Six years ago, David Eaton lay dizzy and nauseated on a locker room floor at the Portland (Maine) Ice Arena after trying to keep up with the other players in a competitive hockey game. Through the haze, he had a moment of clarity: He was out of shape and overweight–and he wanted that to change. "I had hit bottom," Eaton recalls.
Eaton, a 54-year-old mortgage banker, started playing hockey at age 2 with his dad as coach. His passion for the sport kept him on the ice through his childhood in Massachusetts, then in college.
"I was a JV-guy, but I had fun and I loved the edginess of the game," he adds. But after moving to Maine in 1977, hockey–and fitness in general–took a backseat to marriage, family and work. "I put on a few pounds every year, and all of a sudden, I was in my mid-40s with a big problem," he explains.
Ironically, it was hockey–the challenging game that had brought him to his proverbial knees in the ice rink locker room–that turned Eaton's health around. It was the one activity he enjoyed enough to stick to. The gym routine he had tried was too lonely, and running and skiing were too painful.
So Eaton returned to the rink, playing late at night and early in the morning four times a week with other hockey enthusiasts, adopted the Atkins low-carb, high-protein diet and switched to light beer. The result? He lost 40 pounds in a year.
"Mostly, it's just plain fun," Eaton says. "Our group strikes the right balance of competition and camaraderie, and it takes me out of my everyday world."
Hockey is such a kick for Eaton, that he can't help sharing his passion. That's why he co-founded the New England Pond Hockey Festival, an outdoor tournament played in early February on a frozen lake in Rangeley, Maine (pop. 1,052).
"The days I play are my best of the week," says Eaton, who plans to keep it that way. "I know guys who are skating in their 70s and 80s, and I hope I'll be playing then, too."