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February 22, 2020

Flying Fathers continue Costello’s legacy

Father John Perdue, left, treats Father John MacPherson to an unexpected cool drink of water during a break in the action in the first half of Saturday night’s exhibition game between the legendary Flying Fathers and the South Porcupine Fire Department at the McIntyre Arena. The Flying Fathers went on to defeat the firefighters 14-5 — thanks in part to an unconverted touchdown. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

 

Richa Bhosale – The Daily Press
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While racking up goals against a team of South Porcupine firefighters on Saturday, the Flying Fathers achieved another goal: Paying tribute to the team’s co-founder, the late Father Les Costello.

“He’s an inspiration to us as priests, we have heard in the stories the good work he did, and he loved all of the poor,” said Father John Perdue, a Peterborough priest who helped to resurrect the team after a 10-year hiatus.

Perdue said Costello carried out his duties while combining “joy, humour and charity.”

The Flying Fathers, a team comprised of Roman Catholic priests from across the country, won their game handily 14-5, in their return to Timmins at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.

“We have priests from Nova Scotia all the way to Saskatchewan and Alberta.”

Perdue noted the key founder of the team was a fellow Northern Ontario priest, Father Brian McKee who invited Costello and couple other priests to play a charity game in North Bay in 1963.

The Flying Fathers gradually grew into a traveling team of hockey playing priests, raising money for a variety of charities, he explained.

“That team stopped in 2008 because all the priests were getting old and there weren’t young priests enough to keep the team going,” explained Perdue.

Costello’s death in 2002 also contributed to the team’s decade of inactivity as he was an instrumental part of the team, he added.

Costello was a colourful character who played two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs before announcing in 1950 he was quitting professional hockey to enter the priesthood. He was ordained in 1957 and took a parish in his home community of Timmins where he served until his death.

Costello died after being seriously injured while skating for the Flying Fathers at a game in Kincardine in 2002. Costello was struck by a puck and fell backwards, hitting his head on the ice. He was admitted to hospital the following day where he slipped into a coma and died a week later on Dec. 10.

It has only been in the last two years, the team has reformed with new members.

“When I was ordained as a priest, I have been the director of vocation so I am in charge of helping young men consider the priesthood,” Perdue explained.

During that time, Perdue organized a hockey tournament called the Father Costello Classic.

“When we were preparing for that tournament, all the fathers asked me if I could put together a team of priests to play in the tournament.”

Perdue called Frank Quinn, who is the former general manager of the original Flying Fathers team, and he helped Perdue to put together a team who would become the new Flying Fathers.

“So, we have the same jerseys, we have the same general manager, also one of our players, Father John MacPherson, played with the original team from 1989 until 2008.”

Quinn was honoured at Saturday night’s game at the McIntyre Arena.

“Most of us have played hockey competitively but not for living,” explained Perdue. “We weren’t NHL-level hockey players but we played competitively hockey and we had jobs or school at the same time and we have continued to play hockey recreationally. We have come together as a team to continue the legacy of the Flying Fathers.”

Since the team’s reformation, he said, they tour twice a year — once in fall in November and once in February.

“We are planning our fall tour now which will take us into Southern Ontario and we are also looking forward to February 2021.”

Perdue said he’s not sure if they will come back to Timmins anytime soon.

“We try to move around to share the joy and to meet new people and raise funds for different charities,” he said.

Jason Kelly, a board of director with the Timmins Rock which co-hosted the event along with the Timmins Sports Heritage Hall of Fame, said the attendance was between 800 and 1,000 people.

Kelly said the event, which had been in the planning for a couple of years, achieved its goal by entertaining old and young alike while honouring Father Costello

Lasting tribute for Father Les

Timmins Museum curator Karen Bachmann is seen putting together the Father Les Costello display of memorabilia at the McIntyre Arena on Wednesday. The exhibit should be ready in time for Saturday’s Return of the Flying Fathers game at The Mac on Feb. 22. RICHA BHOSALE/The Daily Press JPG, TD

As promised, a lasting tribute to Father Les Costello will be installed at the McIntyre Community Centre in time for the return of the Flying Fathers game this Saturday.

It will be a display in the main part of the arena, just outside the auditorium.

The items on display include a Flying Fathers sweater, game-worn gloves, and various photos dating back to Costello’s days playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and medals that were awarded to him during his playing career.

There is also a statue depicting Costello as a player.

Wayne Bozzer, chairman of the Timmins Sports Heritage Hall of Fame, said, “It will be right up in the main part of the arena behind the rows of seats, so you could see it on your way up to the auditorium from the rink side.”

When of the items were previously on display in the Father Les Costello Memorial Arena in Cobalt. But when that arena closed, Costello’s family took possession of the items and donated them towards the new display at the McIntyre.

Timmins Museum curator Karen Bachmann, who has experience putting together displays of historic artifacts, was asked by Wayne Bozzer, chairman of the Timmins Sports Heritage Hall of Fame, if she could use the items to create an exhibit in honour of Father Les.

On Wednesday, Bachmann was busy at the arena, doing just that.

The Flying Fathers will be playing a charity hockey game facing off against members of the South Porcupine Fire Department at the McIntyre Arena this Saturday. The puck drops at 8 p.m.

The evening is being called “Return of the Flying Fathers: A Tribute to Father Les Costello.”

It is a fitting honour to the man who co-founded the Flying Fathers in 1963 as a means of enabling capable priests of playing a game they love while raising money for charity.

Costello was a colourful character who played two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs before announcing in 1950 he was quitting professional hockey to enter the priesthood. He was ordained in 1957 and took a parish in his home community of Timmins where he served until his death.

Costello died after being seriously injured while skating for the Flying Fathers at a game in Kincardine in 2002. Costello was struck by a puck and fell backwards, hitting his head on the ice. He was admitted to hospital the following day where he slipped into a coma and died a week later on Dec. 10.

Following Costello’s death and the retirement of many of the priests who had played for The Flying Fathers for years, the team disbanded in 2008.

It has only been in the last two years, the team been resurrected with new members.

Tickets for the game between the Flying Fathers and members of the South Porcupine Fire Department are $10 for adults, $7 for youths seven to 18, and $5 for children up to six years of age. They are available at the Timmins Museum, CORE Business Solutions, NAPA South End Auto Parts, Kia of Timmins and Wicked Stuff.

They can also be purchased online on the Timmins Rock website at timminsrock.com.