In 1980, a group of guys in Vail, Colorado came together to form an adult hockey team called the Passers.
Nearly four decades have passed, but four original team members are still on the team for the fall 2017 session.
“We graduated and came up here to become ski bums and never left,” said Kurt Davis, who is an original Passers player who now competes part-time. “We’re still here raising a family and working and found all our little niches and how to live here.”
Around 1996, Passers decided to pull out of a league in the Denver area to start a league closer to home in Vail. The team went on hiatus until 2011 when about 10 original members wanted to get Passers going again in the Vail Recreation District Hockey League.
It’s important for Davis and his old teammates to be back together.
“I love the sport of hockey and I wouldn’t play on any other team as long as I’m playing,” said Davis, 60. “It’s a tight-knit group, the main group, the original group. We’ve had different additions all along the way as attrition works through its process.”
Peter Kyle, who moved to Vail to become a ski and snowboard instructor, joined Passers in 1990. He loved the idea of “getting the band back together” again.
“We thought it would be fun to get back together, and so we did,” said the 55-year-old Kyle. “We’ve been going strong ever since then.
“It was a reunion almost, but that didn’t end. Everyone’s older, but it’s still just as much fun.”
Passers players love to enjoy themselves on the ice and aren’t too concerned about winning or losing.
“We always say, ‘Whether we win or lose on the ice, we like to win the fourth period no matter what,’” Kyle said.
“We’re the most social team of any team that’s been in Vail, I’d say,” Davis said.
The guys hang out together after games to chat and catch up on each other’s lives. They also get out and enjoy all Vail has to offer, going on weekend adventures, skiing, dirt biking and mountain biking.
“We do have a lot of fun,” Kyle said. “The locker room’s a fun place to be, out on the ice, on the bench, after the game. Once a year we try to do cabin parties — we go to somebody’s cabin and ride dirt bikes and barbecue. We have a ski day and try to get everybody out.”
Knowing what the guys are like off the ice helps the on-ice team chemistry. Most players aren’t just showing up on league night, playing and going home. It’s an added dimension to socialize after being on the ice.
“You’re skating hard during the game and you know who these guys are, you know their names, you know what they do, you may know their wives and kids,” Kyle said.
Even though the guys aren’t too serious when they’re on the ice, they have great camaraderie and have some C Division titles to show for it. They’ve won a number of championships since coming back together in 2011. The last trophy Passers collected was in fall 2017.
“We’ve always been really competitive and we’ve won the league many times — age and being wise over the opposite of what the youngsters play at,” Davis said.
Added Kyle: “I think that’s part talent, part chemistry and part luck.”
Passers are the oldest team by far in their league. The majority of the players are between the ages of 50 and 70 years old. One of the team’s goalies is 21 and there are a few 30- and 40-year-olds skating, but it’s generally an older, more experienced group.
Since the guys are older, they don’t skate as hard on the ice in order to preserve their bodies. Davis, who wears two knee braces while playing, has been beaten up over the years. He’s blown out two ACLs as well as his MCL, PCL and rotator cuff, not to mention receiving hundreds of stitches. But that certainly hasn’t slowed him down as a player.
Both Davis and Kyle use the team’s two 70-year-old players as benchmarks and inspirations for them for hockey. The guys would like to play the game as long as they can.
“As a part-time player, I’ll play as long as my knees hold up,” Davis said. “But I would say, I’m hopefully going to continue playing until I’m 70.”
“There are guys on my team that are better than me that are in better shape, faster and are in their 70s,” Kyle said. “So, if they can do it, hopefully I can do it, too.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.