Q&A with World Cup Participant George Nickerson

George Nickerson, an old soul hockey player from Huntsville, ON, will be participating in his third CARHA Hockey World Cup in Richmond, B.C., in March 2022. Nickerson competed in the 2012 event in Sault Ste. Marie, ON, and the 2016 event in Windsor, ON, with the Global Oldtimers, but this time, will be skating with the Mummiots of Finland in the spring of 2022.

Nickerson competed in the 2012 and 2016 events with his friends on the Global Oldtimers, an international hockey program based in London, England, created many years ago by John Hubbell. The Global Oldtimers are the CARHA Hockey World Cup defending champions in the 55+ age bracket. They were registered to compete again in the 2020 event in Richmond; however, the Covid-19 pandemic altered plans. Instead, Nickerson will be competing with the Mummiots from Helsinki for the rescheduled event. He met this group of men through an organized series of exhibition games before the 2012 event in Sault Ste. Marie. Prior to the tournament, Nickerson reached out to the CARHA organizers and expressed his interest in organizing a friendly series of games leading up to the tournament. The Mummies (Mummiots) flew from Finland to play a series of exhibition games called  ‘The Ontario Breakaway’ in Toronto and  Huntsville against the Mighty Hurricanes and the Huntsville Oldtimers, two of George’s teams. Again in 2016, both teams participated in some exhibition games leading up to the Windsor event. The Mummiots have been a part of the CARHA Hockey World Cup since the 2004 event in Ottawa, ON and have played in every event since. After keeping in contact with the men on the Mummiots over the years through WhatsApp and Facebook, Nickerson will finally have the chance to play alongside his international buddies at the upcoming 2022 tournament.

George Nickerson is a big hockey guy. He grew up in Thunder Bay playing minor and Junior ‘A’ hockey, then competed in the WCHA (NCAA Div. 1) with Colorado College back in the mid-1970s. Now, at age 65, he participates actively on seven recreational teams. After decades of recreational hockey fun, he’s come to believe that on-ice play is important on a moderate level, but secondary to time spent with his team off the ice. He added that the networking and fellowship fostered through the game of hockey is what makes the sport so special. His sister, Mary-Lou Kelley, has explored human relationships later in life through a project she calls ‘TheThird Place’. Her hypothesis is that everyone has a ‘First Place' where love, affirmation, and support is received. This is the family home. The ‘Second Place’ where people get positive reinforcement and acceptance is the workplace. Finally, Mary-Lou says that the ‘Third Place’ is the key variable. For some people, it is a church group, a book club or a sports team. For a lot of Canadians, their ‘Third Place’ is the hockey community. Recreational hockey creates a social atmosphere in a friendly, physical environment. It gives people a sense of belonging and an opportunity to create new connections. It is the time spent off the ice, pre- and post-game, that plays a big role in team building. It is a place for fun and conversation that creates a chemistry between the men and women on the team. Nickerson shares that it is often where we form relationships with people who are there with you through thick and thin.

There are so many CARHA Hockey World Cup moments that are special to George. The parades, meet and greets, banquets, etc., are all a part of what makes the event unique. He cannot recall a singular moment that stands out to him because it is the ‘whole’ that is so special. Although, he did share that his favourite win of all time would be the 2016 CARHA Hockey World Cup championship in the 55+ age bracket. George and his teammates on the Global Oldtimers dedicated the tournament to his wife, Dawn, who had passed away nine months prior. His wife, Dawn, loved hockey and would send George out the door every night to play hockey with a supportive smile. The team wore purple armbands in honour of Dawn, which George says, “illustrates how the hockey community comes together and helps one another through difficult times.” The symbolism in the victory made it a most precious win. He added, “It was without question the most emotional I’ve ever been with skates on.”

During the upcoming tournament, George will be honouring another person near to his heart. He will be wearing a commemorative piece to honour his late cousin, Ryan Nickerson. Ryan competed in the 2016 CARHA Hockey World Cup in Windsor, ON, with George and the rest of the Global Oldtimers. Ryan was to join the Oldtimers again for the 2020 event in Richmond, B.C., before the tournament was cancelled. However, four months after the tournament was to be held, Ryan and his son, Hugh, were on the Capilano River fishing for salmon and were victims of a tragic accident. Both Ryan and Hugh passed away. Ryan was a big hockey fan; and a great player. Although he may not be participating this March, his spirit will live on and will be celebrated through the 2022 CARHA Hockey World Cup.

George’s message to players participating in the 2022 event is to embrace the full experience. He suggests that it is important to see the event as a hockey vacation and to embrace what the host city has to offer. Nickerson refers to the CARHA Hockey World Cup as the “Holy Grail,” the biggest event in adult recreational hockey. He adds, “It’s an opportunity to disconnect from daily routine and to immerse completely in the joy of the experience, both on and off the ice. The greatest part of the tournament is meeting those around you,” George added. He encourages others to reach out to on-ice opponents, the volunteers, referees, timekeepers, and all that are involved. “Let them know you appreciate their efforts.” From his experience, the people involved in the event are men and women who genuinely love the game and share a jovial, positive attitude. Nickerson believes that CARHA is nationally and internationally known for developing great hockey programs and has made the difference for many men and women in continuing to play the game late in life and to have recreational fun with friends. “That’s what the CARHA Hockey World Cup is all about,” he says. Socializing with other players and volunteers from around the world is the essence of the event. He adds, “Fill your puck bucket with the beauty of the greatest game in the world.”

3 Responses

  1. George is an amazing person who embraces friendship like no other. When in his presence you know you are with someone who enhances your life and for that I am one fortunate soul. We’ve been teammates for a long time and that will most certainly never end. Thanks George for the amazing recap shared. Good luck to all CARHA players in 2022.

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