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From the Track to the Ice Rink

The PNR RailWorks team from Guelph, ON, poses following a tournament in which they took third place. Front row kneeling (l to r): Roger Alves, track supervisor; Scott Rose, assistant foreman; Jeff Ekubor of GO Transit; Matt Bartley, track foreman. Middle row: Joe Zoffranierri, train maintainer; Ryan Johnson, track maintainer; Tim Iesperance, track foreman. Back row: Trevor Broesama, lead signalman, PNR RailWorks Signals & Communications Division; John Reardon, track superintendent, and Mark Austin of GO Transit. Not pictured: Greg Machado, supervisor; Brian Cobierski, assistant supervisor; Nick Gaber, lead signalman, Signals & Communications Division, and Ian Wall, formerly with PNR RailWorks.
PNR RailWorks Hockey Team
Guelph, ON

For a group of PNR RailWorks employees who apparently do not get enough time in the cold during their winter work months, the ice beckons.

What began as an offhand conversation turned into a full-blown commitment when Track Superintendent John Reardon signed up himself and 13 other Guelph, ON-area workers to play ice hockey.

At first, it was pickup games for the guys, most of whom work on GO Transit maintenance in Toronto, along with a couple of GO Transit employees. “Two years ago we started talking about playing hockey,” John says. “Last year, we did it again, and someone mentioned there was a league we could get into.”

So during spring and summer, John (who, incidentally, is a Montreal Canadiens fan) signed the team up into a “safe hockey” division, which puts strict limitations on physical contact for what is commonly a contact sport. A dozen teams at about the same skill level compete. “It does get competitive,” John notes, “but we leave all the nasty stuff out of it.”

The guys on the PNR RailWorks team are of all ages and experience levels. “It’s a total mix,” John says, “from guys whose first time to skate was two years ago, to others at a very high level. A couple played at a high level when younger. … We vary in ages, too. The team ranges in age from mid-20s to mid-50s.”

The result of mixing it up outside of work, he notes, has been a lot of fitness and fun. “Skating hard for minute or so, resting for a couple minutes then back on the ice for another minute or two is quite a workout during a game. And the guys have fun. They like hanging out after work. There’s no business aspect to it; it’s just lots of fun. On Monday morning in our office, the guys are all laughing and joking about it.”

Work commitments and weather have made it tricky to maintain league play in the winter. But John entered the team in its first tournament. On a February weekend, the team unfortunately dropped their first two games before going on to place third in the second annual “Winter Whiteout.” John says the group’s consensus was, “You know what? We got beat the first two games, but if we were on our game, we could’ve beat those guys.”

That’s exactly the competitive fire that will keep the team lacing up and coming back for more. In fact, in another tournament in Toronto the following month, the team again placed third. Their success has resulted in an invitation: “We’ll put a challenge out there to any other RailWorks hockey team.”

You read it here. Sharpen your blades, find your stick, and contact John.