78-year-old heats up the ice in Glenwood rec league hockey
There’s saying you play for the love of the game — and then there’s really playing for that same reason.
For John Sherman, hockey is the game that he loves and gets so much joy out of playing that he won’t stop. Sherman looks like he’s in his mid-50s, which would make him the oldest player in the Glenwood rec league at the local rec center.
But he isn’t in his mid-50s. He’s 78.
Yes, you read that right. Sherman is 78 years old and still straps on the skates multiple times a week to go up and down the ice against people roughly half his age or much, much younger.
He does it all with a smile on his face, albeit one with a missing tooth.
A native of Utica, New York, Sherman grew up playing hockey in Upstate New York, starting at the age of 4. That’s roughly 72 years of hockey, countless hours standing on 3 millimeter-wide blades and millions of strides up and down the ice.
One would think that at some point Sherman would step away and save his body — namely his feet and knees — from unnecessary wear and tear at this stage of his life, but the thrill of the game and the chance to keep playing with his daughters and son-in-law keeps drawing him back in.
“Honestly, I just love to play. It’s that simple,” Sherman said Sunday following a game that his team — 20/20 Vision — won 4-1. “A lot of it has to do with the camaraderie of being with all the people. Plus, getting out on a regular basis and not giving up something that you can kind of do — I’m certainly not an impact player. It’s just good fun.”
Where he grew up, hockey is lower on the pecking list compared with sports like lacrosse and football, but the ice pulled Sherman’s attention away from those sports during his senior year of high school.
At the time, Sherman started playing pickup hockey with the Cornell Big Red hockey team, although it wasn’t the varsity team. From there, Sherman took off to Canada for school at St. Michael’s, which was — and continues to be — a hockey hot bed, even in Canada.
“Everybody played at St. Michael’s, so I just kind of took to the game,” Sherman said. “We just played and didn’t think much about it. But it definitely grew on me.”
Hailing from the East Coast, Sherman transplanted himself to the mountainous region of Colorado due to the need for change midway through his life. Thanks to a friend from the University of Toronto who decided to move to Vail, Sherman decided to take a look as well.
“I just came out here on a visit and thought, ‘Gosh, this is wonderful,’” Sherman said. “It took me a year or so to get my finances in order, but I haven’t looked back since I made the move.”
Residing in Spring Valley for the last 17 years with his wife, Janny, Sherman has watched hockey grow in the area, namely youth leagues such as the one in which the Glenwood Grizzlies play, as well as the local rec league that has grown rapidly.
The Western Slope region might not be thought of as a hockey-mad region to the masses, but with the emergence of youth programs and rec leagues the game of hockey has grown into a very popular sport here in the last 10-15 years.
“It is definitely growing in this area,” Sherman said. “I think the youth and rec leagues are definitely helping that out. We have a couple of grandsons that play in the league, so we’re seeing the growth of the game firsthand.”
In general, hockey is a family game for Sherman. Not only do a couple of grandsons play locally, his two daughters and one son-in-law play on the same rec league team as Sherman.
At his age, getting the chance to spend time on the ice playing the game he loves with people he loves dearly means a great deal to Sherman, even if he might not let on completely through is words.
It’s the smile that creases his face and the tone in which he talks about playing with his family that shows the true emotion of sharing the ice with loved ones.
“It’s great, really,” Sherman said. “It’s a lot of fun. How many grandpas can play with sons, daughters and grandchildren?”
MAKE IT TO 80?
Sherman is very lucky in that regard. At 78 years old, these moments are very meaningful to him, but he knows at some point it will be time to hang up the skates for good and just watch from the bench.
However, he’s not focused on when and where he’ll hang it up. He’s just living in the moment.
“Each year I think that I need to hang it up because I know that I could get my head taken off at any time, but I don’t know. That’s not on my mind when I’m playing,” Sherman said. “I would be nice to make it to 80, which isn’t too far away.”
Should he make it to 80 years old while still playing hockey, Sherman would open himself up to serious injury, but he’s not worried about that, considering he’s been knocked around so hard many times that, he says, “seen so many stars.”
What keeps him going is the fact that he doesn’t want to retire and wants to keep getting out and being active, wife Janny said, while watching Sherman during his most recent game.
“He just loves being outdoors and loves the game of hockey,” Janny said. “Even if he stops playing in the rec league, he’ll keep playing with the grandkids in the backyard rink.”
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