A Bradford West Gwillimbury resident has come home a hockey hero after winning a gold medal at the Canada 55+ Games in Saint John, N.B.
Bill Marks, along with his team of 15 players and one coach, many of whom he plays hockey with in Newmarket, beat the Alberta team in the final game of the over-75 men’s hockey category.
“We played hard and the guys tried to keep their focus,” said Marks, adding the team has won medals at previous Canada 55+ Games.
“We got a gold medal to go along with the silver and bronze we already have. I said, ‘Now you got something to talk about for the next two years (before the next Games).”
Marks and his team spent all of last week in New Brunswick for the event, which saw nearly 2,500 athletes over the age of 55 from across Canada compete.
It was the fifth time Marks has competed in the Games, which are held every two years.
In their first game, they lost 4-1 to Alberta, but then they rallied to win 5-3 against Saskatchewan, and beat Quebec 8-1, before the championship round against Alberta.
Marks said his teammates joked it would likely be a long game with one goal in overtime.
The prediction was not far off.
The teams tied it up 1-1 with minutes to go, and then went into five minutes of sudden death overtime.
After no one scored, the teams each got three players to compete in a shootout, but they tied again.
Finally, the teams went into a sudden death shootout, where players from each team tried to score on each other’s goalies at the same time.
“The coach called my name. I thought, ‘No, I’m no good at this. If I hit the goal post I’m going to go home and burn all my equipment,’” said Marks, with a laugh, adding he had hit the goal post several times throughout the tournament.
Marks took a shot — and scored.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I scored.’ When I turned, I looked back… the people in the crowd were screaming and yelling. I realized, ‘Oh God, he scored on our goalie, (too),’” he said. “At least I did my part and didn’t hit the goal post.”
In the next — and final — round, one of his teammates scored, and the other team did not, clinching their first-place victory.
“In five, 10 seconds we realized we had won the game,” he said, but “we played so long we were the last game to be played. (All the other teams) started supper without us.”
But they did not mind, Marks said. They arrived to dinner as champions.
He said he is already looking forward to trying out for the team to compete at the Games in 2020 in Kamloops, B.C.
In the meantime, Marks said he and his team had a tough time finding accommodations on the way home from New Brunswick — eventually sleeping in their vehicles in a Walmart parking lot.
“We got that off our bucket list,” he said, with a laugh, noting the overall trip was a lot of fun and they met plenty of friendly people along the way. “We had a nice time.”