Mike Ramsay (left) and Wayne Florko head the Kootenay Glacier Kings 55-plus and 60-plus teams as they get set to play in the Canada 55-plus Games in Edmonton next week.

Mike Ramsay (left) and Wayne Florko head the Kootenay Glacier Kings 55-plus and 60-plus teams as they get set to play in the Canada 55-plus Games in Edmonton next week.

Teams prep for Canada 55-plus Games

Loaded with Greater Trail players, the Kootenay Glacier Kings will represent BC in the Canada 55-Plus Games in Edmonton.

It may not be typical hockey weather but two West Kootenay teams will be hitting the ice next week to compete in the Canada 55-plus Games in Edmonton from Aug. 27-30.

Heavily loaded with Greater Trail players, the Kootenay Glacier Kings’ 55-plus and 60-plus teams will represent B.C. at the national event, that includes teams from across the country.

“We leave next Tuesday, and have Wednesday off so we’ll be able to see our competition, all three teams that we play against . . . so we’ll make sure we take advantage of seeing who they are, and what they are, and what we’re up against, because we really don’t know,” said 60-plus player Wayne Florko.

Both teams have a bye Wednesday, but will play two games on Thursday; the 55-plus squad faces NWT and Lethbridge, Alta., while the 60-plus Glacier Kings go against Manitoba and PEI.

The 55-plus team won gold at the B.C. Senior Games last year, while the 60-plus won bronze without losing a game to qualify for the national event, that will see over 600 volunteers and close to 2,000 athletes compete in 24 sports.

With hockey as one of the premiere attractions, opposing teams are rumoured to have built their teams around a few ex-pros like Calgary’s Lanny McDonald, so the level of competition will be intense.

“There’s some good players,” said Florko. “We don’t know what were up against, we’re just making sure we are as competitive as possible.”

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 competiiton 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.”

It’s the first time a Kootenay hockey team has participated in the Canada 55-plus Games, but Florko and Mike Ramsay hope its not the last, as numbers and interest continues to grow since they started organizing the Glacier King teams about five years ago.

“I would say in total we have about 45 to 48 players now, when you combine both rosters that have participated in either the B.C.s or the Canadians this year,” said Ramsay. “We’re hoping that the momentum in the East Kootenays particularly out of Cranbrook countinues to build.”

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Following the Glacier Kings two-games on Thursday, the teams with the best records will play in a round robin to decide the medals on Friday and Saturday.

The Glacier Kings will follow that up with the B.C. Senior Games in Langley Sept. 9-13.

“The Kootenay Glacier Kings is a club that participates in the B.C. Games and the Canada Games is such an opportunity because of its proximity to us this year,” added Ramsay. “We’ll search for other tournaments and grow the program so guys continue to participate right through, there’s even a 70s category, . . . so guys can continue to play and be active right through to their later years.”

With increasing success, the Glacier Kings organizers are hoping that will translate into gold at the national competition.

“We’re there, we’ve now made a name that people know who the Kootenays are,” said Florko. “They know they are going to be in a game, and that’s nice.”