If the Leafs could trade a superstar like Frank Mahovlich, well, what could happen to a parish priest in a slump, muses Fr. Raby. (Photo courtesy of The Sports Gallery - www.thesportgallery.com)

The Register Archive: Hey Raby, you’ll be preaching in Timbucktoo from now on

  • March 21, 2018

Our regular deep dive into The Catholic Register’s archive during our 125th  anniversary year isn’t complete without a few sports stories. As the NHL edges toward the playoffs, we recall one of the biggest trades in league history. Fifty years ago this month the Toronto Maple Leafs sent their all-star Frank Mahovlich to Detroit in a six-player swap. The Register’s Fr. Thomas Raby, in his column from March 23, 1968, couldn’t help but muse about what a trade like this could mean in Church terms.

I shudder to think of it.

Maybe I shouldn’t even mention it.

It might just put ideas into some bishop’s head. Especially my own bishop’s. And then where would I be?

The thought came to me last week when I read the headlines that made Canada forget the Vietnam war. The Big M was traded.

If you are a hockey fan, you know what that means. If you are not, you couldn’t possibly understand. The Big M, Frank Mahovlich, was a Toronto Maple Leaf superstar, and here he was now, traded on to Detroit in a move both bottom-of-the-ladder teams hoped would help them climb out of the emptiness of last place to playoff spots next year.

As I said, I couldn’t help thinking: What if dioceses were organized like the National Hockey League and bishops took the ideas of coaches and traded priests around to get a team of  real winners, spiritually speaking of course?

That was when I shuddered.

I could even hear the bishop calling me in some morning, and casually announcing I had been traded to Timbucktoo in the Western League. “Timbucktoo!” I cried. “’That’s a minor league. You can’t do this just because of a little slump. Sure, I know my sermons have been off lately, but I’ll work myself out of it.”

“Not a chance. Never get enough pulpit time around here now. That young rookie we brought in from the seminary is really scoring. Hear his sermon on birth control last week?”

“Hah! Who couldn’t score on a play like that. You can’t miss with assists like the one he got on that one.”

“Still, he’s a digger. See how much time he puts in the penalty box? Notice you’ve been steering clear of that lately, letting some of the other boys do the work.”

“Gee coach, it’s not that I’ve been lying down on the job. But you know everybody goes for these new guys. They’re up on all this new theology business.”

“Wouldn’t be surprised if he got Rookie of the Year honours. I’ll bet he’s read everybody from Baum to Baumgartner, and even the Dutch Catechism. Tell me, have you been spending any time on your weak points?”

“Weak points? You know me, coach. I’m the all-around type. I’m good in the pulpit when I’m prepared and my throat’s OK. Do a respectable job in the box. I’m middle of the road all the way; can even sing those English prefaces ... and that’s something your new guy messes up. Why, he can’t sing a ....”

“But he tries. Shows spirit; and besides, that’s not important in this league anymore. With guitars who needs a voice? We need lots of punch in the pulpit and he’s got it. Besides, we need a good left winger and you’re too solidly set as a right winger to make the switch. Frankly, I think you’re a little lung weary. Maybe a stint in the West will help ... good air out there, lots of time to think and all that.”

“But coach. I’m only five years away from pension ....”

“Your pension plan goes on as long as your with one of our clubs. And you know Timbucktoo is our feeder into the big leagues. Get down there and work yourself back into three sermons a Sunday, and you’ll be back in no time.”

“Well gosh, coach, if you think it’s for the best ... by the way you said this was a trade. Who’d you get in the trade?”

“A deacon from St. Augustine’s ....”

“A what!?” I explode. “An untried for ME, named to three PREACHERS’ ALL DIOCESAN: SERMON OF THE YEAR twice, and runner-up for most weddings last year!!! And for a first-year deacon!!!

“Yeah, but he comes with a new set of The Busy Pastor’s Guide and he has specialized in catechetics and the new math . . . Sorry TJ, but we need him . . . and you can help our fellows in Timbucktoo with your experience.”

“Gee. It‘s kind of deflating though. Me, a veteran, for a deacon who’s never even preached in the big cathedral.”

“Yeah, I know it’s tough,” the coach nodded. “Tell you what, we’d like to make it easier for you. You’ve always been a good team man. Is there any other place you’d like to go in hockey? Maybe we can arrange something....”

“Gee coach, that’s great. And I’ll level with you. I know I can’t play on forever. But I’d like to be connected with the game for awhile longer. There’s one thing I’d like to do....”

 “Name it!” he grinned.

“Well coach, it’s this. How about working me into the coaching end....”

Player with big shot, big size, big talent won four Stanley Cup four times with Maple Leafs and two times with Canadiens (National Hockey League)

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