84-Year-Old Plays 80 Game Hockey Season
I’ve haven’t posted much in a while, and I try not to post others content too often, but I thought this was such a great story by Mary Ellen MacIntyre of The Chronicle Herald, I should share it. As a rec hockey player, I only hope I have half the vitality of this gentleman when I reach that point in my life.
NEW VICTORIA — There might be a rocking chair in Michael Campbell’s living room somewhere. Not that you’d ever see the 84-year-old sitting in it for any length of time.
“I’ve got no time for a rocking chair,” laughed the amazingly robust man who plays an average of 80 games of hockey each season.
That’s right — 80 games — full bore, flying down the ice, slapping shots at the net and, occasionally, aiming his stick at more than the puck.
He plays with the relish and intensity of a kid who is blessed with the discipline of a veteran.
If a player knows Campbell’s age but not his reputation or his finesse on the ice, there might be an inclination to treat him with kid gloves. Those who know him say that would be a mistake.
“Oh, I love hockey and I play to win,” he said, smiling.
Asked if he ever worries about falling on the ice, Campbell said not when he’s playing hockey.
“It never crosses my mind, to tell you the truth.”
Some of the players on the New Waterford Oldtimers are the grandsons of fellows he played with years ago.
“I thought it was something to play with the sons but now I’m playing with the grandsons,” he said, chuckling. “Believe me, I don’t want any favours on the ice. I want to play hockey like anyone else.”
A father of 12 and a former coal miner who also worked for Nova Scotia Power, Campbell ended his work life employed with the Town of New Waterford. Thin and fit, he never shunned hard work.
When his first wife died in 1983, he didn’t like the look of the cemetery so he began cutting the grass with a push mower, hauling topsoil, planting and cleaning. He still does to this day.
Among local hockey players and fans, Campbell is a legend, greatly admired for his hockey prowess and his enviable stamina.
“Well, back in 1962, I had one of the coaches tell me I was too old to play and he’d like to let the young fellows get more ice time,” he said.
“That was all right, to let the young fellows get more time but the funny thing is none of them are still playing and I am,” he laughed.
“I was 50 years old before I started wearing a helmet, I’m ashamed to say, and 68 before I put the cage on the helmet.”
He held up a photograph of himself with a badly battered face, taken just before he decided to put the cage on the front of the helmet.
“Look at that, stitches and bruises — the puck went right up my stick and into by face,” he said, shaking his head.
But it wasn’t vanity that prompted his decision.
“Well, I was losing too much ice time getting stitched up,” he said, smiling. “Even today I don’t have the sense to get out of the way of the puck.”
His wife, Marilyn, whom he married in 1987, still shakes her head at him. He amazes her, she admits.
“He’s so healthy, he doesn’t even take a pill,” she said.
During a recent interview at his kitchen table, Campbell’s shy and gentle spirit shone through. He is admired for his kind nature as he is for his physical abilities.
He doesn’t use the edge of the table to help himself up or pause to steady himself. One minute he’s sitting, talking amiably and the next he’s standing upright and on his way into the hallway. There seems to be a spring in his step.
“I’ve got good, strong legs and good balance, so I don’t embarrass myself on the ice,” he said.
He gave up fastball when he was 68.
“Well, it was my eyes, I couldn’t judge the ball anymore, so there was no sense playing,” he explained.
As for why he is in such remarkably good health, Campbell said it might be genetics or just luck.
“My father was always on the go, like me, and I usually stay at about 160 pounds despite a great appetite and I’ll eat anything that’s put in front of me,” he said.
“But I never smoked or drank (and always shunned salt) and my doctor says it has nothing to do with luck, it was my lifestyle.