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Octogenarian P.E.I. pucksters stick together through thick and thin

Lloyd Reeves, left, Tommy Noonan, Kenny Hickey, Maynard Simpson, Arnold Driscoll, Ira Strongman and Marvin Jackson have been meeting up to play hockey in Summerside for the last 17 years.
Lloyd Reeves, left, Tommy Noonan, Kenny Hickey, Maynard Simpson, Arnold Driscoll, Ira Strongman and Marvin Jackson have been meeting up to play hockey in Summerside for the last 17 years. - Alison Jenkins
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

Not much stops 83-year-old Lloyd Reeves from chasing the puck.

“It’s the camaraderie,” he said. Reeves and six other guys have been meeting twice a week to play shinny for the last 17 years.

“Just getting out with a group of good fellas and having a lot of fun. I think I have an addiction, I think mine is to a nice shiny patch of ice, whether it be in a rink or out in a field. I see a good patch of ice I want to get on it,” said Reeves.

“And scoring goals,” chimed in teammate Marvin Jackson, 81.

“Well, yeah. If I’m lucky.”

Reeves had a rough week recently, he lost his sister. Reeves attended the funeral on Saturday and on Tuesday he was on the roster for the P.E.I. 55-plus games.

“I probably shouldn’t have went in it, but they needed the numbers,” said Reeves. He was taking a rest from the ice on Tuesday but didn’t want to miss a chance to meet up with his friends.

“I’m getting together with these guys, a few of them I haven’t seen for a year, so I just want to spend some time.”

Reeves’ voice got thick with emotion as he considered how important his team had become.

“This is a very amazing group from the time we started,” said Kenny Hickey, 66.

“I don’t think I ever heard a foul word in the dressing room. Everybody’s friendly, no swearing, upbeat. It’s a very respectful group.”

Last Tuesday morning Reeves, Jackson and Hickey along with Arnold Driscoll, 77, Ira Strongman, 85, Thomas Noonan,72, and Maynard Simpson, 80, met up to talk about their years on the ice together.

It all started with Simpson.

“I was coming out and just skating. I ran into Maynard here one day and he figured it was time to get back into some hockey,” said Noonan.

One friend told another until there were seven players ready to lace up.

Hickey hadn’t been on skates for over 10 years when Noonan told him about Simpson’s idea. 

“The first skate out, we were all stopping two or three times to have a rest,” said Hickey.

But they all stuck with it.

“The big thing is to get back on the ice and play hockey. For years I never did any of that. When we were kids, we played on the ponds and had great fun, and I got away from it. This just brought it all back,” said Driscoll.

When they started in 2002, the seven guys played shinny at the old Cahill Stadium. There were no referees, and for the first bit, no goalies.

They had an innovative solution though, two tires.

“You had to put the puck through the tire, through the hole, or either hit the post or the crossbar,” said Simpson.

Hickey, who normally plays left wing, hated playing without a goalie, so he picked up some gear and stepped into the crease.

Three years in, Armand Bernard joined the team. Now he plays nets every Tuesday. He can’t make it on Fridays because the 80-year-old plays with a different team on Thursday nights.

“He’s small, he doesn’t cover much net so he’s not like these big goalies you see now in the NHL, they cover half the net just standing there,” said Reeves.

The team, called The Simpsons after Maynard’s efforts to start it up, has grown from the original seven into a two-team, two-line shinny. There are three goalies now, so Hickey can play out again.

Officially on the Credit Union Place schedule, it’s Seniors’ Shinny.

At the recent 55-plus games, the Simpsons/ Aces won silver in the 70-plus age category. They went as the Aces, in a nod to the historic provincial champions from Summerside.

Simpson’s senior shinny group also sent two teams in the 60 -plus age category to win silver and bronze.

“Summerside has done well. They’re promoting this type of hockey well,” said Reeves. 

The seven men played in leagues throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, touring the Island in match-ups.

Hockey lessons

“It kept your mind on the outdoors all the time,” said Strongman, describing his love of hockey which began when he was just a boy.

He used to shovel off a flat spot of ice, go down to the brook and haul up buckets of water to flood it.

“It kept us busy, you know, thinking about something and doing it.”

Simpson’s time-management skills were finely honed from his hockey obsession.

“If there was snow, you had to get the cows milked an hour early because you had to get to school an hour early to shovel off the ice so you could play hockey at noon,” he said.

The men’s hockey childhood memories were as happy as the ones from the 55-plus games last week.

“If you like hockey, just keep at it. Nowadays, there’s a league for everybody. You can play as long as you like,” said Reeves. “There’s a game for everyone if you want it.”

His teammates echoed his perseverance.

“If you like to play, get out there and go,” said Jackson.
 

Twitter.com/AlisonEBC


Reminiscing on the game


On lunchtime hockey:

When Maynard Simpson was young, Helen Reid, his teacher at Hope River School in Wellington, loved to play hockey.

“When the ice was good on the pond, she would do away with recesses and make dinner hour an hour and a half, so we could play hockey and she’d come down and join in,” said Simpson.

“At ten to twelve, the lunch can would come out and you had your diner so at twelve you were ready to go.”

On the Bedeque Beavers:

Lloyd Reeves used to play with the Bedeque Beavers.

Kenny Hickey had never heard of the team and said so, but the Beavers won the Intermediate C championships in 1963.

“Bedeque Beavers might not sound like much, but they had some good hockey players that never got much notoriety. One of them is Freddie DesRoches and his grandson is Nathan DesRoches who played with the Western Caps and he’s coaching the Western Red Wings. He was a good hockey player that just learned his hockey on the ponds around Bedeque.”

On Rec hockey:

“It was the greatest thing that ever happened was recreational hockey,” said Ira Strongman.

In the 1970s rec hockey leagues were started for those who wanted to keep playing but were past the desire for full contact play.

On a horse-flooded rink:

Maynard Simpson and his brothers tore down an old barn in Bayview and built a rink.

“We flooded it with a horse and sleigh and a barrel. Went to the brook. We were all through flooding it and took a walk around and looked and here, just about centre ice, was a trout about that long,” Simpson said, holding his index fingers about five inches apart.

Player

Hometown

Position

Age

Arnold Driscoll

Summerside

Defence

77

Lloyd Reeves

Lower Freetown

Left wing

83

Maynard Simpson

Bayview

Centre

80

Thomas Noonan

Richmond

Defence

72

Marvin Jackson

Murray Harbour

Left wing

81

Kenny Hickey

Darnley

Left wing/ goalie

66

Ira Strongman

Port Hill

Centre

85

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