Bring on the Tiger Balm.
The Grumpy Old Men old-timers hockey tournament went off without a hitch at Oceanside Place over the weekend, and the players, some 350 of them in all, left it all on the ice.
“This is the 21st annual, and we’ve been here (in Oceanside) for eight years,” tournament director Bruce L’heureux said Saturday, on the history of what for many of the players in attendance is their last outing of the season.
L’heureux said the tournament was moved here from Nanaimo back in ‘04 because of economics, but it’s the facility and the people that keep them coming back.
“The ice is better, the facility is first class … the people here treat us like gold,” he said. “They love us, and we love being here.”
The 24-team tourney featured a four-team division of 35s, and four divisions of 45 and overs. There were two Parksville teams in the mix — the Bald Eagles and the Bruins.
“Oh yeah,” the longtime tournament organizer confirmed with a chuckle when asked if the speed and skill-set of the old timers on the ice struck home the deep roots of hockey in this country.
“A lot of these guys played some good hockey in their time.”
As for the economic benefits of the Grumpy Old Men — there were five teams from Campbell River North, four teams from Victoria, a team from Vancouver, and as far away as Salmon Arm and Washington State.
“This (tournament) generates in the neighbourhood of $250,000 for Parksville in spinoff business hotel rooms meals, shopping,” he said.
On Sunday, the Victoria Crusaders won the Blue division for bragging rights among the over 35s.
The Bald Eagles came up short against Goldstream in the Labatts final, but they had to be good to get there, as they beat the Saanich Old Chiefs 3-1 in Saturday’s fast-paced semifinal.
Parksville fire chief Doug Banks must have eaten his Wheaties before that game as he backstopped the Bald Eagles with some three alarm saves.
There were also a number of great efforts on the part of his teammates in front of him, including Gene Gervais. Gervais is the oldest Eagle at 62, but he was a handful for the Old Chiefs on Saturday.
“We had to win that game to make the final, so yeah it was a nice win,” said Bald Eagle D-man and team manager Lucky Butterworth.
“Great performance by Banksy,” he confirmed. “He was first star that game for sure … today’s (Sunday’s) game though, for the whole team, not so much.”
In other results, the Courtenay Blood Shots won the Budweiser division and the highly coveted Grumpy Guy T-shirt.
“Thats what they all play for, is the T-shirts,” Bruce chuckled.
The Salmon Arm Colts won the Kokanee division; the Bellingham Fury won the Lucky division and the Port Alberni Old Puckers the Alexander Keith’s.
“It gets a little intense out there sometimes — there were a couple incidents (on the ice) on the weekend,” Lucky confirmed when asked about the intensity a lot of the players still bring to the ice.
“For the most part it’s pretty good though, and we forget about whether we won or lost about 10 minutes after the game when the tray of beer arrives.”
Butterworth, who turns 50 soon, started playing hockey at the age of six up in Port Hardy. He said the average age of the players on the Bald Eagles is 52, 53, “and we’ve been in the (tournament) final six years in a row.”
As for the four in three days, “we’re pretty tired, a bit sore, and some people are pretty hung over today,” he said Sunday night, and agreed the game of hockey never gets old.
Last weekend was the Bald Eagles’ second tournament of the year and they still have one more in Campbell River in two weeks — including league games the team has played around 40 games this season.
“We all still enjoy it. We have an Over 55 team as well, so we all get to move up,” he laughed.