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80-plus hockey players shooting for Guinness record with BC tournament

The Canadian Press
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A group of hockey players, all 80 years old and over, from the Geriatric Hockey League gather for a photograph after playing a game in Burnaby, B.C., on Tuesday, September 8, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Author: The Hockey News

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80-plus hockey players shooting for Guinness record with BC tournament

The Canadian Press
By:

BURNABY, B.C. - For a group of hockey players who gathered in British Columbia to try and set a world record, breaking a stick was no big deal - it was breaking a hip they were really worried about.

Two teams made up of players more than 80 years old squared off at a Burnaby ice rink Tuesday and are now hoping the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes the achievement of the octogenarians.

"There's never been a tournament for an 80-and-over group," said game organizer Denny Beaudin.

"We have applied to the Guinness Book of World Records to indicate it's the first world tournament for players 80 and over, so it's something we're hoping we can establish."

Beaudin said the teams have not yet heard from Guinness officials regarding their application. A Guinness spokesperson did not return a message seeking comment.

While the world record would be nice, those who laced up the skates Tuesday were far too busy having fun to fret.

"Much better than I expected," 87-year-old goaltender Jim Martin said when asked what he thought of his performance.

Martin was the oldest player to participate in the game and gave up just one goal in the first half. His replacement didn't fare as well in the second half as Martin's black team lost to the red team 6-3.

At a time when most goaltenders utilize the butterfly style - that's going down on both pads - Martin was content to let his stick do much of his moving, though he blamed it for the lone goal he gave up.

"I got my stick caught up in the net and I couldn't let go of the stick and I couldn't get over to stop the puck," he said, a smile beaming from his goalie mask as he spoke.

While physical contact was minimal, the injury sheet wasn't completely blank.

One player left the ice with a pulled groin. Another stayed down on the ice for several seconds after being tripped.

"I don't know what happened but I went down," said Bill, who was too eager to jump back on the ice to leave his last name.

"I hit my head, which I don't like. But those things happen, I guess."

Former National Hockey League forward Cliff Ronning, who grew up in Burnaby before venturing off on a professional career that saw him net 869 career points, worked as the game's referee.

Ronning, a former Vancouver Canuck, said seeing the players out on the ice was inspiring.

"I just thought it was an amazing idea, having an older tournament like this," Ronning said.

"To be able to see the passion of these guys at the age of 80, I hope one day I get there and (am) able to put the skates on."

The game, which was delayed for half an hour after three players got lost on their way to the arena, was part of a three-day casual tournament that also features four teams that have players over the age of 75.

Len Haley, who suited up for the NHL's Detroit Red Wings in 1959-60, was among those in the younger group to hit the ice. He turns 78 next week.

"I keep in pretty good shape," Haley said after picking up two goals for his team, nicknamed the Alberta Rednecks.

Haley said old-timers hockey used to be much more prevalent in Canada, but finances have changed that.

"Costs, travelling, and the rooms, and everything, guys fell away from it," he said.

"This tournament is one of the best things they ever did."

Al Ing, who faced off against Haley on Tuesday, said old-timers hockey has seen some good men pass in recent years and those who are still playing the game are glad to be doing so.

"We're lucky to be walking," he said.

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80-plus hockey players shooting for Guinness record with BC tournament