GeriHatricks prove you’re never too old
By Darren Lowry
 
GeriHatricks founder, 84-year-old Bill Wellington, heads down ice against the New York Gray Wolves. (Photo by Don Olea/CI)

It’s easy to understand why younger skaters love the game, but what is often forgotten about is that older folks still love the game too.

As younger skaters take up the overwhelming majority of ice time, seniors are often left with little time to get out and enjoy the game too.

Just ask anyone that played in or witnessed the 3rd annual GeriHatricks Tournament March 24-26 at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Md.

The tournament is the brainchild of 84-year-old Bill Wellington, a self-described “journeyman hockey player” that wanted to play with players more his level.

“I wanted to keep an interest in hockey, but obviously faster bodies, younger wheels were going by me, so I got a bunch of guys at the 60 level, and I said, ‘What do we call these old geriatrics?’, and that was how the term ‘GeriHatricks’ came to mind,” Wellington said.

Thus, the GeriHatricks team was born 20 years ago. Wellington, who says the biggest problem he faces is finding teams of similar age level to play, eventually expanded the idea into a tournament, which includes 50-and-over, 60-and-over, and 70-and-over age groups.

Wellington is also a decorated WWII veteran who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying unarmed missions in the China-Burma-India area.

He has since passed on the responsibilities of putting the tournament together to John Buchleitner, another GeriHatrick who says he actually didn’t learn to play hockey until about six years ago.

“Our team started in the 2000 Senior Olympics at Lake Placid ,” Buchleitner said. "I had never skated before. My kids skated, and I used to drag them around the rinks, and I'd read the newspaper, but my son said, 'Dad, there's a bunch of old geezers over here skating. Why don't you come skate with them?' So that's what I did. I'm not very good, but I have a lot of fun. F-U-N is the big by-word for our age."

Buchleitner says that when it's all said and done, that's the goal of the tournament. To that end, the tournament also includes a dinner Saturday night where all the players get together and catch up on old times.

"I think it's hard sometimes for people to understand why we enjoy this. It's just the fact that you can get up in the morning and go skate and play a game and make believe you're 18-years-old for a while. It really is an incentive."

Buchleitner adds that the way the game is played changes a little bit at the senior level.

"Previously, it was largely individual skills. Whoever had the individual skills, they gave him the puck and he went and shot. Now, with us, it's a lot more passing, trying to set things up. Positional play is very important when you're old, because you don't want to waste your energy skating all over the place."

Buchleitner says that senior hockey can only continue to grow.

"If you look at the numbers, there's a big bubble of people coming through the early 40's and 50's age, and they're all going to be seniors in 10-15 years. So it's going to be picking up big time. There's never been representation in our age group. So we're trying to get it cookin' and make it popular."

The 2006 tournament capped out at 22 teams, and Buchleitner said there wasn't room for many more.
"That's about all we can manage with the ice time we have available. I suppose if we had more rinks and more ice time we could make it bigger."

He said that the GeriHatricks Tournament was different from the Snoopy Tournament, which is held annually in Santa Rosa, Calif., which he called the "ultimate" senior tournament.

"It's arranged differently. They go over a week, and the time between games is three or four days. So it's different."

Buchleitner advised those that were interested in signing up for next year to contact him at jbuchl@comcast.net 

"We're going to repeat next year at the same time frame. Get in touch early to reserve a spot," Buchleitner said.

Anyone interested in purchasing a CD of tournament photos should e-mail Don Olea at centericemag@bellsouth.net


The Olde Crabs are planning the Second Annual Danbury Hatter Old Timer Hockey Tournament.
2006 Tournament Date: October 27-29

Place: Danbury Ice Arena,
1 Independence Way, Danbury, CT
For more information Click Here...



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BOX SCORE

Although the tournament's main goal was to have fun, it was set up like any other tournament, with winners and losers.

The championship games were played on March 26, with tournament winners receiving gold medals and runners-up getting silver.

In the 50-and-up division, the Blue Hosers, from Washington, D.C., beat Bruno's Dive Shop 5-1.

In the 60-and-up rec division, the New York Golden Apples defeated the Rusty Blades 3-2 in a shootout.

In the 60-and-up elite division, Team Minnesota defeated the GeriHatricks 5-2.

Finally, in the 70-and-up division, the Gray Wolves beat Baker's Bearings 5-1.
 

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