Nothing sets Bruce Browne apart when he’s between the pipes. The goalie is skilled at his position and knows what it takes to beat the opposition.
When Browne sheds his mask, though, he’s not your normal netminder. He turned 72 this year.
“People think I’m in my 50s,” Browne said. “I do not look 72. I’m very far from looking 72. … I feel like I’m just a kid.”
Browne is the only goalie for the Brews Brothers of the San Diego Ice Arena Adult League in Mira Mesa, Calif., so he’s used getting all the playing time. Upon picking up the sport at age 35, Browne wasn’t the most skilled on the ice and taught himself how to play goalie.
“I didn’t know how to skate and I always thought the boards were made for stopping,” Browne said.
As longtime teammate Jim Allen says, Browne has gotten better with age, just like a fine wine from Napa Valley.
“The passion’s still there,” said Allen, 62. “When the playoffs roll around, he steps it up a notch. He plays hurt, he’s a warrior.”
Browne is retired from the U.S. Navy and was a postal carrier for 20 years, which kept him in the best shape of his life walking his mail route every day. These days he stays in shape by working out twice a week.
It’s not usual for him to feel his age after a tough game on the rink.
“I keep looking for that truck that hit me when I wake up in the morning. I get out of bed and say, ‘Anyone catch the number of that truck?’” Browne joked. “It takes me the next day before I start feeling it.”
Browne, who is also a pitcher in a summer softball league, admits his reflexes aren’t what they used to be, but he has a good time competing against the younger players in the league.
“I like beating the kids,” Brown said. “I can’t help [improve] my skill level if I’m playing older players. I want to play the younger guys because that’s where I hone my skills.”
“It’s fun to see kids when we beat them, they get pretty frustrated getting beaten by someone that age,” said Allen, the team’s assistant captain. “That’s probably one of the biggest thrills is when we pull off a victory, the handshake you can just see the disgust on these young guys like, ‘Man, how did these old farts beat us?’”
The Brews Brothers have an average in the mid-40s and there are a number of players in their 50s. The team is in a transition where it’s bringing in younger players because the league has gotten significantly younger. The San Diego Ice Arena Adult League consistently improves and once featured a young 16-year-old phenom named Chris Chelios.
The Brews Brothers — who back in their heyday had Browne playing with his son and also his twin brother — got its start just over 20 years ago, and Browne and Chris Peterkin are the only two original team members remaining. Allen has played with the team for 12 years.
“We’re a pretty proud bunch as far as the name goes,” Browne said. “We get along and we’re real lucky to have people come in that get along with the other players.”
The Brews Brothers have a fun time on and off the ice. Peterkin throws an annual Labor Day event called “I survived another hockey season.” The team also volunteers for a local ice skating charity event each year.
Browne and the Brews Brothers usually compete in both the winter and summer hockey league, but Browne is taking this summer off to get his “head on straight” and let his body heal; however, he’s still going to be playing softball.
Browne doesn’t have any immediate plans to hang up his skates.
“There’s like four or five of us that are like, ‘When you quit, we’re quitting,” Allen said. “So he kind of feels the pressure that if he keeps playing, we can’t stop.”
“As long as the team will have me, I’ll play,” Browne said. “I do want to play until I’m 75, that’s my goal.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.