Opening nerves had them on their heels, but it didn’t take long for the Zone 1 representatives to get their heads together and start playing like a team.
Once they did, it was only a matter of time before the gold medals were theirs.
A group of local players made up Zone 1’s 55 years and older team at the recent Alberta 55-plus Winter Games in Calgary, coming together on short notice and finding a style of play that worked and riding that team effort to three consecutive wins and a first-place finish.
“Jitters, we had the jitters,” said Jerry LeGrandeur, who was one of the Lethbridge players on the team. “We had decided before the tournament on a style of play, a way we wanted to play to be successful and we sort of got away from that.”
Rick Peter agreed, adding that since many of the players hadn’t played together before, they fell back into old habits.
But it didn’t take too long before the old dogs started applying their new tricks and they opened with a 3-2 win over Zone 5. They won the second game 5-0 over Zone 2 — Calgary’s surrounding area — before facing a couple of stars on the Zone 3 (Calgary) team in the gold medal game.
“You know, we got there by everyone playing hard, it took the whole team playing well and playing the way we talked about to win those games,” said Peter. “And we got great goaltending, when we needed it, we got the big saves.”
Claresholm’s Fred Lozeman handled the goaltending, and LeGrandeur said there were moments when the rest of the team was just hanging on and the goalie stepped up.
“Rick said it, we needed him, we needed everyone or we don’t win, it’s that simple,” he said.
The final saw them up against a team with former WHA star Morris Lukowich and NHL super pest Dennis Polonich.
But the local side pulled out a 5-3 win and were able to bring the gold medals back to the Sunny South zone.
“It felt awesome,” said LeGrandeur.
“You know, it was a really good tournament as far as the camaraderie, the way everybody played and there was respect on the ice for both teams, going both ways.
“The age doesn’t really matter when you factor in that everybody is there competing to win, but to win with respect and that’s what made it a really good experience.”
The Sunny South Zone’s over-70 contingent went 0-3 but goalie Chuck Lawson said it was a great experience and the team had a chance in every game.
“We were close, the competition wasn’t very far apart in any of our games, it made it a lot of fun, win or lose,” said Lawson.
“And it was a really good event for all the players getting along.
“I don’t think there was a guy out there who wasn’t just there to play and have fun after the game.”
Lethbridge’s Johnny Lorencz was honoured before the first game as the oldest player at 83 years old, and he promptly went out and scored the games’ first goal.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Lorencz.
“I was sure glad to score that goal, nothing’s quite like scoring a goal.”
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