ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Two Alaska seniors are headed back to Ottawa, Canada to represent Team USA later this month hoping to get the best of their wily northern rivals.
Jimmy Reese and Frank Nosek are both over 80-years-old, and will be representing their country in the Canada 150 Cup, a tournament that’s been held for the last three years in Ottawa. Reese and Nosek have both been there before - first for an overtime victory by Team USA in 2017, and then for a 3-0 rout by the Canadians in 2018.
Team USA captain Jimmy Reese of Wasilla faces off at the Canada 150 Cup in Ottawa. (Photo courtesy of Paul Plourde)
Nosek said it’s an uphill battle for the Americans, who don’t exactly have a thick roster of senior talent, at least compared to the hockey-crazed Canadians.
“Just in Ottawa alone, we were told that there were 800 players over 80 playing regularly. I think it's pretty similar in the other major Canadian towns,” he said.
That means the Canadians might have four full lineups divided by the city they play in: one from Winnipeg, one from Toronto, one from Montreal and one from Ottawa.
The Canadians also have top-notch fitness on their team: their captain is a super senior 800-meter world champion.
As they have in the past, players from each team will arrive a couple days before the tournament starts, then play each other in a scrimmage on Friday, October 25. Nosek says that Team USA usually gets the upper hand in the scrimmage, but the Canadians with their deep benches have the ability to completely renew their line-up for the final game on Saturday and come out firing.
“They are putting together the best 80-year-olds of Canada, and we got pretty much the same team so we're gonna have to work pretty hard,” he said.
Even with those odds, the Canadians have proven begrudging to admit it. When Team USA won the in 2017 the Americans grumbled at what they thought was a lack of an acknowledgment of their victory at the awards ceremony.
Still, Nosek and Reese aren’t counting themselves out.
“I usually give us a 50-50 chance at winning,” said the laconic Reese, who lives in Wasilla.
Nosek and Reese play regularly in Anchorage and stay up to practice during those games. They’ve also gotten to know each other through them. In fact, Nosek says that it was Reese, whom he calls “one of the better players ever to come from Alaska” suggested that the team manager recruit Nosek while he was at a tournament in Santa Rosa. That tournament, called the Snoopy Tournament after the founder of the tournament, Charles Schulz, the writer of the Snoopy comic strip.
Jimmy Reese and Frank Nosek wait for their shift at a game with their Anchorage team, the 49ers at a game at the Subway Sports Center on O'Malley.
Now Nosek at 85-years-old is the oldest player on the team. The two Alaskans play alongside a team of mostly East-Coasters.
“They mostly knew each other, or knew of each other,” says Nosek, “And Jimmy and I were pretty much the strangers, and everybody looked at us to see if we know how to skate or not.
Despite the heavy competition from the Canadians, Reese and Nosek represent a demographic of senior hockey players that seems to be growing in the United States. Paul Plourde, who previously coached and organized the 80+ Team USA said that the first year he tried to organize the team was much more difficult than now.
“When I first started 3 years ago I started looking in April for people, and by September, I had fifteen guys. This year, I sent out the invitation in early May. In two days I had 21 people over 80 and I had people on the waiting list.”
This year, Plourde himself is joining the team as a player.
Reese, Nosek, and other teammates sit in the locker room at the Canada 150 Cup. (Photo courtesy Paul Plourde)
Meanwhile, the Alaska contingent are happy to be playing and are fine-tuning their skills before they leave on Tuesday. Nosek, a practicing lawyer, was described by a teammate as “a real utility guy, excellent playmaker, both forward and defense.” Nosek, who was previously the captain of Team USA, was described as “the blue collar tough as nails, type with biceps the size of Popeye’s.”
And the team will need both the utility and the grit of both those Alaska players if they want to stand a chance against the hockey-crazed neighbors.
The Alaskans play one scrimmage game on Friday before the final on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Reese skates down the ice at a practice in Anchorage. One teammate described Reese as the blue collar, tough as nails, type with biceps the size of Popeye’s."
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