Mark Clairmont |

GRAVENHURST — Nick Vervaeke says he didn’t see it coming.

He was the only one in the rink who didn’t Monday, when the Flying Fathers landed in Gravenhurst for a fundraiser for the Free Stuff for Daily Needs charity.

What Vervaeke thought was an “ordination” into the famed hockey team turned out to be ….

Surprise! A plate of Cool Whip in face even his dad and teammate Rick saw sneaking up from behind on his son.

Cue thunderous applause and laughter from the small crowd of about 100 Family Day spectators, who enjoyed an entertaining 60 minutes of shinny shenanigans by the visiting vickers against a pickup team of local beer leaguers who gamely took on the wine-inspired priests.

The resurrected collection of comedic Catholic troubadours was originally scheduled to play the Muskoka Anglers who contracted them.

But when two days before the face-off they were sent to the sin bin by the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League, which suspended it for “unsportsmanlike conduct,” replacement players rose from the dead.

Thanks to pinch-hitting bench boss Doug Parrett, a minister at Beaver Creek prison, who town father Mayor John Kelly thought the night before might lead them to divine intervention with a saints vs. sinners scenario involving the cons.

Instead, Parrett worked the phone till midnight Sunday, calling around town to summon Gravenhurst’s version of the Washington Generals (nee Harlem Globetrotters opponents).

As in a little heavenly-sent levity.

In the end — a 7-4 victory by the good padres — the church outreach achieved its godly goal of showcasing the working priests collected from across the country for a one-week tour of Ontario as young men (30s-40s) who do good working their priestly puck pursuits in the name of God and their lofty worthwhile wordly goals.

Most of the priests, who serve either in parishes or at Trent University in the case of  congenial spokesperson Father John Perdue, played mostly minor or junior hockey. But they comfortably kept up with the competition provided.

All in the spirit of their 1963 founder Father Les Costello, a former Toronto Maple Leaf in the 1940s before his ordination.

The team that’s been in puck purgatory for many years came back to life in 2018 and is on a priestly provincial tour of five Ontario communities this week that began in Gravenhurst and includes Mattawa, the Soo, Timmins and Kirkland Lake.

Perdue reached out the players from across five provinces, including those like him in Ontario from Peterborough and Hamilton, Halifax, Kemptville, N.S., Edmonton, Winnipeg and a couple in Quebec.

Father Justin Bertrand, who provided comedic relief including a “baptism,” leads four parishes in the Pembroke area including Fort-Coulonge on the Quebec side of the border.

Among others on the team are Father Paul Patrick and Father David Reitzel.

The team puts together a budget — and after basic expenses provided by the hosts — they help charities of choice raise money for good causes, like the one Theresa an Barry Buker provide for free the needy in town.

Back with the Flying Fathers again is Frank Quinn, a retired OPP officer who a layman played and managed the team 40 years and is still inspired by Costello’s memory and enjoying the experience behind the bench this time.

Buker added Friday that the Flying Fathers donated $250 to Free Stuff For Daily Needs.

That is in addition to the $47.75 their donation jar raised.

She told that they had nothing to do with the ticket sales.

And that the Flying Fathers “did this at a loss.”

According to her, “the original deal with the Anglers was $5,000” for the priests.

She added: “But when this all blew up, they hadn’t been paid yet.

“And then there were unexpected expenses of insurance.”

Buker said she’s not if they had to actually pay for the ice rental.

“All of those details were scrambled in the background by the local Catholic churches, the Town of Gravenhurst and the Flying Fathers.

“Huge thanks to them.”

See a pre-game video interview link below with three of the Flying Fathers priests.

Father Paul Patrick, left, Father John Perdue and Father David Reitzel bring greetings from the Flying Fathers before Monday’s Family Day hockey game at the Gravenhurst Centennial Centre.
Players took knee for a mock ordination, th result of which everyone saw coming.
Nick Vervaeke wipes whip cream off his face after he was “surprised” during his “ordination.”
Father John Perdue and Beaver Creek minister/opposition coach confer beforehand.
Cowboy comdian Father Justin Bertrand provided comedic relief on an off the ice for the crowd of about 100 charity providers.
Frank Quinn, who played for the team for 40 years, is back behind the bench for this week’s tour.
Barry Buker, left, and his wife Theresa run the Free Stuff for Daily Needs charity, which received proceeds from the Flying Fathers game.
Mayor Paul Kelly drops the puck for Father Paul Perdue, right, and a pickup lineup of local oldtimers.
Father John Perdue, a priest at Trent University, goes in over the blueline for a shot.
It was a game game on both sides of centre ice on Family Day.
The Fathers, who proved formidable for the competition, were flying up the ice in the friendly.

Email Mark Clairmont at


Celebrating 25 YEARS of ‘Local Online Journalism’

Follow him at Twitter @muskokatodaily

And on Facebook at

Letters to the Editor always welcome:

Let us know what you’re thinking. Click on the Comment button at the end of this story to leave your comments.

Or write a Letter to the Editor …

And … please Subscribe: