Oliver is one of a couple of dozen players age 70 or older who, despite age, illness and some artificial joints, show up to skate on Tuesday mornings at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel. They come for the exercise and also because it keeps them off the streets and is better for the aging process than, say, staring at shopping channels on TV.
Some are cancer survivors. Several have had heart attacks and open heart surgery. At least one has a pacemaker. The number of bypassed arteries is around 20 or 25. There are several artificial knees, various arthroscopic procedures, a half-dozen repaired rotator cuffs and about a dozen stents. And there have been lots and lots of stitches.
The winner of this marvels-of-medicine sweepstakes, a dubious distinction, appears to be Frank Early, 75. He used to work high iron and has had two heart attacks and bypass surgery — and he has a lung half-lost to cancer, three back surgeries, which took some disks and about three inches of bone, a repaired rotator cuff and a missing toe. He plays defense. And as people in the game know, best not mess with Frank.
Runner-up in the category is probably Marv Stocker, nearly 70, a Vietnam vet and a General Electric sales and marketing guy for 37 years. He’s had quintuple bypass surgery, then five stents, a new knee, a rotator cuff and two foot surgeries.
This eclectic group operates under the general banner of the Gerihatricks, a loose assembly of older but avid hockey players that was started in 1999 by Bill Wellington. Wellington invented the name, a play on “hat trick,” denoting the singular feat of a player scoring three times in one game. He went on to play into his 80s and had both hips replaced along the way.
The Gerihatricks also run pickup games for 50s and older at Laurel on Mondays and Wednesdays. But the Tuesday game is reserved for 70 and up, though the informal rules say a couple of 68s are okay, and 65 works if one is bionic in any way. Exceptions, as well, for women, who can play at any age.
Two do so regularly, and both are well under 70. One is a goalie, Cathy Sellars, mother of four, who has been playing just under five years and sports a bright pink jersey. Why goalie? Her son’s team needed one, her brother was a goalie, and she thought that was pretty cool. She didn’t know how to skate, but she was a gymnast, so why not? “The first season was brutal,” she said, but skating and goalie lessons helped.
She was recruited to the 70s game by Dick Baker, 72, a mover and shaker of youth and adult hockey in Howard County who also helped run a travel agency and sold pianos.