Claffey spotted the advertisement, which said the Prince George Lumbermen were looking for players. He quickly packed up his belongings and hopped on the train. When he got here, he had $10 in his pocket and an unquenchable thirst for the game.
All these years later, he still can't get enough of it.
Claffey, on the verge of his 82nd birthday, is Prince George's version of Mr. Hockey. He has been a player, coach, administrator and an official – both on the ice and off. For his decades of involvement, he is being welcomed into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
As a player, Claffey was a forward for the senior Lumbermen from 1953 to 1956 and remained with the club the following season when it became known as the Mohawks. He stayed in a Mohawks uniform until the end of the 1968 Cariboo Hockey League season and finished his competitive career the following year with the Houston Luckies.
Claffey was far from done, however. Instead of hanging up his blades, he moved on to recreational hockey and, much later, to the oldtimer ranks. He found himself back in a Mohawks jersey – oldtimer style – in 1970 and kept playing until the end of 2006. Claffey then patrolled the ice with the Prince George Oldtimers and finally retired from the game in 2008. His Prince George playing career stretched a remarkable 55 years.
Outside of Prince George, Claffey found time to play in tournaments for the Victoria Oldstylers and Traditionals (starting at age 60). At age 71, he moved up to the 70-and-over category. In the year 2000, he was inducted into the Canadian Adult Recreational Hockey Association Hall of Fame.
During his decades of play, Claffey also served the game in other capacities. He coached a Prince George RCMP team from 1970 to 1975 and led the squad (which also featured players from Vanderhoof, Mackenzie and Fort Nelson) to a Canadian title in his final year. At the national tournament, held in Regina, the team beat Alberta 2-1 in the final.
As an administrator, Claffey was vice commissioner of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League from 1991 to 1996 and was treasurer of the Mohawks Oldtimers for almost 20 years (1987 to 2006).
Then there were Claffey's duties as an official. For 35 years, he refereed all levels of hockey – from minor to junior to senior. During that time, for eight years, he also put on referee clinics so he could pass along his knowledge to up-and-coming refs.
Off the ice, Claffey has worked in the visitor's penalty box for both the Prince George Spruce Kings (35 years to date) and Prince George Cougars (22 years to date). In 2012, the Cougars recognized him for reaching the 500-game milestone as an off-ice official. Then, in 2014, the Cats honoured him for 20 years of service.
When big events came to Prince George, Claffey was also there to help. He volunteered as coordinator of off-ice officials during the 2001 Air Canada Cup national midget championship tournament and filled the same role at the 2007 Royal Bank Cup national junior A championship.
As a pioneer player, but also as a coach, administrator and official, Claffey has skated into the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
His community is certainly thankful he saw that newspaper ad.