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Corner Brook’s Alex Blanchard still skating circles at 69

With his 70th birthday quickly approaching, Alex Blanchard is still a smoothie on skates. He plays about 50 games of hockey each year and still keeps up with the younger guys, many of whom are awestruck at his longevity and effectiveness at his age.
With his 70th birthday quickly approaching, Alex Blanchard is still a smoothie on skates. He plays about 50 games of hockey each year and still keeps up with the younger guys, many of whom are awestruck at his longevity and effectiveness at his age. - Dave Kearsey

If there wasn’t a buzzer to signal the end of a hockey game Alex Blanchard would probably keep skating until somebody told him enough was enough.

It would be hard to say if he would stop then.

Blanchard, a McIver’s native and Corner Brook resident who will turn 70 in February, was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007 in the player category after a stellar career with the Corner Brook Royals.

The retired city firefighter claimed Herder rings in 1968 and 1977 and finds himself in the Top 20 point-getters and Top 10 goal-scorers in the rich history of senior hockey in this province.

He brought a smooth skating stride to the left side and he was a wizard in the stickhandling department throughout his career. Most people would have been content to put the hockey bag to the wayside after years of practice, games and trips across the province in the worst kind of weather.

Blanchard did exactly the opposite. He never took the skates off and still plays the game twice a week with Black Horse in the four-team Corner Brook Gentleman’s Hockey League.

Blanchard is as lean today as he was when he was causing nightmares for opposing goalies. He never gained a pound and he says it’s all because he always kept himself on the go with outdoor activities such as rabbit catching, cutting wood, riding the snowmobile and trekking through the woods on a moose hunt.

He figures he plays 50 games of hockey a year with his Black Horse buddies and he has always loved the social aspect of the game, getting to share a beverage and a chat with the boys after the game or giving one of the boys a ribbing, or like so many times getting razzed up by his younger teammates.

“I can’t sit still. The wife said I should be on Ritalin or something,” Blanchard said with a hearty chuckle Thursday afternoon from Pasadena where he was giving his good buddy Lloyd Meade a hand with an electrical project he was doing for a friend.

He’s the oldest guy on the ice and he’s reminded of that on a regular basis. He is sharing the ice now with guys who are sons of some of his friends and he also has baseball friends such as Frank Humber who he hangs out with, so it’s been a blast for him to be able to keep playing.

He said he loves reminding Humber that he will help him with his crossovers, poking fun at the former baseball pro who picked up hockey late in life but appears to be having his own fun in his new element.

Hockey has given Blanchard some fond memories of wins and losses. He has great friends he made because he put on a pair of skates so many years ago.

He said he looks forward to game night now as much as he did when he was making a name for himself in senior hockey and he told his teammates that he will re-evaluate his future when he turns 70.

He has a couple of wonky knees to show for those beautiful strides down the wing, but he feels pretty good about how he’s able to hold his own with the young guns.

“While I can still get up I will be there,” he said.

Meade is one of the guys who shared the ice with Blanchard until his first knee replacement in 2009 forced him to put the skates away for good.

“For his age, he can still skate for miles that’s for sure,” Meade said.

The two have lots of good memories from their days on the ice and the fun times after the final buzzer had ended.

Meade fully understands why his buddy wants to keep going.

“I always tell him to keep going. I miss it and would still play if I could,” Meade said.

Racking up points was something that came natural to Blanchard when he was in the prime of his life. He’s not as dangerous around the net today, but he’s still a threat.

“The hands, the legs and the mind all slow down right, but I pick up a scatter one here and there,” he said with a hearty chuckle.

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