John Charest of Berwick celebrated his 80th birthday Jan. 16 doing something that not many men his age can boast doing – playing a game of hockey at the Apple Dome in Berwick.
That’s nothing new for Charest, who is a founding member of Berwick Shinny Hockey, an ice hockey league for players aged 50 plus. The program attracts older adult players from across the Valley who, like Charest, strap on their gear, lace up their skates and enjoy a game of hockey a couple of afternoons a week in Berwick. For close to 20 years, Charest has continued to organize and keep the program running, promoting the fun and sportsmanship of a game that has been a big part of his life.
“Yep, I love hockey,” said Charest, whose hockey career has spanned over 70 years of playing and coaching both school and local minor hockey. He was inducted into the Berwick Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 for his dedication as coach, mentor, organizer/founder, committee member, official, player and fundraiser for local hockey and minor baseball programs.
He is thrilled that some of the youth players he coached years ago are now playing in the 50 plus league, which is non-contact and has a pay-as-you play membership.
“Some of these guys were phenomenal players back in the day, it’s an honour to get on the ice with them,” Charest said.
“Regardless of their age, everybody is here cause we love hockey, and we are all buddies.”
Charest appreciates being able to get onto the ice regularly and looks forward to doing it for many more years.
“These boys treat me good and let me get some shots on goal during the games. I appreciate that, too.”
Charest is not the only 80-year-old who comes out each week for some hockey action. Bobby Holmes of Greenwood, also a founding member of the league, celebrated his 80th birthday in 2013. He still comes out to watch and hang out with his hockey buddies.
“Kenny Perkins is another of the older players who hates missing his weekly games,” explained teammate Bob Landry, who has been playing old timers hockey “for a while now.”
Charest’s birthday celebration was set to continue off the ice later in the evening, when he gathered with his some of teammates for a celebratory dinner.
“John is a super guy, just loves to get out on the ice, and he really embodies the spirit of what this game is about regardless of how old you are,” said Landry.
Berwick Shinny runs Monday and Thursday afternoons from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Apple Dome.