Calgary’s oldest hockey player celebrates 90th birthday on the ice

A sign posted in Calgary’s Crowchild Twin Arenas hockey rink posits some simple reminders:

“These are kids.

“This is a game.

“Coaches are volunteers.

“Referees are learning.”

On this particular day, there were no refs nor coaches, and the players were simply kids at heart enjoying a friend’s birthday.

“Now we know there’s no limit,” Crowchild 55+ hockey coordinator Randy Melanson joked. “If he can make it to 90 we all can, right?”

Mike Kamad is celebrating his 90th birthday on the ice.

His teammates at Crowchild 55+ surprised Calgary’s oldest registered hockey player Tuesday with a plaque and handmade card celebrating his decades-long career.

“I’m just fortunate,” Kamad said. “There’s no secret to it at all. I guess it’s just your luck and that’s part of life.”

For the record, his teammates believe cold beer and good humour also play a role in their collective longevity.

“Before every game he tells me to have a good game and don’t get hurt,” teammate Bruce Roberts said of Kamad. “Once he says that, I know I’ll be OK.”

Kamad has suited up for senior hockey since 1996; nearly the equivalent of Gordie Howe’s 26-season NHL career.

He’s racked up 1,354 goals, 1,697 assists and 3,051 points over the years and the team still draws some fans on special occasions.

“They live and breathe hockey,” friend Carla Landa said. “They were skating so well today I thought it was at the wrong arena!”

Born on Feb. 19, 1955 in Kenora, Ont., Kamad had little time for hockey as a young boy, instead opting to work in his parents’ candy store.

When Kamad was 12, his friends needed one more player to sign up for hockey in order to form a local team, so Kamad’s mother, Rose, crammed some fabric into the toes of an old pair of too-big skates and sent her son to the rink.

The speedy youngster started drawing NHL attention by the time he was 16.

“Joe Primeau from the Toronto Maple Leafs and Phil Watson from the New York Rangers came to see my parents in 1946,” Kamad recalled.

“Primeau wanted me to go to Toronto to St. Michael’s College and Watson wanted me to go to the Lethbridge Native Sons. I was only 16, I didn’t even know where Lethbridge was. But if I had gone to Toronto, I would’ve played with (Hockey Hall-of-Famers) Red Kelly and Tim Horton.”

But any NHL dreams he had were quickly dashed.

“Of course, my dad wouldn’t let me away from home,” Kamad shrugged.

All these years later, he still wonders “what if” but not for the reasons you may think.

“I have no idea how far I would’ve gone in hockey anyway,” Kamad said. “But I could’ve gotten hurt like a lot of players do and I wouldn’t be here talking to you today.”

“Maybe it’s good luck I never went any further. I’ve played with so many good players over the years, I’m rather fortunate to still be involved in hockey and baseball.”

That’s right. Kamad has also played competitive softball for the past 23 years. In fact, his team, the Dodgers, are the defending champs in the Calgary Senior Men’s Softball 55+ A division.

He recently won the Bob Sanderson Trophy for the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance and sportsmanship in his continuous efforts to improve.”

“He’s really fast!” Kamad’s friend Sue Drummond said. “When I found out he’s pinch-running for guys that are 20 years younger than him, it blew me away. They just have so much fun.”

At the end of the day, Kamad says the camaraderie is what keeps his love of sports thriving.

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