By Dan Walton
Driving 900 kilometres to play hockey in Oliver last week was small potatoes for Larry Creighton.
The 82-year-old hockey player came all the way from Pigeon Lake, Alberta on March 9-11 for the Wine Capital Hockey Tournament at the Oliver Arena, for players 55-plus.
In 1955, when 19-year-old Creighton was living in rural Alberta, he didn’t have much of a career planned out.
He was really good at hockey though, especially compared to Americans. So when a former teammate called him up from Massachusetts, Creighton was told he would have no trouble making the hockey team at the University of Boston.
“I was playing Medicine Hat at the time, and he told me, ‘Get down here, because if you can make this team they’ll take care of you, and that means full scholarship,’” he recalls. “So I said ‘Okay.’”
However, Creighton didn’t have any money so he resorted to the cost-effective method of hitchhiking.
“There were a lot of funny experiences,” he said about the six-day hitchhiking adventure. “I’m going to write a book about it one day.”
Once he was in Boston, Creighton had no trouble making the team. During his four years playing university hockey, his favourite memories come from his travels to the many other northeastern states to take on his regional rivals.
Upon returning home to Alberta, he enrolled in the University of Alberta to pursue a degree in law. Hockey proved to be a valuable gateway skill to Creighton’s career. There was maybe only one other person from his small town to earn a university degree before him, he says.
And whether it’s 1957 or 2017, he always plays the same position.
“I’ve always been centre,” he said. “Centre today, always been centre.”
During his second game of the tournament on March 10, Creighton and his team won by a score of 5-1.
One of his teammates, Ken Oliver, joked that the trick to winning is by letting the opponents drink more beer.
“But it isn’t about winning out here – we just go out to have fun,” said Oliver. “It’s just for the fun and the beer and the camaraderie.”
Oliver made the trip from Camrose, Alberta for his third year. He said the Town of Oliver normally has nicer weather to offer than the cool temperatures and overcast skies of last weekend.
“Normally it’s +10 here and -22 in Alberta – but we came out here to a snowstorm,” he said.
Another oldtimer on their team was right-winger Tim Redford, who travels to Oliver from Chilliwack every year for the tournament with a group of hockey friends.
He’s been playing hockey for over 50 years and says the winning formula is simple – hard work and luck.
“We’re having a pretty good weekend,” he said. “We’re not used to playing games every day – we usually get a couple days rest. But it’s a good tournament.”
The tournament saw 90 players between the ages of 55 and 87. There were 12 teams and rosters were chosen randomly.
The event was originally named after George Taylor, a stalwart player who touched the hearts of many.