In Canada, a Hockey Revival

In Canada, a Hockey Revival

The new Flying Fathers know they can’t escape the shadow.

“The church needs a good news story,” Father Perdue said. “There are many reasons why this is a beautiful thing to do.”

The Rev. Kris Schmidt, 32, from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, said, “The church, now more than ever, needs to see priests as human, and I think it’s a great way that this bridge can be formed.”

Some are not so sure the Flying Fathers can be relevant again.

“I think the glory days are over, but they may as well try,” said the Rev. Pat Blake, 84, the longest-serving member of the original team, who played for more than 40 years.

Father Perdue said encouraging more men to enter the priesthood was part of his motivation for reviving the Flying Fathers. When the number of seminarians declined in the original team’s waning years, it recruited police officers and firefighters to fill out the roster.

The original Flying Fathers at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City during their first European trip. The team’s founder, the Rev. Brian McKee, stands fourth from the left. The team’s star, the Rev. Les Costello, is second from the left in front.CreditNBSHF Photo Archive

Talent-wise, no one on the new team is like Father Costello, who played 21 N.H.L. games. He died in 2002, several days after hitting his head on the ice during a Flying Fathers game.

The current players, who range in age from their 20s to their 50s, expect to be as skilled as a good high school team. Some grew up playing competitive junior hockey, and the Rev. John MacPherson, 55, reached the varsity level at Acadia University in Nova Scotia. Another, the Rev. Tavis Goski, 29, spent summers as a skating instructor. Many of the priests have stayed sharp by playing in weekly pickup games.

The priests have been recruited from across the country; with everyone so spread out, they have not practiced together.

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