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Spirit of the game lives on in annual Victoria Playmakers Oldtimers Tournament

Event runs all this week at Pearkes Arena
The Victoria Blooze are one of several teams taking part in the annual Victoria Playmakers ice hockey tournament at Pearkes Arena this week. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Murray Kennett came out of the junior Victoria Cougars to play pro hockey on blue lines from San Diego with the Gulls to Edmonton with the WHA Oilers. Forward Bill Ennos was selected 133rd overall by the New York Islanders in the 1972 NHL draft.

This week Kennett and Ennos are wielding the sticks for the Bear Mountain Bruins against the likes of the Smithers Rubber Puckers, Victoria Blooze, Santa Rosa Bombers and Edmonton Vintage in the 70-Plus Division of the 32nd annual Victoria ­Playmakers Oldtimers Tournament running from Tuesday to Saturday at Pearkes Arena in Saanich.

The old joke is that it should be renamed the Pacemakers Tournament. But the Oldtimers all take it in stride, even if those strides have slowed.

“It’s about the comradery in the dressing room as much as anything else, and a chance to enjoy good exercise,” said ­Kennett, a retired VicPD ­sergeant.

“But it’s still intense. The guys in this tournament go at it pretty good.”

Some things never change.

“We’ve got ex-WHL guys and ex-pros who just still love playing,” said Butch Boucher, who plays goal for the Bruins, but this week is too busy as one of the Playmakers tournament organizers.

“We are known as the best Oldtimers tournament in North America.”

It is all part of the sport-for-life movement, or Masters sport, which has been one of the biggest growth areas in the field of sport and recreation as the Baby Boomers refuse to go gently into that good night. They instead are going in with shots blasting off tees, posts and rims. Okay, maybe softly hitting the tees, posts or rims.

“Players want to play now as long as they can go and are healthy,” said Boucher.

So much so that the Victoria Playmakers has an 80-Plus Division of three teams this year and has even had two 90-year-olds-plus play in the tournament.

As a unique feature of the tournament, players get “Knighted” in a ceremony during the annual banquet every time they enter the 70-Plus, 80-Plus or 90-Plus divisions for the first time. There are 36 players being knighted this year. They will kneel on a bench while an RCMP officer in full red serge taps both their shoulders with a sword while the Sidney Town Crier reads out what each of the players has listed as the most memorable moment and most influential person in their hockey careers, after which they are presented with a framed ­certificate.

“Many of these players have only played house or high school and never been recognized before in hockey. So it’s kind of cool to be recognized and show people that they have been ‘Knighted,’ ” said Boucher.

This year’s Playmakers Tournament features 670 players from 39 men’s and women’s teams filling local hotel rooms and restaurants, including two teams from Japan.

“We used to have up to 42 teams but the pandemic is still affecting things a bit,” said Boucher.

But not that much anymore as the numbers are almost back to pre-pandemic levels.

“The players love coming here for the hockey, and the golf and whatnot, especially teams from Alberta where it’s still ­wintry,” said Boucher.

One thing is evident at Pearkes Arena — the Boomers are booming.