Time may have taken away some of Terry Yake’s hockey abilities, but it couldn’t take away his competitiveness, which will be on full display at the Allan Cup, which begins Monday in Dundas, Ont.
The 45-year-old former Brandon Wheat King, who is from Mather, is on Manitoba’s South East Prairie Thunder squad that will vie for a Canadian Senior AAA hockey championship. Yake won an Allan Cup two years ago with the Thunder and would love to add a second one to his trophy case.
"It’s obviously a great time and you go up there for one reason," he said. "We’re going up there to win and our whole team is excited because we think we have a pretty good team, we’re excited to have a blast up there.
"… When you get older, that desire to play and win and the camaraderie of a hockey team doesn’t leave you. Just your skills and your legs leave you. We have a lot of fun when we do it and we have a lot of young guys who can go do the chasing the rest of us enjoy the opportunity to try to win something. It’s never easy, but nothing worth winning ever is easy."
This is the third year Yake has been with the Thunder, and he brings a lot of experience with him. He spent 11 seasons in the NHL with five different teams — St. Louis Blues, Hartford Whalers, Washington Capitals, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and Toronto Maple Leafs — and tallied 77 goals, 197 points and 220 penalty minutes in 403 games.
He finished his career in Switzerland in 2008-09 and now resides in St. Louis, Mo., where he sells meat from his father’s farm in Manitoba and does charity work for the Blues.
Since he lives so far away from his Senior AAA team, he doesn’t practise with them or join them for many games. However, he came up and helped the Thunder sweep Saskatchewan’s Shellbrook Elks in the Rathgaber Cup series to advance to the Allan Cup. He’ll also join the team for the national championship.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Yake, who centres a line with former Wheat King Tyler Dittmer and Riley Dudar, admits the hardest part of being on the team isn’t connecting with teammates for games, but finding time to stay in shape.
"I know what it takes to get in shape and you can’t do it in 30 or 40 minutes a day three or four days a week," he said. "You need to be committing a little more time. That’s the biggest problem is finding the hours in the day to get a proper workout. At my age, a workout consists of 45 minutes to an hour and a half of working out and then an hour of stretching. The dynamics of a workout have changed, but I don’t have that much time. I’m still trying to skate three days a week and get on the ice when I can and push that a little bit so I have a little bit of leg.
"It is frustrating because you go up there knowing you’re not as good, quick or fast as you used to be and that’s a little bit frustrating at times."
Manitoba’s Steinbach-based representatives also include former Wheat King Justin Kurtz, Brandonite Devon LeBlanc as well as Hartney’s Mark Agnew and Nick Cowan.
The Prairie Thunder will open the tournament against the host Dundas Real McCoys on Monday before taking on the Bentley (Alta.) Generals on Wednesday. The playoffs begin on Thursday with the final set for April 19 at 2 p.m. (TSN2).
Yake believes his team has solid goaltending and defence, which means the pressure will be on the forwards to score enough goals to help them win the Allan Cup. Yake liked the formula of letting the young wingers do the legwork, and hopes that will work again.
He also thinks this team will be harder to beat as the event goes on.
"Usually we get better," he said. "Even though we get more fatigued as the tournament goes on, everybody does, but we get better because we are one of the few teams that doesn't get the opportunity to play together much."