid-60s. The senior statesman in the dressing room is 74-year-old Ralph Middleton, who moved to Fonthill six years ago from Kitchener. On the ice, his smooth skating and deft puck control reflect his decades of experience. He has no fear of over-exertion leading to a coronary episode.

“If you’re gonna go, what better place than at centre ice?” he said with a laugh.

The skate is based on gentlemanly play, and respect for the group’s varying levels of skill and physical ailments. No body contact is allowed, and macho pugilism never rears its head.

“Every guy has his issues,” said McGlynn. “Shoulders, knees, ankles, hips. We’re not out to set any records.”

Joe Van Bolderen grew up in Pelham, and began playing hockey at the old Centennial Rink (known more familiarly as “The Pit”), near the corner of Highway 20 and Pelham Street. He later coached hockey at the former Pelham Arena, on Haist Street. The community centre is a big improvement, he said.

“They’re a great bunch of guys, and we all enjoy the exercise.”

All appreciate the Town’s willingness to keep ice in the Accipiter Rink throughout the summer. The numbers actually swell a bit during the summer months, drawing men from other rinks that remove their ice in April to accommodate the lacrosse season.

Conspicuous on the ice is a solitary goaltender. He changes ends every 15 minutes.

“We really need a second goalie,” said Middleton. “Young, old, male, female…we’re not fussy.”