LIMA — Wearing a Detroit Red Wings sweatshirt, Robert McBroom sits at the Howard Johnson’s waiting for several people he has not seen in almost 40 years.
McBroom eyes the front entrance and spots a gentleman he thinks is one of the individuals he is waiting for and once he sees the green jacket with the Lima Chargers logo emblazoned on the lower left pocket he immediately recognizes he is former teammate Mike Chartrand. Despite it being nearly five decades since the two played together on the Lima-based hockey team they embrace like long lost brothers and pick up as though they met the other day for lunch.
McBroom, who resides in Toledo, along with Chartrand and several other members of the Lima Chargers and the Lima Blues were meeting last month to discuss a reunion for teammates, family, fans and friends to remember and relive the days when hockey attracted hundreds of fans in the late 1960s and early 1970s in Lima.
The Lima Chargers began play in 1967 and the Blues went until the mid 1970s. The teams played at the former Pan Rec Ice Rink where the Save-A-Lot at 1420 North Cole now occupies.
Soon, Randy Winkle, Dave Harvey, Chris Allenbrock and Neal Whitney join their two former teammates and armed with old photo albums and programs, the group reminisces and remembers the good old days and the bond that brought them back 50 years later to plan a reunion.
The tentative date for the get-together is slated for July 21 at the Howard Johnson’s and more details will be released in the upcoming month. For now, an open house style reunion is slated with times to be determined.
“I got this idea that we ought to get together and do something like this so I reached to these guys that I haven’t seen in forever,” said McBroom who was armed with an old alumni roster from 1979 and began scouring social media. “Everybody has this list and everybody is being contacted.”
Chartrand, who still resides in Lima, echoes his former teammates sentiment about the glory days of hockey in Lima.
“If you would have been in here in those days you would have really been surprised,” Chartrand said. “We used to get 1,200 to 1,500 people. We had a lot of guys from Detroit.”
Harvey adds to his former teammates sentiment about playing in Lima and why this reunion is special.
“It’s camaraderie,” said Harvey, who worked for Cooper Tire before retiring and now spends his time doing video review for the NHL and the NCAA. “In this type of sport when you make a friend you make family for life so it only takes a few phone calls to get everybody back together again.”
Bringing together members of the team was a major task for McBroom and Co. While the Lima Blues was a team made of area players who traveled, the The Lima Chargers were a step above the Blues in terms of competition and compensation.
Because of this the Chargers attracted players from across the Midwest and Canada so tracking them down was a little more difficult.
In tracking down players, McBroom has also heard from Lima’s loyal fans.
McBroom said that he talked to two of their most loyal fans, Bob and Ruby Gieseck, who live in Michigan now but are interested in attending the event.
“They have got to be close to 80 because I was 25 when I was playing,” McBroom said. “When we have a reunion there won’t be any young kids.”
McBroom, who came from Detroit along with a colleague to face Lima, played against Lima and then was asked to join the Chargers.
“The team we were playing on in Detroit was asked to play the Lima team and they gave us $200 and at that time covered our hotel and food for two days,” McBroom said. “So we came here and played and me and (friend and roommate) Howie almost single-handily whipped the team from Lima so they talked us into playing here.”
A week later McBroom moved to Lima and got married here but when the rink closed he eventually drifted to Toledo and worked for the sheriff’s office beginning in 1977. Thirty-six years later he retired and was one of the two captains in the department.
“I still play hockey all that time,” McBroom said. “It has always been in my blood and I have season tickets to the Red Wings.”
Like McBroom, Chartrand initially played for another team but was soon lured to play for Lima.
“The people in Lima, still today because I live here, come up to me and say I remember Pan Rec and I wish you guys were still playing,” Chartrand said. “They remember and they (the fans) were unbelievable. They had it on the radio. There are so many stories.”
Chartrand said he fell in love with Lima and has lived here ever since.
“I will always back Lima,” Chartrand said.