'A lot of people think we're crazy': Seasoned Islanders still skating into their 80s

Fans of P.E.I.'s 55+ Winter Games are seeing something new this week — a division for hockey players 70 years of age and older.

New age category turning heads at 55+ Winter Games

Members of the 70+ Charlottetown and Summerside teams compete at the APM Centre in Cornwall. The tournament's part of PEI's 55+ Winter Games. (Steve Bruce/CBC News )

Fans of P.E.I.'s 55+ Winter Games are seeing something new this week — a division for hockey players 70 years of age and older.

The move for the new age category was prompted by players like Lloyd Reeves, who at 81, said he just can't keep up with players in the 65+ division. 

"We've got a lot of guys now in their late 70s too," explained Reeves. "So a 65-year-old's pretty young to us. It's best we move on [to an older division]."

81-year-old Lloyd Reeves, 82-year-old Larry Coffin, and 78-year-old Austin Sansom share a laugh in the dressing room ahead of their first game in the 70+ division. (Steve Bruce/CBC News )

There are just enough players for two teams — Charlottetown and Summerside — to compete in the 70+ age group this week. Reeves acknowledges there's a good reason for that: most Island hockey players hang up their skates well before they start on their ninth decade.

"A lot of people think we're crazy," said Reeves.

"But I don't know. You can get hurt out on a Ski Doo, you can get hurt anywhere...and you've got to do something to pass the winters here in P.E.I."

'You can't tell them how to play hockey any more'

Austin Sansom agrees.  At 78, he's one of the oldest players on the Charlottetown team. 

"[My kids] tell me, 'Dad, you're getting up there now.' But I'd still like to play another couple of years," he said.

"Sometimes you don't feel like going out in the snow and the rain. But, when you get to the rink, and after the game, then you're glad you went, because you always feel good." 

You've got to do something to pass the winters here on P.E.I.- 81-year-old Lloyd Reeves 

82-year-old Larry Coffin wishes he could get that feeling back. After decades playing hockey around North America, an injury forced the former goalie to retire his pads a few years ago.  He misses the sport enough, that he's come back this week as Charlottetown's head coach. 

"Although when you're coaching the 70 + team, you don't have to do much, only change the lines," he joked. "You can't tell them how to play hockey any more."

81-year-old Lloyd Reeves has been playing hockey since 1942. This week, he's part of Summerside's 70+ team competing at the 55+ Winter Games in Cornwall.

You can't tell them to stop either. 

"Well, I haven't stopped a day since I was about 19 years old," said 79-year-old Marvin Jackson.

"It's just something I've got to do."

So will fans be seeing an 80+ division at the winter games a few years down the road? Lloyd Reeves isn't ruling it out. 

"Sure your shot gets weak, and your speed slows down," said the 81-year-old.

"But hopefully I'll have a few more games in me ... I'm just lucky to be out here. That's all I can say."

About the Author

Steve Bruce

Video journalist

Steve Bruce is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. He landed on the Island in 2009, after stints with CBC in Fredericton, St. John's, Toronto and Vancouver. He grew up in Corner Brook, N.L.