If the writer Jack London is correct, and the proper function of humankind is to live, then Farmington Hills, Mich., native Diane Pieknik is among the greatest of us all.
The retired nuclear medicine technologist, a 65-year-old woman with a soft face and an admitted dislike for colder temperatures, recently picked up ice hockey. She joined a city team called the Suburban Voodoo Dolls, a 12-person team made up almost entirely of women three times Pieknik's junior. Old enough to be a grandmother, she has learned to play the grueling sport with broken cheekbones and badly bruised ribs.
Earlier this month, Pieknik's story made its way onto YouTube as part of Erickson Living retirement communities' ongoing series profiling senior citizens who've taken advantage of life's golden years.
"Part of me says, 'Do you know how old you are?'" Pieknik says in the video, which posted on April 5 and has since been seen over 17,000 times. "But the other part says, 'Yeah, I want to do this. I want to try it, just to say I can do it.'"
The 3:37-long video captures the essence of what it means to learn a new sport, from the thrill of scoring a first goal ("You'd have thought it was the playoffs!") to using the sport's professional teams to connect with family members far away.
"After [every Detroit Red Wings] game, I email my son Gregory in Afghanistan and let him know the play by plays and who won and who lost," Pieknik says. "It keeps his spirits up."
That kind of connection is something that's been seen by many of those who've left comments on the video's page. Supporters have called Pieknik "inspiring," "incredible," and, most of all, "admirable."
"In all seriousness, this woman is awesome," wrote senssuck24136. "Live the game."
Pieknik doesn't see her newfound passion as anything remarkable. To her, playing hockey is just another way of staying young.
"I've heard people younger than me say, 'When I grow up, I want to be like you,'" Pieknik said. "All they mean by that is, just keep active. They can see that life doesn't end after 50."
Photo via YouTube