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The Comeback Kid

Jim Graham rediscovers his love of the game

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Paradise Valley Estates resident Jim Graham has competed in hockey tournaments everywhere from California to Switzerland.

From early fall to late spring, thick layers of snow and frost blanket the northernmost parts of the world, and outdoor sports become near impossible on Canada’s frozen fields and playgrounds.

It’s no wonder, then, that Canadians turn to hockey. Children learn to crawl, walk and then skate. The country’s love of the sport is much like its winters—fierce and unyielding.

How deep does that love run? Just ask Jim Graham, a resident of Paradise Valley Estates. He played his last hockey game at the age of 85.

Growing up in Canada, Graham played for a number of youth hockey leagues before joining a club team at the University of Saskatchewan.

“I had a wonderful time, but when I graduated, I thought my hockey days were over—it just never occurred to me to keep playing,” Graham said.

That changed when Graham turned 42 years old. He was teaching his children to skate at an ice rink in Concord, California, when he caught the eye of the facility’s manager.

“I guess he thought I could skate pretty well because he asked me to join a recreational league.”

Ice hockey—fast-paced and physically demanding—provided the perfect escape from Graham’s hectic corporate responsibilities. For more than four decades, Graham played roughly 70 games a year, competing in a Northern California league, on the Senior Sharks, and in tournaments held everywhere from Vancouver to Santa Rosa to Switzerland.

Graham moved to Paradise Valley Estates 12 years ago, where he continued to play hockey. He joined two members of the Paradise Valley Estates staff to form the “PVE line” on a local rec team.

Graham attributes his ability to play hockey into his 80s to the lifestyle he’s found at the community. He regularly swims laps at the indoor pool and lifts weights at the Power House Fitness Center. Graham follows his own exercise regimen, and it works.

“My wife and I were looking for a final place to live. It’s amazing that everything we need is encompassed in one place,” Graham said.

Even so, there comes a point in every athlete’s career when risk of physical injury supersedes love of the game.

“I played non-checking hockey, but you do inadvertently get hit. You’re going to get bounced around a lot.”

After suffering a broken leg and more cracked ribs than he’d like to think about, Jim Graham decided last year that it was time to hang up his skates.

“More than anything, I miss the competiveness and the feeling of being on the ice. There’s nothing like it,” Graham said.

Now, Graham stays active by golfing twice a week, working out and taking advantage of everything offered on campus. At the end of the day, he says he just wants to stay healthy and active. He’s found many people at Paradise Valley Estates who want the same.

“I’m the only hockey player,” Graham chuckles, “but there are a lot of wonderful people here who are intellectually and physically active in meaningful ways.”