At 72, Fred Bozek was among the oldest group of competitors in this year’s Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games, leading his hockey team to the bronze medal this year.
He has no plans to retire, and if the games introduce a new age bracket for athletes 75 and older, he’ll be in contention for years to come.
Bozek said he’s also taken part in other seniors events, like the Huntsman World Senior Games, held annually in St. George, Utah, which regularly attracts baseball players in their 80s.
“I’m kind of a hard-nosed guy,” he told the Independent. “I say, ‘Dammit, if they can do it, why can’t I?’”
Bozek was the assistant captain of the Zone 4 (Parkland) hockey team in the 70+ age bracket, which took the bronze during the Winter Games, held from Feb. 19 to 22 in Lethbridge.
After losing 7-5 to Zone 2 (Big Country) in their opening game, which ended in a shootout, they defeated Zone 6 (Edmonton) in a 7-5 game in the semi-finals. This earned them a spot in the finals, where they lost again to Zone 2, with a score of 3-1.
Bozek said he was pleased with the team’s performance, especially given the difficulty of finding enough players in the district to field a full team.
“Here, in our zone, we scramble to get 14 or 15,” he said.
Bozek was one of several local residents to compete in the Winter Games, which are held each second year. The events included both table games like Scrabble, bridge and euchre, as well as competitive sports like curling, soccer and hockey.
Dennis Becklund and Wayne Perkins, both of Stettler, were part of the Zone 4 60+ men’s hockey team, which defeated Zone 3 (Calgary) in the final to win the gold. The team also included Jim Wasdal of Endiang and Bernie Doan of Halkirk.
Duncan Babchuk of Stettler played on the Zone 4 55+ men’s hockey team, which lost to Zone 6 (Edmonton) in the finals and ended up with the silver. The team also included Cal Graham, formerly of Stettler and currently residing in Mirror.
Two local five-pin bowlers competed in the games. Fred Milner finished third in the 75+ men’s singles category with a score of 1,278, while Ken Fischer earned sixth place in the 65+ men’s singles category with a total of 971.
Fern Marie Borgel represented Zone 4 in the euchre competition, where she came in eighth place out of 32 competitors.
Bozek said he believes strongly in the value of staying active into one’s senior years. He is one of the organizers behind the “Red Green” fun hockey league that runs on Saturday nights at the Stettler Recreation Centre.
He said the games are open to players from “all walks of life” and encouraged anyone interested to join in.
Bozek mentioned that the organizers of the Winter Games have considered adding a 75+ age group, for which he would qualify if he takes part in the next games in 2017.
For more information, including complete results from the games, visit http://www.2015alberta55pluswintergames.ca.