Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
January 29, 2001
It's the Flying Fathers!
Hockey-playing priests out to entertain and raise funds for charity
RAMON GONZALEZIf you want to have fun and at the same time help poor kids and the homeless, you are in for a treat.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Coming soon to Alberta are the Flying Fathers, an internationally famous team of hockey-playing priests who over the past 39 years have played more than 900 games internationally, raising more than $6 million for various charities.
The Flying Fathers are sort of the Harlem Globetrotters of hockey - a combination of hijinks and entertainment and high quality hockey.
They will visit 9 Alberta centres next month, including a Feb. 18 game against the Edmonton Oilers Alumni and Media All-stars at Skyreach Centre to raise funds for the KARA Family Support Centre and the Edmonton Housing Trust Fund.
The 18-member team, made up mostly of Ontario-area clergy, includes two local priests - Father Paul Moret, pastor at Sylvan Lake and Rimbey, and Father Micheal Laporte, president of Catholic Charities and pastor at Camrose.
Moret, 39, joined the Flying Fathers three years ago while the team was playing in Drayton Valley, where he served previously. They tried him, liked his style and asked him to play full-time.
The Edmonton native, who has been playing hockey since childhood, enjoys been part of the team.
"It's a lot of fun and a good way to raise some money for charity," he says. "It really presents the Catholic Church and the Catholic priesthood in the community in a different light."
How good is Moret? "I guess you are going to come to the game and see that for yourself," the priest suggested, adding, "I think I can sort of hold my own at that."
He said the team's aim is to "bring smiles to people's faces and to raise money for charity."
They do that through "a bunch of gags that we've developed over the course of the years," the priest explained. "We are always trying to work on new little gags and things. We've got some pretty good gags to make people laugh."
The Flying Fathers are the brainchild of Father Brian McKee, who formed the team in 1962 when one of his altar boys lost an eye in a hockey accident and needed hospital funds.
Led by former Toronto Maple Leaf Father Les Costello, still a player today at 73, the Flying Fathers were a huge success, winning the game and securing more than enough money for the boy's operation. They have been flying ever since.
They have won 900 of the 907 games they have played in the last four decades - a record few teams can boast.
The reason for their success? "We cheat a lot," replies Moret. "That's why we win so many games."
If they see that the other team is healthier and faster than they are, they flood the ice with holy water. They are known to bribe referees and create all kinds of distractions.
They are also helped by the powerful skating of Sister Mary Shooter, the "Flying Nun," and a series of strange rules. When they played in Edmonton in the mid-1980s players would get penalties for "acting like a Protestant."
Cream pies in the face and the antics of Smitty the Clown also keep the fun going. During the Edmonton game, Smitty will attempt to break his world record of jumping about 200 hockey sticks.
"There is enough serious hockey around but we just want to put a different angle on things," Moret commented.
"It's lots of fun," Laporte said. "It's a great way not only to meet people but we enjoy getting around and having the opportunity to raise money for charity and to raise awareness."
Besides travelling across Canada and meeting people in arenas, the priests also visit schools and talk to kids. "Just to see the excitement and the joy on their faces brings a lot of peace and satisfaction to me as well," Laporte said.
The 43-year-old priest, who played junior, senior and university hockey over the years, has been playing with the Flying Fathers on and off since his ordination in 1986 and regularly for the past three years.
He described the priestly team as "a mixture of players who can play some very good hockey and can keep the game moving."
"We have a few tricks but it's entertaining and fun and I think the other team that plays us has fun too."
Asked what the Flying Fathers saw in him to make him a full-time player, Laporte said, "I think they saw talent and personality."
The Flying Fathers will play 7 games in Alberta from Feb. 13 through 22, including Brooks on the 13th, Rimbey on the 14th, Rocky Mountain House on the 16th, Edmonton on the 18th, Camrose on the 19th, Grande Cache on the 21st and Drayton Valley on the 22nd.
The Edmonton game begins Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. at Skyreach Centre. Tickets are on sale now at Ticketmaster and through several parishes. Call LaVon Holgate at 430-7032 for further information.
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