Glendale resident Paul LaGloire has shown no signs of his hockey career slowing down
Hockey: On the ice, 85-year-old is young at heart.
Glendale resident Paul LaGloire, 85, prepares for a hockey pick-up game at the Pickwick Gardens Ice Skating Rink in Burbank on July 25, 2013. LaGloire runs and participates in pick-up games throughout the year. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
The oversized bag contained a pair of skates, long socks, gloves, helmet, visor and a jersey sporting No. 28 in reference to LaGloire’s birth year of 1928. He diligently straps on each piece of attire before preparing to hit the ice for a pick-up game at the facility’s rink with a group of players mostly half his age.
LaGloire, a native of Bromont, Quebec, about 50 miles east of Montreal, doesn’t shy away from being 85. He gracefully accepts it, often joking with his teammates and opponents in his still-thick French accent.
He’s widely respected for his knowledge and appreciation of the game.
There are no clear indications that he’s slowing down while breaking up a pass or launching a shot on goal to the amazement of the other 11 players dotted on the ice during a shift that typically spans one minute 45 seconds.
“You come into the locker room ready to do what you love and that’s playing hockey,” said the 5-10 LaGloire, a father of three who has resided in Glendale since 1969. “It’s almost like being in a private social club in that we are all here talking about different things that lead up to hockey and you never get tired of it.
“We have people in our pick-up games who are police officers, doctors, business owners, teachers and actors. We share that common link of hockey a few times a week and there’s no place I’d rather be right now. I feel the same about hockey now as I did when I was 5 playing on a rink right up the street from where I lived.”
LaGloire, a left-handed shooting defenseman paired with his 58-year-old son, JP, is recognized around Pickwick and at The Ice Station in Valencia, where he also plays one game a week in addition to the two weekly contests at Pickwick. LaGloire, who was invited by the Los Angeles Kings to drop the ceremonial first puck at the Kings’ contest against the Dallas Stars on April 21 at Staples Center in honor of his 85th birthday, caught the attention of a small throng watching him complete during a stint on the ice.
The game moves rapidly for LaGloire, who won’t bother using fatigue as an excuse. In between shifts, LaGloire will sit on the bench to catch his breath before getting set to guard his end of the ice while communicating with his teammates in a non-checking contest.
“We are out there playing almost 40 minutes a game,” said LaGloire, who used to play left wing. “That’s way more than the NHL players play. They might play close to 20 minutes a game. It’s almost always nonstop in our games.
“We don’t have any referees, so we call our own offside. You take in the atmosphere.”
LaGloire, a retired office manager and accountant, became involved with organizing games at Pickwick in 1981. It took some time to spread the word, though LaGloire had an inkling the sport would see a measure of popularity.
He embraced Southern California, knowing that many Canadians had already emigrated to the West Coast to escape the freezing winters.
“When I moved to California, there was something like 250,000 people from Canada now living in the state,” LaGloire said. “There had to be some interest with more people coming out here and taking to playing the game.”
LaGloire said he went to a rink in Pasadena just to skate for some exercise in 1981. LaGloire engaged in a conversation with a fellow skater who told him about Pickwick.
LaGloire met with Pickwick management and tossed out the idea of starting a string of weekly pick-up games.
“Everything just seemed to work out for the best,” LaGloire said. “The first night we played, we had 11 guys and then it grew to 15. A month later, we had around 20 more people looking to play.
“A lot of people started to come. Originally, we were playing one day a week and then we had to ask Pickwick about the possibility of getting us a second day.”
More than 30 years later, it’s of no surprise to JP that his father is still lacing up the skates.
“Hockey is in his blood,” said JP LaGloire, a Pasadena resident. “It’s always been in his blood and that won’t ever change.
“There’s a lot of good talent out there on the ice and dad tries his best to stay with them. People see my dad and they want to go out there on the ice and give it a try. Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that he’s still playing, but he’s living his life the way he wants to. How many guys do you see who are 85 that are out there playing hockey?”
Pick-up games are geared for participants 18 years or older and full hockey equipment is mandatory. The cost to play is around $25 per game.
LaGloire has several responsibilities prior to the first puck being shot. He recruits numerous players, while additionally organizing the contests and paying the rink managers for ice time.
LaGloire brought in Adam Rado, an English professor at UCLA to be a part of the group.
Rado, 64, said he had plenty to gain while making the weekly commute to Burbank from Westwood and occupying the rink with LaGloire.
“Paul is about 20 years older than me and he’s like a role model,” Rado said. “He’s amazing for a guy his age, in terms of being able to play and being well-organized.
“On the ice, he hangs in there with the best of the best. He’s not the fastest skater, but he’s the smartest. You can learn things about the game from him. He’s got that great hand-eye coordination and he’s an inspiration to the rest of us.”
Dave Waite of Los Angeles played a few shifts with LaGloire.
It was no surprise to Waite, 41, that LaGloire could still cover ground in the defensive zone.
“You look at him and he can still do a lot of things very well,” Waite said. “You see him in the locker room and he’s always in a good mood and joking around.
“Then you see him on the ice and he can make a smart play, like deflecting a pass across the ice. I hope he keeps playing as long as he wants. I also hope I can keep playing until that age.”
Brian McGowan, the pro shop manager at Pickwick, has known LaGloire for about 15 years. He’s watched LaGloire play many games at the venue in that stretch.
“I’ve asked myself so many times how can he keep doing it,” McGowan said. “I see him two or three times a week and he’s always ready to play.
“It’s amazing to watch him play sometimes. He can still skate well. It doesn’t look like he’s slowing down one bit.”
If LaGloire can help it, he won’t stop playing hockey any time soon.
He’ll continue to regularly make the treks to Burbank and Valencia and soak in the atmosphere in both venues while playing a regular shift.
“I go out there knowing I’m proud that I can still play,” LaGloire said. “I just want to do what I can to stay active.
“Hockey is part of my routine. It’s my way of staying young. If I’m not doing it, then I’m disappointed.”