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BEHIND THE SCENES: Culhane heads to the HHOF

BayToday reporter Chris Dawson takes us behind the scenes

Bruce Culhane, at the age of 83, continues to have an unwavering love for the game of hockey. He actively participates in the sport alongside a group of senior hockey players from North Bay known as the "Wooden Sticks."

When asked about his dedication, Culhane simply states, "I just really love the game." He enthusiastically shares that they often travel to places like Bracebridge to partake in tournaments, feeding his passion for the sport.

Having grown up in Kirkland Lake and joined the army at the young age of 16, Culhane's teammate, John Cobb, nominated him for induction into the 80+ Hockey Hall of Fame. This esteemed organization, established in 2011, recognizes and celebrates individuals aged 80 and above who continue to play hockey or contribute to the game in meaningful ways.

This year, a total of 29 hockey enthusiasts from across Canada, aged 80 and above, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at a special event in Ottawa this weekend. The festivities will include an 80+ Hockey Hall of Fame Game held at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, followed by an induction dinner.

Herb Brennen, the president of the 80+ Hockey Hall of Fame, expresses his pride in the organization's accomplishments, sharing that they have already inducted 276 players since its inception. He emphasizes that the purpose of the Hall of Fame is not only to recognize these remarkable individuals but also to inspire others to remain involved in the sport and maintain their physical well-being.

Culhane will be joined in this honor by another local hockey player, Ray Lamothe, who is also 80 years old or older. Reflecting on his childhood in Kirkland Lake, Culhane recalls hearing the names of hockey legends such as Ralph Backstrom and Dick Duff. He even reminisces about delivering papers to Duff's home as a young boy. Culhane's commitment to playing hockey remains steadfast, as he firmly believes that age is merely a number.

When asked about the challenges of playing at his age, Culhane dismisses any notion of a difference, stating, "I don't see any difference." He considers the opportunity to continue playing hockey and the friendships forged through the sport as something truly wonderful.

Nevertheless, Culhane acknowledges a significant evolution in the game of hockey since the 1950s. He vividly recalls how the sport used to be more physically intense, even describing it as "pretty dirty." Coaches back then often lacked proper training, with individuals sometimes assuming the role without prior experience. Culhane recognizes and appreciates the positive changes that have taken place over the years.

Excited about the upcoming induction, Culhane humbly admits that he doesn't perceive himself as a Hall of Famer. His primary focus remains on playing hockey for as long as he possibly can, cherishing the opportunity to continue enjoying the sport he loves.

Video Summary:

An 83-year-old resident of North Bay, has been playing hockey for decades and is now receiving recognition on a significant scale. Bruce Culhane is part of a group called the Wooden Sticks, a passionate collection of individuals who share a love for hockey. The group consists of players in their 70s and 80s who actively participate in tournaments rather than just casual pickup games. Two members of the group, Bruce Culhane and Ray Lamont, have been inducted into the 80+ Hockey Hall of Fame for their dedication to the sport. The Hall of Fame celebrates individuals over the age of 80 who continue to play organized hockey and participate in tournaments, emphasizing the importance of staying active and involved in the game.

The 80+ Hockey Hall of Fame is a national initiative that recognizes hockey players across Canada who are over 80 years old and still actively engaged in the sport. Since its establishment in 2011, the Hall of Fame has provided a platform to honor these remarkable individuals. Nominations are often submitted by family members, and the annual induction ceremony takes place in different cities each year. The inductees participate in an 80+ Hockey Hall of Fame Game and are honored with their own hockey cards and plaques. It is a special occasion that celebrates their passion for the game and the years they have dedicated to playing.

For Bruce Culhane, the nomination and subsequent induction into the Hall of Fame meant the thrill of a lifetime. Having played hockey for decades and continuing to participate actively, Culhane was overjoyed to be recognized for his commitment and love for the sport. The opportunity to attend a formal ceremony, play the game he cherishes, and receive recognition for his contributions was a remarkable experience. It showcased the enduring power of his passion for hockey and provided a meaningful celebration of his dedication to the game.