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94-Year-Old Proves You're Never Too Old To Play Hockey

DULUTH, Minn. (WCCO) -- It's often said that age is merely a number -- it's what you do with longevity that really counts. And nobody is better proof of that than 94-year-old Mark Sertich, of Duluth.

Each morning, Sertich starts his day lying face down on the carpet in his living room floor.

"I do my sit-ups and pushups," he said.

The more vigorous the exercise for Sertich, the better. You don't get to the precious age of 94 in his shape by abusing your body or taking only occasional walks.

"As I got older, I figured I'd get into jogging, which I did, and when I was 59, I ran my first marathon," he said.

Sertich didn't stop there –- he continued running and added five more marathons to his name. In addition to the running marathons, Sertich began doing inline skating marathons. In fact, he's competed 11 times in the annual NorthShore Inline Marathon.
But from the time he was a kid growing up in the Merritt park neighborhood in Duluth, one sport rose above the rest -- ice hockey.

"I like to kid the guys and say, 'How come you guys close your eyes when I get the puck, for crying out loud, including the goalie?'" Sertich said.

At 94, Sertich still laces up his skates and puts on his shin pads, gloves and helmet. He does it several times a week, all year round.

"Mark is a great example as an athlete but [also] as a human being," friend and teammate Bob Somers said.

Somers is among the select group of Duluth retirees, police officers and firefighters -- some half Mark's age -- who skate with and admire Mark's devotion to the game.

"We all enjoy him and like to play with him," Somers said. "He's good at what he does and is patient and sets a really good example."

In 1983 Sertich began competing in the annual Snoopy's Senior World Tournament in Santa Rosa, California. It's an ice hockey tournament designed for players over the age of 40, created by the late cartoonist and hockey devotee, Charles Schulz. It was early during his first competitions that Sertich formed a deep bond with the Peanut's cartoon creator. Schulz is also a native Minnesotan.

"I played with "Sparky" Charles Schultz for many years on the same line," Sertich said. "It's really something to have under your belt."

Or on the wall. Sertich proudly points to a framed cartoon strip hanging near his entry way and points to a comic strip, featuring Snoopy sporting a handlebar mustache, Schulz created just for Sertich.

"It was quite an honor, I'll tell ya," he said.

The only time he didn't play was World War II -- when instead, he fought for U.S. General George Patton's Third Army. After the historic Battle of the Bulge, in May 1945, Sertich was among the 23 men in a platoon who liberated the Maulthausen concentration camp.

In Sertich's private scrapbook he points to the tiny black and white photographs, some of them showing horrifying images of dead and emaciated Jewish captives.

"This is a concentration camp that we liberated," he said, pointing to the aging photographs.

Perhaps it is what he saw there, amid the grotesque human condition that gave Sertich the passion to remain physically fit. And with that came a lifetime of friendships along the way.

"This is the greatest thing that could happen to you, is to be associated with a bunch of guys like that," Sertich said.

Yet despite his advanced age, the thought of getting hurt is the last thing on Mark's mind.

"If something happens to me, I've got my EMT right on the ice with me," he said. "How can you beat that, huh?"

Sertich isn't one for making excuses, and adds that anyone can do what he's doing. In his mind, it's the Sertich road map that leads to the fountain of youth.

"I say that most important step is the first one out the door," he said. "Even when you don't feel like doing it, you make up your mind to do it because once you get out there you're okay."

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