PORT McNEILL—Perhaps you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
But an old-timers hockey team in Port McNeill kicked off a new rivalry last weekend against the visiting Gold River Grey Hawks.
The Port McNeill Ice Devils won 4-2 Saturday evening, then rolled to an 8-2 win over the visitors in a Sunday morning rematch. But these games were less about the result than about a chance to create some new competition and camaraderie.
“We usually spend the season playing (Port Hardy’s) World War I and the (Port McNeill) Pioneers,” said Dr. David Baird of the Ice Devils 45-over team, who worked with Gold River’s Bruce Evans to set up the series.
“It was good to see someone we don’t get a chance to play often. And they’re a good group of guys.”
Evans, a former Port Hardy resident and player who now lives and plays in Gold River, contacted Baird in December about the possibility of a series, and it was set up after the cancellation of the Port McNeill Downpour women’s hockey tournament last weekend created available ice at Chilton Regional Arena.
“We parlayed back and forth about it for a while,” said Baird.
“Eventually we got a team together and got the ice.”
With some regular skaters on both teams unavailable — Ice Devils Ron Downey and Clint Fiske were taking part in the mixed curling bonspiel next door — the teams relaxed the 45-year-old age requirement.
Indeed, some of the players are still in their 30s, though Baird said both clubs gave consideration to competitive levels when filling spots.
The Ice Devils program is made up of two teams — the 45-over group sometimes jokingly referred to as the “Old Devils”, and a 44-under squad which plays in the North Island Commercial Hockey League as the Mustangs.
There was substantial crossover during last weekend’s games, with Mustangs Al and Bill Rushton, Glenn Moore and John Prachnau playing both days and John Murgatroyd skating in Sunday’s finale.
It made for a busy weekend for those players and goalie Aaron Hinton, who also skated for the Mustangs in commercial league games Friday night in Port Alice and Sunday in Port McNeill.
Evans and Baird both hope the event can become and annual home-and-home series with each team traveling to visit the other’s home rink. Because of scheduling conflicts and the short time remaining in the season, the Ice Devils probably won’t make it to Gold River this season.
But Baird and the rest of the Devils are looking forward to a reciprocal visit next season.
“It would be fun to do it next season in Gold River,” Baird said. “It’s good to make that connection.”