I was never much of a hockey player, but for as long as I can remember, I have really enjoyed our great Canadian game on ice as an avid fan, a promoter and as a sports reporter for both the Ponoka Herald and the Ponoka News weekly newspapers. Our friendly community and surrounding rural districts have been a ‘hot bed of hockey’ for countless decades, all the way from the tots to teens minor hockey ranks and on into junior A and B, and the long-standing dynasties of the senior Ponoka Stampeders.
Along the way, it has always been a common sight to see a spirited and rambunctious game of shiny going on the outdoor rinks or ponds or out on the road under the streetlights, while at our local arenas successful leagues have been organized for farm, church and commercial hockey, as well as old-timers’ and ladies’ teams, or just a bunch of guys and gals who just like to get out and have a little fun chasing a puck around a slick sheet of ice. Over the years, many of our local hockey players have excelled and advanced into higher minor divisions, as well into the prestigious Alberta Junior Hockey League, Western Hockey League, Chinook Hockey League, College, and even the glitzy National Hockey League, and most of their photos and stories are proudly displayed at our arena complex or in our colorful history books.
Many of these players returned home with their families, some looking forward to extending their hockey careers by helping out with some coaching, refereeing,or promotion, or maybe even lacing up the old skates for a fun-stint on a local “old-timers’’ hockey team. With the formation of the Canadian Old-timers’ Hockey Association in the 1980s, literally hundreds of men 36 years of age and over took part in the keen team camaraderie of fun and non-contact competition throughout the winter in exhibition games and tournaments that were hosted in Western Canada and beyond, and attracted up to a 100 teams at each exciting event. Each team developed their own personalities and mascots, enthusiasm, and humour, as shown by the names on their sweaters, that featured wild logos such as: The Old Peckers, The Antiques, Wetaskiwin Relics, The Old Tubbers, The Spark Plugs, The Menopause Maulers, The Old Mooners, The Old Turkeys, The Old Crocks, The Chuggers, and on and on. The only rules for playing in this first class sanctioned hockey association were a doctor’s certificate to say that you were fit to go, to have fun at each and every game on and off the ice, and to bring along your medications and lots of liniment in your equipment bag.
The Ponoka Chevy Oldstars
In 1981, Bill Chorney, Ed Boruk and Merle Jones, the owners of Badry Sales and Service 1976 Ltd., kindly agreed to take on the sponsorship of our community’s newly formed Old-timer’s Hockey team, which would proudly carry the name of the Ponoka Chevy Oldstars for close to a decade of great seasons of fast and exciting hockey played among friends. Over the years, the roster of players for the team came from the town and county of Ponoka, as well as from other areas in Central Alberta, and their home games were hosted in our then new Culture and Recreation Complex.
Among the best memories of this classic Ponoka team over the years was travelling to old-timers’ hockey tournaments throughout Alberta, B.C., and Saskatchewan, where on many occasions close to 100 entries competed in the various divisions. Long time local hockey mentor Bill Chorney fondly recalls that the wives usually accompanied the players on these ‘rowdy road-trips’, and while they really enjoyed cheering on the boys from the stands, they also loved to shop, socialize, and exchange all sorts of fancy hockey pins with the other teams. The Chevy Oldstars fashioned a very good record over the years, winning their share of games, hosting their own tournament, and proudly winning the 1983 Pacific Cup in Victoria and the 1985 Prairie Cup in Calgary. During the many games that they played it was a real treat to face off against some former NHL stars like Tiger Williams, or to meet up with other players that they had played hockey with or against throughout their long careers.
The Chevy Oldstars stayed together until 1986, but several other old-timers teams have been formed over the years and the proud spirit and tradition of ‘hockey in the Golden Years’ has carried on in many communities. Meanwhile, most of these ambitious gentlemen will never really hang up their skates as long as there are sons and daughters and grandchildren who love to shoot the puck around for just a little while on a brisk winter day.