David Hornby gingerly skated off the ice for a breather in the locker room. It had been some time since he’d played hockey even casually, and his body was letting him know it.
“I have legs but they don’t last so long, so I have to be careful and have the shorter shifts,” said Hornby. “Use my head instead of my heart. I’m not 25 anymore, that’s for sure.”
Hornby, who grew up and played minor hockey in Nelson, was among those who took part Tuesday evening in the Kootenay Patricks’ first practice ahead of the Jan. 23 charity game at the Nelson and District Community Complex against a team of Montreal Canadiens alumni that will include Stanley Cup winners Mathieu Dandenault and Patrice Brisebois.
The Patricks are comprised of former NHL players such as Matt Walker and Simon Wheeldon, players with junior experience including Pat Severyn and Justin Pickerell, and several other longtime hockey fans who signed up for the experience of representing Nelson against the Habs.
Hornby is among the latter. He is currently working as a principal at a school in Guangzhou, China, but returned during a holiday break to play in memory of his father and former Nelson Maple Leafs player Howie Hornby.
The elder Hornby played for the Senior Leafs from 1958 to 1969 and won the 1962 world championship with the Trail Smoke Eaters in Sweden. He passed away in 2014, but his son hopes Howie’s legacy will be alive and well next week when the puck drops.
“If I can get one for No. 10 that would be icing on the cake,” said David.
Hornby wasn’t the only Patrick smiling through sweat Tuesday.
Derek Diener, a local mortgage broker, was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1994, played four seasons in the WHL and two more in the American Hockey League.
Diener said he was looking forward to the experience of people watching him play, something he hasn’t had for two decades.
“It’s going to be fun to see a lot of people in the building and playing in front of a crowd again, playing against some of the legends with Montreal and just getting to be with the boys and having a good time and being part of a team again,” he said.
Among those in the crowd will be the family of Aaron Shrieves.
Shrieves, who coaches a Nelson Minor Hockey peewee team, said he’s excited to have his two kids watch him on the ice — even though, he said with a grin, they will be wearing Canadiens jerseys.
“That’s neat,” he said. “They don’t get to see me play hockey very often, especially when there’s other people watching.”
Shrieves was born and raised in Nelson, and is a true fan of the city’s hockey history. He was still young when locals including Wheeldon and Danny Gare were in the NHL, and when he played Shrieves always wore the No. 8 of his favourite player Greg Adams.
“I had that growing up. I got to skate with Gordie Howe when he came here. I’m proud to say I’m from Nelson [and] proud to represent. Hopefully for the game we can do a little bit out there.”