“We had fun.” That expression by player Jack Cole sums up the Morrisburg Combines performance at the Canada Senior Games in Edmonton from August 27-29.
Each game was close, but the Combines lost all four.
The 2014 version of the Canadian Senior Games attracted over 2000 participants setting for itself a new record in attendance.
The Morrisburg Combines qualified for the Canadian Games by winning a hockey gold medal in the 2013 Ontario Senior Games in the 65-plus age division.
“This national event itself was a quite a big, well-organized deal with impressive opening and closing events, quality entertainment and darn good food,” says Jake Cole of Ottawa who was enjoying his first time at the games with the Combines.
Accompanied by several of the players’ wives, the Combines made some noise both on and off the ice.”
“It was super encouraging to hear the cheers from our fans when we scored or goalie Les McAllister made a great save,” says Cole. “It was also a fine time of laughing and teasing during the dressing room time before and after each game. In fact, as most old timers players will undoubtedly agree, hockey dressing room banter has basically not changed since we were teenagers, with the same corny jokes and everyone taunting and poking fun at each other mercilessly.”
The Combines arrived in Edmonton as a team that had only played together for four exhibition games back home.
“We learned that our competition had been playing regularly all summer and also that they had played together for years. Right away, we could tell we were up against some very good hockey teams.”
The Combines first game was against the Rocky Mountain Elks. The Elks scored first, but the Combines recovered to tie it. Alberta went up 3-1 with the Combines getting a late one back and then pulling goaltender Les McAllister only to have their goalie make a terrific save off Fern Gauvreau in the dying seconds to preserve the 3-2 win.
The second game put the Combines against Calgary’s Jeff Bowles, “a team that seemed to know just how far to bend the rules without getting penalized” says Cole. Bowles got some early goals and the Combines never really got going until near the end, losing 5-2.
The Combines final two games were close, with leads see-sawing back and forth but they lost both games identical 4-2 scores to the Elks and to Bowles. The Bowles team won the championship with a 5-2 victory over the Elks.
The Combines’ tournament scoring leaders were Lester Holmes and Jack Haines (who scored an outstanding goal on a howitzer-like shot in the Combines last game).
Special recognition was given to Combines defencemen, Bryan Helmer, Alvin Darling, Wally Ryan, and Ron Alguire, who, along with Les McAllister kept out many potential goals and basically kept the team in every game.
The “Combines”, are now a 65-plus team (with players up to 78 years old) that been competing in the Senior Games, at the provincial and national levels since 2000.
While never winning gold nationally, the team has won several provincial titles and expects to be back competing again next February in Haliburton, Ontario for another provincial gold.