There is no quick nor easy route to late cartoonist and athlete Charles "Sparky" Schulz's Santa Rosa ice arena from Angwin, the college town that clings to the far-side rim of Napa Valley.
So every Tuesday evening for the past 40 years, Alex Young, now 91, has left himself enough time to drive down and around and then up and again down, and arrive rinkside before 6 p.m.
The long retired, Canada-born schoolteacher makes the nearly hour-long trip because the arena's weekly recreational men's hockey game wouldn't be the same without him. And he wouldn't be complete without the game.
"I come out and keep score for the guys and enjoy the camaraderie," said the sole Honorary Member of Sparky's Skate Hockey Club.
Until he quit playing a decade ago, Young was one of the finest competitors in the club — and in Schulz's annual Senior World Hockey Tournament.
He was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and grew up with a hockey stick in his grip. He played on frozen rivers and school rinks — mostly as a goalkeeper — and he was 15 when his team won the 1937 Saskatchewan Midget Championship.
Young likes to tell about the time, a year later, that he and his team held scoreless a team led by a young Bill Mosienko, who'd go on to play 14 seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks, score a record-fast hat trick of three goals in 21 seconds and win induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
It's too bad nobody had a video camera when Young and Mosienko, who died at 72 in 1994, met again at one of Schulz's senior tournaments years ago and reminisced about the 1938 shutout.
But when Young first arrived in sunny California in 1960 with his late wife, Margaret, he'd never heard of Sparky Schulz or his ice rink, and he assumed his hockey days were over. It escaped his attention that former Minnesotan Schulz and his first wife, Joyce, built the Redwood Empire Ice Arena near Coddingtown in 1969.
Just before Christmas of &‘73, Young's son, Richard, now a dentist in Southern California, asked to go shopping in Santa Rosa. It was a "Eureka!" moment when they happened into the ice rink and found a hockey game underway.
Young, then 51, remarked to his boy that he would love to get back onto the ice. A young man named Monte Schulz overhead him and urged Young to ask his dad about playing.
The young man blanched when Young asked, "Who's your father?"
"I didn't read the comics and I didn't know who Charles Schulz was," he said.
Monte pointed out his dad, jersey No. 19, on the ice. Young introduced himself and told Schulz he'd played in Canada. The cartoonist invited Young to suit up right then and there and to join a game in the final period of play.
Young recalled, "It felt so good to be on the ice that I circled the net and went through the whole (opposing) team and scored a goal."
Schulz happily let him join the club, which in those days met to play on both Tuesday and Thursday evenings. For Young and the other players, being allowed to take over the ice for 90 minutes was fun and it was terrific exercise, and they liked that at the end of a day of drawing "Peanuts," Schulz just wanted to play hard and be treated as one of the guys.