Sports

Summerland man grateful to play the game

JOHN CHOMLACK, 81, is a popular member of the Kinsmen who play hockey twice a week at the Summerland Arena. Chomlack began playing hockey when he was 40 years old. - Emanuel Sequeira/Western News
JOHN CHOMLACK, 81, is a popular member of the Kinsmen who play hockey twice a week at the Summerland Arena. Chomlack began playing hockey when he was 40 years old.
— image credit: Emanuel Sequeira/Western News

John Chomlack proves it’s never too late to start playing hockey.

The Elk Point, Alta. native first took to the ice when he moved to Summerland when he was 40. He played with old-timers when he was younger and said it was easier because of the age difference. The 81-year-old jokes he still doesn’t skate that well.

Last Friday Chomlack made his last appearance for the season with the Summerland Kinsmen and he went out in style. Taking a feed from a teammate, Chomlack skated towards the crease and scored. He celebrated with his arms in the air and decided to call it a day. As he told his friends he had to leave, they all tapped their sticks on the ice for him.

“We just love him. We’re all hoping when we’re 80 that we can still be playing,” said Larry Hollenbeck, Chomlack’s neighbour of 10 years who organizes the hockey gatherings. “He’s such a good sport.”

Hollenbeck said they just couldn’t be without him.

“There is nobody that doesn’t like him, he’s Mr. Friendly,” said Hollenbeck. “He’s just a go getter and hard working.”

Doug Penrose, who has played with Chomlack for three years, said Chomlack is a great guy to be with.

“I have respect for him still playing,” he said. “I like playing with him and guys like to try and set him up for goals. It’s a good feeling to see him score.”

The Kinsmen, Chomlack said, play whatever positions they want.

“Most of the time I was just in somebody’s way,” he said. “I hope to keep doing that when I’m 91.”

While Chomlack never played minor hockey, he got involved as a coach and travelled extensively with teams from atom to bantam. Playing with the old-timers helped Chomlack understand the game and he passed that knowledge onto his players.

“I discovered that a skater could be a hockey player if he’s a good skater,” he said. “The best skater is always the best hockey player. If you don’t have the puck, you can’t do anything with it.”

Chomlack, who keeps busy off the ice with a music ministry performing at women’s and men’s prisons, loves hitting the ice twice a week with the Summerland group. Donning his Canadian jersey with Chomlack and 80 on the back, he likes playing the left wing.

“If I play right wing, most of the time I can’t pick up the puck,” he said.”I’m not a breakaway goal scorer. I’m not a good enough skater for that. I usually stumble over my own stick.”

The Canadian jersey Chomlack wears  was a Christmas gift by the team. It’s a life-time jersey for life-time membership.

“That’s a real honour. You have to reach 80 to be playing to get that honour,” said Chomlack, who has great grandchildren. “I can see people 20 years younger than me don’t do what I’m doing. I’m really thankful. Anytime that you can be doing things that a big percentage of them can’t, you want to be

thankful for that.”

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