As the puck gets caught up in his team’s corner, Mark Sertich breaks out on the right wing, waiting for a pass from a defenseman so he can make a play in the offensive zone.
The scenario is nothing out of the ordinary for most players. It is how most teams play the game. Forwards break toward the opposing team’s end of the ice as their D-men look to set up a scoring chance. What makes Sertich’s situation a bit unique has nothing to do with the rules of hockey.
What stands out about Sertich is his age. He’s 95.
The Duluth, Minnesota hockey player has been chasing the puck for 85 years, and he is currently in a recreational league with retired and current firefighters, some more than 60 years his junior. Sertich never worked for the fire department but became friends with players 30 years ago and found a place in the league. He also plays in the Snoopy’s Senior World Hockey Tournament in California every year.
“I really enjoy getting out there with the guys and the companionship and the chance to get to mingle with younger people — that’s important for me,” Sertich told media.
The World War II veteran and retired corporate manager has only suffered one major injury in his storied career–a punctured lung during a game last year.
A widower, Sertich still lives alone and drives himself to the rink whenever his team is on the schedule, which is often three days a week. When he’s not playing hockey, he lives the quiet independent life of most Minnesotans–shoveling snow, mowing his lawn, and cooking for himself.
Sertich was a friend of Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, a fellow Minnesota native who created the Snoopy Tournament.
Mark is recently the subject of a video produced by Great Big Story; the father of seven also appeared in a commercial for Nokia which airs in Europe. And although his story centers on his longevity, his on-ice skill speaks for itself.
“He’s not just doddering around out there,” teammate Dane Youngblood said in a 2015 report. “He’s played so many days in a row that he’s gotten really good over the years. He’s actually playing a pretty good game.”
Sertich coached three of his sons over the years. They’ve long since hung up the blades and retired the lumber. But not Dad. Mark says he will keep playing for as long as he’s able. His family is behind the effort, too. Kathrine Gasman, Sertich’s sister, still urges him to seek induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
And Sertich may have a case for getting into the famed Toronto hall. Even though he lacks a big-time hockey stat line, he’s done the players who do one better. Mark is already in the Guinness Book of World Records. Born July 18, 1921, he is the world’s oldest ice hockey player.
His goals for the future? Well, they’re the same as they were in 2015, when he told reporters he just wanted “to keep getting those birthday cards.”
“I hope to be 96 July 18,” he told Great Big Story. “I get up at 6 in the morning. I do my push-ups, my sit-ups and a few other things that kind of loosen me up. Then I am ready to go.”
Sertich lives about a mile from his home rink, and he often thinks about his age but doesn’t spend any length of time dwelling on the subject. As long as he’s playing, he is able to laugh it off.
“Once in awhile I say to myself, ‘You know, you’re only 59. You’re not 95.’ I just turn the numbers around to make myself feel better,” he jokes. “My love for hockey is hard to explain. You skate with the puck, you’re shooting the puck, you’re trying to take the puck away from the other guy. There’s so many things you do. It just keeps you going.”
[Featured Image by YouTube]