Randy Nunn will remember his 2013-14 Norfolk Oldtimer Hockey League comeback season as a special one.
Not because he scored a goal in the first game of the season, and in the March 29th B Division final, but for having a chance to play hockey with his 37-year-old and 35-year-old sons, Jon and Jamie.
The highlight, said Randy, was "just getting to play with the boys, having fun."
"One of the main reasons we got into Oldtimers was we talked him (Randy) into coming back," said Jon.
"It was the deciding factor to play Friday Night Oldtimers," Jamie agreed. "It's something we've never done before."
Randy had first joined the league two years after its inaugural 84-85 season, and after a long oldtimer hockey career eventually hung up his skates nearly a decade ago.
"I could have started when I was 32, but I was a rookie at 34," said Randy. "They had dropped the minimum age to 32 to get enough players to get it started. It's 35-and-over now, but I think they'll make an exception if they're stuck for a goalie."
Randy made his 'comeback' decision on the day of the Norfolk Sports Hall of Recognition inductions at the Langton Arena in August 2013.
"I talked with some of the Oldtimers executive here, and I said, 'Okay, here's the deal. I'll come back if you let me play with my two boys. And they said they'd talk to the rest of the guys."
His 'playing' comeback was not tied to a comeback on the executive, but not through lack of effort on the executive's part.
"Rick's trying," laughed Nunn, a past-president and former director. "I told him no, I'm not taking that job back again. For once I want to join something where I can just play. It seems like when I got involved in minor ball, I was on the executive and coaching. When I got involved in minor hockey, I was coach, trainer, all that stuff. I said, 'this time I just want to play.'"
And he's had no regrets, thoroughly enjoying the comeback.
"I enjoyed it so much. The guys have treated me really well, all the different teams, all the different ages."
"I didn't hear one person say anything negative about it," Jon noted. "Everybody's reaction, from the whole league, was 'it's pretty cool that we get to play together' and I think people would be upset if it didn't happen that way. Again – a big shout out to the league for letting it happen."
Two generations playing at the same time in the Norfolk Oldtimers Hockey League is rare, but not unprecedented. Jake Heinrichs, who played in the league into his 70s – and scored a memorable goal in his 70th year – was on the ice with his son-in-law. And the Kerstens, led by Bob Kersten, a league director in the start-up years, played for years as a family in the league.
"Jake was 65 the one year I played with him," said Randy, "and we used to throw him out on the power play and penalty kill because he had better wind than the rest of us on the team."
For Randy, who would be turning 62 within a week of Saturday's Championship Day, the key was was playing at his own pace.
"When you're my age, you can't keep up with them. You have to accept that. Take your breaks when you get them. And if you don't get them... then you're always the trailer coming into the zone, you're not going to be the leader."
"It was an excellent season," said Jamie. "It's something you don't get to do very often. I don't know how to describe it really, it was just a lot of fun."
"It's extremely cool," said Jon, "and a big thank you to the Norfolk Oldtimers for setting it up that way. They pick teams with a lottery system, but they made sure the three of us were on the same team... Our coach said it was a pretty easy draw – he pulled one Nunn and got three."
It didn't take long for the Nunns to make their mark in the league.
"I think that first game was the highlight of the year," said Jon, recalling Randy's goal about five minutes into the Sept. 20 season opener against Lammens Bros. Trucking, which ended in a 7-7 tie.
"He'd been out for so long, we didn't know what to expect. He went down and roofed a puck. I think everybody in the arena, on both teams... we were all so happy he had scored that way. It helped a lot getting the monkey off his back in the first game."
There were two Nunn-from-Nunn-and-Nunn goals that game. Jon finished the opener with five points (two goals, three assists) putting him near the top of the scoring leaders behind Lammens' Chuck Csercsics, who went on to win the regular season scoring championship. Jamie (2-2-4) was right behind, tied for third with Hooft's Rick VanLouwe, and Randy slotted into the Top 20 with a goal and assist, a position he was able to hold through the first month or two of the season.
"It was pretty cool stepping on the ice together," said Jon, recalling a keepsake photo his mother took of the three 'oldtimer' Nunns that night. "I think we started the game up front, too, which is pretty cool."
"When they dropped that puck, the opening faceoff that first game, I thought, 'where'd everybody go?' Randy smiled. "It was so fast compared to what I was used to when I had played. One of the reasons I had quit was because of all the young guys coming in... and look at me today."
"We thought that game was going to set the tone for the rest of the season," said Jamie, chuckling, "but it didn't quite work out that way... we tried."
Master Mechanic finished at the bottom of the seven-team standings, but they finished with two wins Saturday to win the Norfolk Oldtimer B Championship.
"Playing with my dad and my brother, that would be the highlight," said Jamie. "We had a great group of guys in the dressing room – it was a lot of fun that way. And that first goal that dad scored, yeah, that was a highlight too. It was quite the goal."
Never a prolific goal scorer, Randy had put up his fair share of points over the years.
"It's who you play with," said Randy.
"He used to be a pretty steady scorer," said Jon. "He always played his wing and, especially back in the day, I think he was a bit of a mucker/grinder. He knew how to go to the net and get the rebounds."
"I was just a mediocre, middle-of-the-road winger," said Randy, who came into the league with only two years of organized bantam house league hockey experience back when he was 14-15 years old.
"He hangs in there pretty good," said Jon, "plays his wing, and he got a few goals this year – he was in the Top 10 for a while. He's having fun and we're having fun, which is great."
"It was a great season," agreed Jamie, who like Jon grew up playing his minor hockey in Langton. The age difference between them was enough, however, that the brothers never played on the same team until the end of their minor hockey careers in the juvenile division.
"That would have been the only time we played together," said Jon. "That and NBC, but never with dad. I don't remember dad ever playing NBC."
"Juvenile rep was the first time we had played on a team together," Jamie nodded. "It was kind of neat. You always hear about guys playing hockey with their brothers, and you have on this connection on the ice. It was neat to experience it."
"I love playing hockey with Jamie," said Jon. "There's times you don't have to think about the play out there. There's something about playing with your brother, you know where everybody's going to be. And he's a very good player."
Both Jon and Jamie said they planned to play Norfolk Oldtimer hockey again next year.
"It's a great league, really well run," said Jamie. "You've got a great group of guys playing all the time... it's a lot of fun."
And there's a good chance Randy will return for another season.
"We're trying to talk him into coming back another year," said Jon, not sure if they'll have another season on the same team. "Who knows, they may fix it up for us again," he smiled.
2014 Champions: Hooft's Antenna and Appliance
B Division Champions: Master Mechanic
Playoff Scoring Champion: Chuck Csercsics (17 points)
Playoff Goals Against Average (GAA) Champion: Brad Ivanochko (2.33)
Regular Season Scoring Champion: Chuck Csercsics (32-21-53)
Regular Season GAA Champion: Randy Jackson (2.78)
Hooft's Antenna and Appliance 6, MD Auto 0
Hooft's scoring: 1. Mike Andries (Ron Rusnak, Mark Wilson); 2. Jim Mater; 3. Mike Andries (Mark Wilson, Dan Dehens); 4. Dan Dehens (Mark Wilson, Mike Andries); 5. Mike Andries; 6. Mark Wilson.
Shutout: Randy Jackson