LEE HATHAWAY: Hard-Charging 75-Year Old Plays Hockey, Pumps Iron, Helps Young and Old
By Maria Sonnenberg // August 18, 2017
A Good Friend To All
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – You couldn’t find a better neighbor than Lee Hathaway.
The 75-year-old Merritt Island resident is happy to drive elderly neighbors to their medical appointments.
He’ll pick up the trash cans for folks who may be working late, he feeds and takes the dog out when a neighbor goes on vacation, he might mow your front lawn and he will watch your grandkids when necessary.
He keeps healthy and trim. Hathaway has a simple recipe: he watches what he eats and he exercises. Almost every evening, you can find Hathaway at Island Fitness in Merritt Island.
This all-around good guy also lives and breathes ice hockey. He plays the game a few times each week at the Space Coast Iceplex in Rockledge and also takes to the ice to help the rink’s Hurricanes sled hockey team, which offers players with disabilities the opportunity to excel on the rink.
“I wanted to get involved to help the kids and adults who are disabled,” said Hathaway.
His orthopedic specialist would not be amused to learn that Hathaway continues to indulge his passion for hockey, for in 1999, when he had to have a hip replaced, his physician strongly advised him to stay off the ice.
Hathaway’s passion for the sport is just too deeply rooted to deny.
“It gives me a little bit of hurt, but I still can play and I mostly can hold my own against kids as young as 16,” he said.
The fascination with the sport started early for this Rhode Island native.
“My father encouraged my older brother and I, when we were very young, to play hockey, and then he couldn’t get us off the ice,” said Hathaway.
“I’ve been playing hockey since about 1949. I played all through the Rhode Island public school system, prep school in Maine, at Michigan State, with the U.S. Army in Europe and with a German team also in Europe.”
His job in construction equipment sales, rentals and management took him all over the country and through Eastern Canada. Wherever he could, he would play in the amateur hockey leagues.
Hathaway has also been a player with Cocoa Beach’s Sandbar Sports Grill Hockey Team at the Iceplex, helping them to achieve a very recent 16-0 season.
“We never lost a game, and our 16-0 season in 2015 is a Iceplex record in our league,” said Hathaway, who is also the Sandbar Team’s official hockey recruiter.
ASSISTING THE YOUNG, ELDERLY AND DISABLED
While he adores all things about hockey, the sled hockey team holds a special place in his heart.
“These sled hockey athletes are the best in the world,” Hathaway said.
“These are terrific people and excellent players. They never complain while in their sleds during practice or games, and just give it 110 percent all the time.”
Hathaway fits each player with an appropriate sled and all of the other necessary equipment. In sled hockey, players with disabilities that would prevent them from playing traditional stand-up hockey play sitting on sleds.
A sled is basically a plastic seat on a metal frame with two blades underneath the seat. Players use shortened hockey sticks with stainless steel picks to push themselves over the ice and flip the stick to the bladed end to maneuver the puck.
Players abide by essentially the same rules as standard hockey.
“It takes exceptional coordination to move down the ice at full speed and then handle the puck to make a play,” said Hathaway. “Professional hockey players in the NHL have tried sled hockey for various fund raising events and have been reduced to just a novice player while in a sled.”
Hathaway particularly appreciates sled hockey’s inclusive nature.
“We have players ranging in age from little 5-year-olds, to people in their 50s, and we have both men and women playing,” said Hathaway.
Although the team only launched in 2008, the Hurricanes have already made their mark in the sport.
With lots of talent and the support of coach Tom Reinarts and helpers such as Hathaway, the Hurricanes have done exceedingly well against teams from large metropolitan areas such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, DC, and many other locations.
Players Declan Farmer and Greg Shaw won Paralympic gold medals and Farmer, together with fellow player Chris Douglas competed at the World Championships this year. Karina Villegas, is on the USA’s Women’s developmental team.
“If you want to learn what sled hockey is all about and the great athletes that get on a sled E-Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org Interacting with these young players and being involved in hockey’s energy helps Hathaway stay young, he says.
PHYSICALLY FIT AT 75
The years often add pounds to people, but not to Hathaway. Working out at the gym just about every night and playing hockey keeps him fit. He watches his daily diet but he does indulge his chocolate cravings occasionally. The formula works.
“When I graduated from high school, I weighed 160 pounds at about 6 feet tall,” said Hathaway. “Now I’m at 155 pounds and 5-11.”
Hathaway has been married to his wife Sharon for 50 years and they have two grown sons, a terrific daughter-in-law, and two teenaged grandsons.