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Still got it: 79-year-old Vernon man Wayne McGrath is a hockey lifer

The former Mayor of Vernon started playing for the Moonshiners rec team 45 years ago
Wayne McGrath (left) with his son Gord McGrath. (Contributed)

It’s 2023 and, just like 45 years ago, a familiar face is on the ice at Kal Tire Place.

Wayne McGrath, who is turning 80 this April, has played for the Vernon Moonshiners team since its inception in 1978.

“Since the team was formed (in 1978), I’ve played pretty much every year,” remarked McGrath, fresh off the ice after another hour-long game.

“I moved to Vernon in 1974 and it started when one guy asked me if I wanted to play hockey and I said sure.”

Wayne also plays with his son, Gord (named after NHL legend Gordie Howe), who is 52 and a former high level junior hockey player. Gord joined his father on the team 17 years ago.

“This is my 49th year, but I’ve missed three years, one from COVID and one from cataracts,” McGrath said.

“I have been pretty fortunate, to be able to play for 70 years. It’s great, keeps you in physical shape and great for your cardiovascular health.”

McGrath also plays on Wednesday nights with another group, where he has been playing for 50 years.

The soon to be 80-year-old has been a staple in the Vernon community, as he is the longest serving mayor in the town’s history, from 1990-99. He was also the Conservative party president for B.C. for a number of years.

He also played with the RCMP team on Fridays for 25 years.

“As a Mayor, they wanted me to come out and play with them and it provided real opportunity to play with guys like Guy Lafleur and and Frank Mahovlich, Marcel Dionne and Tiger Williams. This sport has really opened up a lot of doors for me.”

He certainly wasn’t the fastest out on the ice on Sunday, but that didn’t stop him from potting a few past the goalkeeper.

“Earlier in the game I scored a couple of goals, they weren’t great ones, but they still counted,” McGrath said.

As for how much longer he has in his tank?

“The guys haven’t told me to quit yet, so I am going to keep going.”

READ MORE: Former Vernon mayor fondly remembers Lafleur card


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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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