Oldest player at World’s Longest Hockey Game plays for 6th time
At 56 years old, Jouni Nieminen is the oldest player on the ice for the World’s Longest Hockey Game, happening this week at at Saiker’s Acres in Strathcona County.
“I was the oldest player in the first game in 2003 and I’m the oldest player now,” Nieminen said.
He’s also part of an exclusive group of five men who have played in all six of the World’s Longest Hockey Games.
“We’re the fab five. We’ve played all five games and this is the sixth game. Four medical marvels and me,” Nieminen said.
Born in Finland, Nieminen first came to Canada at 19 years of age to play junior hockey. He moved to British Columbia and was introduced to — and immediately inspired by — the story of Terry Fox.
“I landed in Port Coquitlam, years after Terry Fox passed away. He actually came to watch my team’s games just before he passed away in the summer. All of his friends were all of my friends and they told me his story with tears in their eyes. I knew that really impacted me as a teenage boy,” he said.
“I can’t run a marathon for 143 days in a row but I can play a little bit of hockey at least,” he said.
“I thought: if there’s ever a chance, I’ll do something.”
In 2003, Nieminen was given the chance to “do something.” He joined founder Brent Saik and a group of other men for the inaugural game.
“These are guys who don’t even think about quitting. You go through no matter what weather or injuries. I met a lot of good friends through this game and there’s a special bond. We’re like brothers.”
In 2005, on the day before the World’s Longest Hockey Game started, he received his Canadian citizenship.
“I played the 10 days and that was my citizenship test. If I could play hockey for 10 days, I could stay,” Nieminen said.
“He’s a beautiful Finnish card,” Saik said. “He brings light to the dressing room. His jokes and his charisma. On the ice, he’s aggressive. He’s out there and he’s playing hockey and he gets mad at people if you’re not taking the face-off right.”
“It’s been my pleasure to meet him over these years. Now he’s a wiley veteran,” Saik said.
“If he’s got the puck, we kind of let him have the puck, because he deserves it.”
Nieminen said it’s been a privilege to be a part of the fundraiser for so many years.
“You don’t get on this team because you’re a good player or because you’re in great shape. There’s no tryouts.”
Watch below: Playing hockey around the clock would be tough on anyone, but couple that with freezing temperatures, injuries are bound to happen. Gord Steinke speaks to one of the volunteer nurses at the World’s Longest Hockey Game.
The game is about having the drive to withstand 10 gruelling days outside on the ice, in an effort to raise money for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, in the name of people who have battled the disease.
LISTEN: Jouni Nieminen speaks to the 630 CHED Afternoon News
“We can feel their presence here. I’m not kidding. It’s like they’re cheering on us. It gets really emotional here once in a while,” Nieminen said.
“Everybody is playing for somebody here.”
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