When a kid steps on the ice for his first hockey game, it marks the beginning of a lifelong pastime. Young hockey players grow up together as they try to live out their dreams of becoming the next Wayne Gretzky or Patrick Roy. For many that dream doesn’t come true, but it’s far from the ending of a player’s hockey adventure; after minor hockey, players often make the transition to adult league, where they spend the rest of their lives playing the game they love and making lifelong friends. Of course, nothing brings teams together and creates memories better than a road trip, and Northern California is home to one of the best.
The Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament is held every year in Santa Rosa, California at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena. The rink and tournament were the brainchilds of the late Charles M. Schulz, the world famous creator of the Peanuts comic strip who resided in Santa Rosa. Schulz even took part in the tournament each year until his death in 2000. The tournament is exclusive to players 40 years or older, with age divisions that span all the way up to 70 years and counting. Players and teams come from all over the North America, including teams from Chicago, Anchorage, New York, and even Hawaii. I happen to live just a short drive away from the rink and decided to go for a quick day visit.
When I entered the building I encountered a 60+ division game between the Thunder Bay Juice and the Nanaimo Sofa Kings, two of the tournament’s Canadian entrants. There were plenty of family and friends in the stands who made the long trip to cheer on their parents and grandparents. The game was intense right from the very beginning; one of the most impressive parts of senior hockey is how much effort the skaters put in. No matter what age hockey players are, you can guarantee that they’ll always try their hardest every night.
The game was tied 3-3 at the end of regulation, sending the game into overtime. A Nanaimo defensive zone error led to a controversial Thunder Bay penalty shot, with the Sofa Kings fans voicing their displeasure at the call and the referee who called it. It clearly will never depend on what level of hockey a game might be for the fans to still argue with the ref.
The Thunder Bay skater made no mistake on the penalty shot attempt, outwaiting the Sofa Kings goalie before putting the puck top shelf over the goalie’s blocker. The Juice players poured off the bench to congratulate the goal scorer, while Nanaimo’s skaters thanked their netminder for his valiant effort before both teams officially ended the game with the traditional postgame handshake.
After watching such an exciting game, I can’t help but think about my future with the game. I know that I’ll be covering it in ways like this as I age – hopefully at the NHL level – but I also hope to play competitively for the rest of my life. With setbacks like injuries, illnesses, and the overall pressures of adult life, there’s no guarantee of how long I’ll be able to play for. But my belief is that if I love it as much as the old-timers at Snoopy’s do, I’ll always find a way. Who knows, maybe I’ll bring a team to the tournament myself someday; like I said before, hockey is a lifelong pastime.