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In their 80s now, hockey players still hit the ice

  • Story Highlights
  • Seniors -- the Quincy Bald Eagles -- gather to play hockey
  • Some players are in their 80s, some in their 70s, others in their 60s
  • "A lot of people our age can't even walk," one player says
By Bob Crowley
CNN
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QUINCY, Massachusetts (CNN) -- When Warren Lewis played ice hockey for the Boston College Eagles, they won the national title. "You never get in the game unless you intend to win it," he says.

The team includes members in their 80s, 70s and 60s. A few youngsters in their 50s play occasionally.

Members of the Quincy Bald Eagles hockey team watch the action on the ice.

At age 80, Lewis' team now is the the Quincy Bald Eagles, a group of senior players who meet three times a week at a local ice arena outside Boston, Massachusetts.

"Kids love to play it," he continues, "and so do old guys, even though it's slow-motion hockey."

Out of the 60 players on the roster, five are in their 80s and 23 are in their 70s. The rest are in their 60s. A few players in their 50s are allowed to fill occasional gaps.

Three times a week, they meet at the Quincy Youth Arena and divide up into two teams, one wearing black jerseys, the other white. The skills range between those like Lewis, who played in college, to pond hockey players, to those who only started playing in recent years.

"What's unique about our group," says Bill "Bibby" Lewis, "is that people are over seventy years of age still skating. A lot of people our age can't even walk."

Bibby started the group 16 years ago as a way for players to continue after getting a little too old for other hockey leagues. He says it has gone from five players to 60 in that time. In addition to their inter-group games, the Bald Eagles have competed nationally in tournaments for players 70 years and up.

It's a non-checking play of hockey, which means they don't hit.

"If they do, it's really accidental," says player Dick Lyons. "If one of us falls," jokes Wayne Gauthier, "it takes two or three of us to pick each other up." Video Watch the Bald Eagles in action »

In the 16 years of the Bald Eagles' existence, Lyons says, there may have been one or two skirmishes. "We can't hit very hard," he adds.

Some cruise the ice with skill and handle the puck with precision, while the pace of other teammates might be a bit sluggish. No matter how good they are, however, most of them play for the same reasons.

"I want to stay young," says Brian Caputo. He says he's 73 but is quick to add, with a grin, "Although I don't look it."

John Cusik is another player. "Health is wealth," he says. "If we could can this, we could sell it."

At this age, players have various health issues that sometimes keep them off the ice. Bibby Lewis is having trouble with his knee, and Joe Gatreau has missed four months because of his arthritis. This is his first day back.

"There's not going to be any good shots today," he says, laughing.

Goalie Bill Parsely feels good today but admits, "I feel my talents and skills are on a slippery slope to oblivion."

Besides staying in shape, there are other reasons they show up. Says Dick Lyons: "Most of us miss the social dimensions of work, and this kind of compensates in a small way for that kind of camaraderie."

Adds Cusik: "This is the only place you can go for an hour, hour and a half and all the cares are gone."

Jack Buonopane sums it up: "It beats daytime television. That's for sure."

When the game is over, the unofficial score has both teams in a tie. The players congratulate and kid each other. Warren Lewis, the former All-American who played for BC, is happy.

"You can't get a better game than that," he says as he heads off the ice. "That's kind of what we play for."

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"Bibby" Lewis, who, like Warren, is 80, will come back to the rink as long he can. Hockey is everything to him.

"We do it," he says, "and we come back for more."

All About Aging and the Elderly

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