Ron Earle has earned plenty of nicknames as the elder statesman of seniors shinny groups in the Haliburton Highlands.
“Speedy Ron,” “Dirty Ron,” “Sneaky Ron,” are just some of the names he’s earned from his fellows for his play on the ice, written onto placemats for his 80th birthday celebration Jan. 14.
Earle’s ability and activity at his age has made him admired amongst local shinny players, his friend Neil Cutler said.
“Everybody respects him. We know who he is and what he stands for,” Cutler said. “He is just an unbelievably cool guy and to top it all off, he’s a good hockey player. For 80-years-old, he’s a force to be reckoned with.”
Age has not stopped Earle from leading an active lifestyle. On the ice, he skates with the rest of his 65 and over shinny group, who play in both Minden and Haliburton throughout the week. His skill was on display on his birthday, when he managed to pot a goal in front of the net during a game at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena.
Earle retired in Minden in 1994, he said, after working as a lighting technician for CBC. Over time, he has taken up a variety of recreational activities besides hockey, including cycling and snowshoeing.
“I like the competition when we’re playing hockey or just the camaraderie when we’re out cycling or kayaking,” Earle said. “I figure it’s better to have a good time whenever you can.”
Earle said he first joined the local shinny groups for fun and good exercise, despite having not played hockey for over 30 years before then.
“I seem to be able to go and be where the puck is going to be and little things like that,” Earle said. “Score really crazy goals sometimes.”
The group has been going for years, Cutler said. Earle also participated as part of the local team for five trips to the Ontario Seniors Games Association 55+ Winter Games, starting in 2007.
To mark Earle’s 80th birthday, Cutler said the shinny group wanted to do something special and worked to organize a celebration at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 636 Minden. The group invited his family for the occasion and presented Cutler with a handcrafted oak hockey stick, along with a plaque recognized Earle as an “ironman.”
“As a group we said we got to have something appropriate as a memento,” Cutler said. “To me, the oak epitomized the quality that we got in this guy. He’s durable. He’s dependable. He’s strong.”
Earle’s daughter, Liescha Earle, also attended her father’s birthday celebration.
“It’s quite an honour that his community of friends have organized a lovely birthday party for his actual birthday,” she said.
Earle said being a part of shinny in the Highlands has made him a lot of friends.
“You become part of the community …there’s probably 60 guys that I got to know pretty well that otherwise, I wouldn’t know at all,” he said. “What have I gained? Just having a good time.”