If you think the Olympic skaters, dancers, speed demons and hockey players are the most impressive athletes you’ll watch on ice over the next few weeks, then you haven’t seen Mark Sertich.
Sertich, 96, is by all accounts the world’s oldest active ice hockey player. And when we say active, we mean active: The video above shows his morning routine three times a week, when he drives himself from his house to the rink to lace up his skates in early morning pickup games in his hometown of Duluth.
Most of his teammates and opponents are local firefighters, both active and retired. Some of them are one-third his age. But he’s not some novelty player being humored on the ice. Sertich still has some serious moves, including a signature wrist shot that often finds the back of the net, honed over more than 80 years of skating.
Sertich says he started skating in 1931, though he points out that he only really became serious about the sport once he turned 80. Not coincidentally, that was the year the guys decided he shouldn’t have to pay for his ice time anymore — a free skate that has extended far beyond what they likely expected.
“I decided I better keep this thing going,” Sertich joked in a video filmed last year as part of Nokia’s #UniteFor marketing campaign. “Fifteen years — that’s a lot of coin over the counter.”
The team bonding extends off the ice as well. In another video that went viral last year, made by media company Great Big Story, Sertich says his skate-mates often come over to his house after the morning games for coffee and to break down game footage.
“At my age it’s a wonderful way of being connected with younger people,” he says. “And I think that’s very important for an older person.”
Sertich laughingly credits his distinctive handlebar mustache as his “secret weapon” on the ice, but it certainly can’t hurt that he keeps to a strict exercise regimen of push-ups, sit-ups and riding a stationary bicycle each day before heading to the rink.
“I very seldom think of what my age is,” he says. “It’s not really a big factor, unless you let it be a factor."