Never Too Old to Play Ice Hockey!

Ice Hockey over 50

Ethan and Ralph Kimball

It’s not every grandfather who can brag that he has played hockey with his grandson, but Ralph Kimball can! He sent me a photo of himself and his now 14-year old grandson Ethan. “He’s a terrific hockey player and will play prep school hockey at St. Marks in Southborough, MA this winter,” boasts the proud grandfather.

Ralph got in touch with me after seeing a link to my recent post Women. Turning 50? Grab Your Basketball and Join the Team on msn.com. I know — Catching Health certainly gets around!

Here’s what Ralph had to say:

“Hi Diane: Great article on Maine Senior Basketball. The same enthusiasm exists in men’s senior hockey as well as other sports. I play three mornings a week, in tournaments and the Massachusetts Senior Games. Great camaraderie, competitiveness and above all, promotes great health.”

Ralph practices and plays in Massachusetts, but has strong ties to Maine. He played for Colby College from 1960 to 1963 and spends summers in Boothbay Harbor. “Senior hockey programs are huge in the US,” he explains, “and I could probably go to any city with an ice rink and find a group to skate with.”

His home group, which has about 70 official members between the ages of 60 and 88, is called the Central Mass Rusty Blades. Once you hit 80 you can skate for free! “We skate three mornings a week from 8:30 to 10,” Ralph says, “and then head over to a nearby Panera Bread for coffee and to solve all the world’s problems.”

Ralph plays in three or four tournaments every year — Syracuse, NY, Danbury, CT, the Mass Senior Games, and Baltimore, MD.

Rusty Blades Ice Hockey tournament

Rusty Blades team at Syracuse tournament
Ralph Kimball – back row, 3rd from left

At the tournaments, one of his teammates became friendly with some players from Vancouver, British Columbia. “As a result, “he says, “they brought a team, along with their wives, to Worcester. We played four games and finished with a barbeque.”

Rusty Blades with Vancouver players. Ralph is 2nd from right in back row.

Rusty Blades with Vancouver players
Ralph Kimball – back row, 2nd from right

Ralph says it was his grandson Ethan who got him back on the ice after 45 years of sitting in the stands. Now 72, he’s been part of the group for four years, and says it’s the best thing he’s done since he retired. “It is really great to be back on the ice,” he says. “I would say to anyone that it is never too late to become active. As an added bonus, I have lost 15 pounds and my primary care doctor is amazed at the shape I am in. Many of our players are skating with hip and knee replacements and pacemakers. Some have had strokes and heart attacks and all made quick recoveries and are back on the ice.”

If you’re intrigued, but worried that you might be too old to get back on the ice, Ralph would be quick to point out that the oldest member of Rusty Blades is 88 years old. A local newspaper recently published an article about him, written by Paul La Venture: “Shrewsbury resident still lacing ‘em up at 88.”

Courtesy Community Advocate“The average person probably would surmise that hockey players are tough,” says Ralph, “but I would posit that it is our love for the sport that keeps us on the ice. Every year we get older and every year the pace of the game gets slower, but we still have fun.”

When Ralph comes to Maine in the summer, he often plays with the senior hockey group in Falmouth, which skates Tuesday morning at 8:10 a.m. at the Falmouth Family Ice Center. “Ages are from 50 to 80,” he says. “No checking, no slap shots.”

Good to know Ralph!

If you’d like to know more about the Rusty Blades or the Falmouth, Maine group, please send me a comment, and be sure to share any information you have about other senior teams.


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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane Atwood was the health reporter on News Center 6. She's now a regular guest on the Morning Report. Before she became a health reporter, Diane was a radiation therapist/dosimetrist at Maine Medical Center. In 2000, she left the world of reporting to manage marketing and public relations for Mercy Hospital. In 2011, she decided to pursue a longtime dream of being a freelance writer and launched her award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.