The Kootenay Glacier Kings 55-59 and 60-64 teams held their final practice on Sunday in preparation for this week’s 55-plus Games in North Vancouver.

The Kootenay Glacier Kings 55-59 and 60-64 teams held their final practice on Sunday in preparation for this week’s 55-plus Games in North Vancouver.

Kootenay Glacier Kings primed for 55-plus Games

The Kootenay Glacier Kings hockey teams will join about 3,500 athletes in North Vancouver this week for the 55-plus B.C. Games.

The Kootenay Glacier Kings hockey teams will join about 3,500 athletes in North Vancouver this week for the 55-plus B.C.  Games.

The Glacier Kings will send two teams to the Games this year, the 55-59 and 60-64 age teams, with the more senior team looking to defend the gold medal it won at the 2014 Games in Langley, and the 55-59 team hoping to reclaim the gold they won in 2013.

The 32 players represent the largest contingent from the Zone 6 West Kootenay team made up of athletes from Nelson, Castlegar, Greater Trail, Salmo, Grand Forks and Christina Lake.

“The teams are looking pretty good . . . but both teams are going down a little short,” said 60-64 player Wayne Florko.

The respective Glacier King squads are a centreman short of a full three lines, but are confident going into the annual event.

“Both teams are pretty strong, but we have some injuries, and some new guys. We are going to be a bit of a different team, but the core, the nucleus, is there on both clubs, so that will be pretty good.”

After winning gold in 2013 at the Games, the 55-plus team went on to capture the gold medal at the 2014 Canada Senior Games in Edmonton last September.

The Glacier Kings will play in a four team round robin before the medal games go on Saturday, the final day of the Games.

Many players on the Kootenay squads played with or against each other in the Western International Hockey League on teams like the Trail Smoke Eaters, Nelson Leafs, Rossland Warriors, and Spokane Flyers adding a unique character that is both competitive and fun on the ice and in the dressing room.

“I think guys that have always played like the competition and the real steep competition and that’s what makes it fun,” said Florko. “But what makes it even more fun is that a lot of us use to play against each other and now were playing together as a team and that is really neat. Lots of good stories and a lot of good players too.”

After a hot, dry summer, the players looked forward to taking to the ice and getting in a few practices in Nelson and Trail before heading to the Games.

“Once you get a few skates under your belt it gets a lot better, but the first few were pretty tough. The older you get it takes you just a little bit longer to respond. But yesterday (Sunday) as a group was definitely our very best skates for everyone.”

The 55-59 Glacier Kings open the Games Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. while the 60-64 Kings play the Vancouver Schooners at 1:30 p.m.

“The key will be playing your system, taking care of your own end, and not giving up odd-man rushes and stuff like that,” said Florko. “You have to play smart, and probably through the course of it, we’ll have to make adjustmenst with one guy short.”

About 100 participants from the West Kootenay will compete in 24 sports and games.