HomeFeaturesGroup of 60 year-old guys renews annual pilgrimage to...

Group of 60 year-old guys renews annual pilgrimage to Grand Forks

By LARRY HOCHMAN, MICHAEL LAZAR, & HOWIE GILMORE In December 2004 – January 2005 the World Junior Hockey Championships were held in Grand Forks, North Dakota. There were no Winnipeg Jets at the time, and the tournament was a big thing in any event. A group of eight of us decided it would be a good idea to do a road trip to catch a couple games. Michael Lazar arranged for the game tickets, Avrum Senensky arranged the hotel accommodations, and a couple of guys did the driving.
The tournament opened on Christmas Day and we were there to watch a doubleheader (Canada vs. Slovakia, and the USA vs. Russia). The venue in Grand Forks was the Ralph Engelstad Arena, a state-of-the-art arena built by a wealthy alumnus of the University of North Dakota, Ralph Engelstad.
A great time was had by all, so the following year we decided to return, this time in March, when the University of North Dakota was hosting the Western Regional Hockey Finals.
The trip continued over the following years, centered around a weekend of watching UND hockey (remember – no Jets). The games were played Friday and Saturday evenings, and in between there would be eating out and shopping.
The road-trip became an annual event in late February or early March, and grew in size as more of our friends joined in, to 15, 18, 20 and as many as 23 participants. We were even joined on occasion by out of town friends (Peter Zatz from Minneapolis and Ben Minuk from Vancouver).
Several years in, Howie Gilmore discovered that the University of North Dakota’s athletic facility had a floor hockey gym replete with boards, goal and center floor lines, nets and creases, and that it was available for rent. As many of the same people played floor hockey together (going back to the old Winnipeg Jewish Men’s Floor Hockey League) it was decided to rent the gym on the selected weekend for floor hockey games.
When the Winnipeg Jets were re-established the urge to attend UND games lessened and the floor hockey games became the central feature. Of course, the real attraction was a “guys road trip,” and even some non-players made the trip for the weekend. We would also arrange the weekend around the Jets having a road game; a restaurant with TVs would be booked for the guys to watch the game together. (Side note: the Jets did poorly in those games until this year when we finally got to see them win).
The annual trip was suspended in 2021 and 2022 due to the COVID pandemic, but resumed this month with 16 participants. A winter storm in North Dakota closed the gym on the Saturday we were there, but the boys were able to get a floor hockey game in on the Friday afternoon. We also enjoy a Jets victory at Tavern United, Saturday night.
It must be acknowledged here that most of the guys in our group are in their 60s and have been friends for many years. In addition to our annual Grand Forks weekend, most of us play floor hockey together every Monday night from fall to spring. We also play football together once a week from late spring to early winter. We even have some sons who have joined us over the last few years. Yes, we are mostly in our 60s, but our friendships and commitment to fitness and each other definitely keep us young at heart.

- Advertisement -