The mid-Island’s Grumpy Old Men may live up to their name, but only until the puck drops. After that, it’s all fun and games.
The Grumpy Old Men old-timers hockey club will welcome 24 teams of players aged 35 and older when its hosts the 26th annual Grumpy Old Men Tournament April 1-3 at Oceanside Place Arena in Parksville.
“We had our 25th tournament last year,” said Charlie Schaal, one of the tournament’s co-ordinators. “There was some debate about whether that was accurate or not, but we’re sticking with it. Hockey teams don’t keep that great of records.”
With age-appropriate names like the Grey Hawks, the Bloodshots and the Sofa Kings, visiting teams will represent the length of Vancouver Island, from Victoria to Port Hardy, including clubs from Saanich, the Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Courtenay, Campbell River, Gold River, Port McNeill and, of course, Parksville.
The Sunshine Coast will be represented by the Squamish Raiders and, for the first time, the Grumpy Old Men will welcome an Alberta team, the Spruce Grove Old Pines of the North of 50 Old-timers League in Edmonton.
“That’s huge,” said Schaal. “The reason is that the old-timers’ association across Canada has a tournament website, and we’ve put ours up out there the last two years. This time, the Edmonton team said it was coming.”
And the prairie visitors will be packing more than just their hockey bags for the early spring getaway.
“They’ve requested an early ice time and a late ice time, and they’re planning to go golfing during the day in between,” Schaal said. “We can accommodate them.”
The influx of visitors, he added, provides a nice economic boost to the local economy at a time of year “when there’s not much else going on.”
The tournament has become especially popular as an end-of-season destination for Vancouver Island’s old-timers teams, and all available spots have been filled since mid-January.
“Usually with these things you’re sort of scrambling to fill the last couple of spots,” said Schaal. “But our tournament sold out early this year. We had to turn a couple of teams away.”
The Grumpy Old Men took over sponsorship of the tournament 13 years ago. Because of the time and effort needed to put on a tournament of its size, their own 45-over and 55-over teams, which compete in the Nanaimo Old-timers Hockey League, do not play in the tourney.
For the third year, the tournament will include a fundraiser for the Society of Organized Services (SOS). Having already contributed more than $6,000 to SOS over the past two years to help youth become involved in skating programs — both hockey and figure skating — this year the Grumpy Old Men will hold a meat draw at Parksville’s Rod and Gun Club. The draw will be held Saturday, April 2, from 4-7 p.m., near the midpoint of the tournament.
Competition will be held in five different classifications, each named for a former Grumpy Old Men player who had died in recent years.
The 55+ division is named for Bob Gold; the 50+ division is named for George Redl; two 45+ divisions are named for Dan Tingley and Fred McEachran, respectively; and the 35+ division for the youngest participants is named for Zee Kowal.
“The goal is to enable an easy transition from one age group to the next, when that time happens,” Schaal said.
Play begins at 8:30 a.m. both Friday and Saturday, with final face-off each evening at 9 p.m. The championship finals in each division will take place from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 3.
Full schedule of games will be posted in various spots in the arena, said Schaal. There is no charge for spectators.