Seniors warm up for MSO Winter Games

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 23, 2018

ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Joseph Grazioli, of Royal Oak, started playing ice hockey at the age of 12 in a homemade rink in his backyard.

Over 50 years later, he hasn’t slowed down a bit.

“We used to watch ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ on Saturday nights on Channel 9, and we got real interested in it, and we basically fell in love with the game,” he said. “I have been playing ever since.”

Over the years, Grazioli said, the game has changed a lot.

“Back when we played, when we first started playing, we didn’t even have helmets or any face gear at all to protect yourself. And there were some pretty good injuries because of that — cuts with pucks and sticks and stuff like that. Not too many head injuries, but a lot of facial-type things. In fact, my brother lost his front teeth from a slapshot right to the mouth,” he said.

Back then, Grazioli said, hockey was a self-taught sport played mostly on backyard rinks or the few public outdoor rinks that existed then.

“Kids these days have a high level of formal training compared to what we had in those days,” he said. “We played on competitive teams locally in the Detroit area, but most of them were outdoors. There weren’t too many indoor rinks that we played in, so we had to make sure we were dressed pretty warmly.”

As a senior, Grazioli’s love for the game has only grown stronger. He now plays at least twice a week, sometimes three times, for various ice hockey leagues across the Oakland County.

“All of the guys have played pretty much their whole lives. So we are still sticking together as a bunch of old-time hockey players,” he said.

Grazioli is one of many local seniors competing in the Winter Games of the Michigan Senior Olympics this February.

Michigan Senior Olympics Executive Director Becky Ridky expects approximately 600 participants ages 50 or older to compete this winter. The games include badminton, bocce ball, billiards, pickleball, powerlifting, table tennis, ice hockey and ice dancesport, a basketball skills competition, co-ed volleyball, and a new game: a platform tennis clinic.

The games are open to anyone 50 or older, and Ridky said athletes of all skill levels compete in five-year age groups.

“The Michigan Senior Olympics are really important for people because it gives them something to do during the winter and it gives them something to work for. It gives them a goal. A lot of our people will train year-round for their specific event, so it helps push them to keep competing and keep staying active,” Ridky said.

Seniors can register to compete through Feb. 2, and all of the games, with the exception of dancesport, are free for spectators to watch.

“It is a great event for people of any age to come watch because it is so inspiring. You see all different age groups out there, all different fitness levels,” Ridky said. “It’s fun to watch and just cheer on the seniors, and you always leave feeling good.”

This year’s Winter Games will be held Feb. 7-12 at various locations throughout Oakland County.

The dancesport competition, where professional and amateur dancers compete on the dance floor, will be held at the Royal Park Hotel Feb. 18.

The Michigan Senior Olympics will host a new platform tennis clinic at Waterford Oaks County Park on Wednesday, Feb. 7, as well as a 50-and-older women’s ice hockey tournament April 20-22 at the Suburban Ice in Farmington Hills.

The MSO is also looking for sponsors and volunteers for both the upcoming Winter Games and the Summer Games in August. Volunteers of all ages will be trained to assist with registration, check-in, T-shirt folding and scorekeeping.

For more information, a schedule of events, or to volunteer or become a sponsor for the upcoming games, visit www.michiganseniorolympics.org or call (248) 608-0252.