Paul Lagloire plays in pickup games three days a week. (Helene Elliott / Los Angeles…)
Paul Lagloire played high school hockey as a youngster in the Quebec town of Bromont, but he turned down an invitation to the training camp of the major junior team in Verdun because he thought he was too small to succeed, at 5 feet 10-1/2 and 130 pounds. His hockey career didn’t take off until decades later, after he had moved to California and retired from his job as a chief accountant and office manager.
“I was not doing any serious work. All my joints and legs and nerves were still in good shape because I was not doing heavy workloads,” said Lagloire, who lives in Glendale. “To play hockey, you have to have everything working.”
Lagloire, who still speaks with the French accent of his native Canadian province, plays in three local pickup games a week. He recruits players, organizes each game and pays the rink managers for the ice time. He also does occasional standup comedy at clubs.
All of which is notable in itself, but it’s even more special because Lagloire will celebrate his 85th birthday on Monday.
As an early present, some friends nominated him to drop the ceremonial first puck at the Kings’ game against the Dallas Stars on Sunday, an honor he relished. In fact, he said, when he moved his family from cold Quebec to California in 1968 he took into account the fact that Los Angeles had an NHL team.
“It was either San Francisco or here,” he said. “We stopped in San Francisco and I was there with my three kids, the oldest was 17. The weather was so cold there we said, ‘No, we’re going to go down south to Los Angeles and see what happens.’”
The three pickup games he plays in are “like a social club,” he said. His only concession to age is that he plays defense now instead of left wing. He’s by far the oldest player on any of his three teams. “We had one gentleman on Tuesday nights and he retired a year ago. I think he’s 66 now,” Lagloire said.
He plays on Tuesday nights and Thursday mornings at Pickwick arena in Burbank and on Friday nights at Ice Station in Valencia. In two of the games, the team plays only two lines with shifts of 1 minute 45 seconds each.
“We’re on the ice playing for 40 minutes, quite a lot more than the pros,” he said. “The pros when they play 20 minutes a game they’re fatigued.
“We play twice as much minutes, and it’s nonstop. We call our own offsides. The puck is in play for 80 minutes, nonstop.”
In the Valencia game, the team gets the ice for two hours, so players get even more ice time. “It’s 10 o’clock until midnight Friday nights, so I get back home around 2 in the morning,” he said. “The Friday night group is the one I like most.”
Lagloire, who estimated he had won 25 medals from taking senior teams to the world senior tournament, said he was elated when the Kings won the Stanley Cup last June and that he has enjoyed the intensity of this lockout-shortened season. Overall, he said, the game has dramatically changed, and for the better.
“The NHL would start in late October or early November and we could not see good hockey until maybe around Christmas time,” he said, “because players, during the summer gained weight and did not practice and didn’t have the right diet. And it’s altogether different now. And the game is much faster now. The players are bigger and the equipment is better and lighter, too.”
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