We no sooner said good-bye to the Peanuts Collectors who had gathered for Beaglefest (see my earlier blog entry), then celebrated the Fourth of July and immediately jumped right into Snoopy’s 37th Senior World Hockey Tournament.
Fifty-Four teams playing in divisions from 40 to 70 age brackets began with practice ice for some on Friday the 6th. Tournament games began in earnest 8:30 am Saturday the 7th with two teams in the 70 age bracket. The oldest player on one of those teams was Forward Mark Sertich, 90 years + and a great player. Mark had skated on Sparky’s team in the 1990s. It is heartwarming to talk to the players who know this tournament better than I do because they have come for so many years and because they talked hockey with Sparky during their visits here.
The games continued from 7:00 am each day to various evening hours depending on other activities, but several days the play went on after 11 pm; these men truly “come to play.”
I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the hospitality tent where I could talk with a variety of players and their wives-talking about their games, their home towns, their hockey at home and other tournaments they go to and how they are organized. One of the things I always tell people is that very early on Sparky decided that he would rather give 2 first place trophies than use “total goals scored” to break ties. Sparky knew that teams were fiercely competitive, but he did not want a strong team to rack up an obscene number of goals over a weaker team so they could win the “number of goals” in case of a tie in the division. While the tournament organizers hope to balance the teams in a division, it is impossible in some divisions, and we who are responsible here hope that in the end it is the playing, the camaraderie and beautiful Sonoma County that keeps bringing them back. My favorite riposte from a losing team was “maybe next year.” That is the spirit we love.
Some of my favorite encounters were with members of the Gordon’s Hockey Workout team (50 division) who had 6 brothers on the team. And then there was “Captain Art,” skipper of The Searcher, who piloted my tour to San Ignacio lagoon, Baja, in 2011 to “pat the baby whales.” Terry Harper, former defenseman for the Montreal Canadians of the NHL who played on the United Nations 50s team, had so much hockey wisdom to share.
And of course I loved the broad smiles on the faces of Santa Rosa’s own Great Pumpkins who have played in the tournament for 16 years and finally skated to a gold medal.
It was a tradition for many years to bring pins to trade. I gave my original jacket to the Museum. This is my start on a new collection of pins. The top pin on the right is from the Diamond Icers, Sparky’s team, and 1999 was the last year he played. The bottom pin commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Senior Hockey Tournament in 1994.