DETROIT – He was Mr. Hockey, but he was also Mr. Family.

That’s what Fr. J.J. Mech will take away from knowing Gordie Howe, the Detroit Red Wings hockey legend who passed away June 10 at the age of 88.

Published in International

PHOTO GALLERY: YSN correspondent Kathleen Kennedy captured a ball hockey tournament hosted by the Montreal archdiocese in five frames.

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MONTREAL - The St. Thomas à Becket parish parking lot was completely full on May 23, with more than 300 excited ball hockey players, coaches, fans and volunteers. Some teams had matching jerseys, while others had roaring cheers — but the one thing all teams had in common was their exuberant spirit and excitement for their upcoming games.

Published in Youth Speak News

In professional hockey, fans call for the coach’s head during a losing streak. When Ottawa Senators head coach Dave Cameron faced this dilemma in February, he received winning advice from his parish priest.

Published in Canada
December 11, 2014

Beliveau's legacy

Several years ago Jean Beliveau was asked to name the book he would select if he could own just one.

“The Bible,” he told the Montreal Gazette. “It’s a book I could read the rest of my life.”

Published in Editorial

For two days, a constant stream of mourners filed past Jean Beliveau’s casket in Montreal’s Bell Centre. His widow, Elise Couture, was present to receive the sympathies from dignitaries, her husband’s teammates and ordinary fans alike.

Published in Canada

Grade 8 student Samantha Bestavros is no hockey fan but the NHL might yet win her over through a new program that uses hockey to make math interesting.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

A colleague and good friend of mine is an intractable Leafs fan, meaning he is generally unaware that NHL hockey exists after the palest first quarter moon of April.

Published in Peter Stockland

Though we are under the watchful eye of the Beer Czar

When it comes to the NHL lockout, it proves adult men can be ridiculous and greedy. When it comes to our weekly pickup hockey games, it proves adult men can be silly and generous.

This year’s hockey “draft party” was extra special because we played a pre-season game at the Leafs practice facility at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke before the draft. (It’s not like the Leafs were in any need of the ice.) One of our regulars bought the ice time for his pals at a charity auction and another player donated his home (along with beer and burgers) for the party.

The intent of the annual party is to “draft” teams and make them as even as possible so that games are competitive and fun, week in and week out. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way because we have players of vastly different skill levels ranging in age from early 40s to early 60s.

But I like to think that we follow some of the rules for sport and sportsmanship that Pope Benedict mused about in September to members of the International Federation of Sports Medicine at their world congress in Rome. He talked about fair play, the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs and a culture too much about winning at all costs. That didn’t apply to us middle-aged, middle-bulging men, but this did: “Just as sport is more than just competition, each sportsman and woman is more than a mere competitor: they are possessed of a moral and spiritual capacity which ought to be enriched and deepened by sports,” the pontiff said.

Our gang has played hockey together weekly for more than a decade. And friendships have been forged and skins thickened from the dressing room banter.

At the “draft” party this year, before teams were selected, there was a motion put forward that air-tight rules had to be laid out for post-game beer in the dressing room. The general rule has been that each dressing room has one player assigned the task of bringing a dozen cans. A schedule comes out before the season so you know which two dates are your “beer nights.”

Unfortunately, sometimes guys have not shown up on their beer night or forgotten to bring the beer. This problem was pretty much taken care of last year when a “Beer Czar” was appointed. The morning of the game, he e-mails our group of 30 guys naming the two beer guys that night for all to see.

Only one guy forgot his beer last year, a lawyer who claimed he was in court and didn’t read his e-mails. A lousy excuse and he is reminded of the faux pas constantly. All in all, the Beer Czar’s record was pretty good so he was re-appointed for a second term at the draft party.

Over a debate approaching one hour (yes, Canadian guys can debate the issue of beer that long), new rules were adopted and justice served when the moniker of “warm beer guy” was lifted from one player who held that epithet erroneously for almost a decade.

The new rules spell things out clearly: the beer has to be packed in ice, not freezer packs, and the cans have to be tall boys, not regular size. The Beer Czar, who seems to enjoy his work, inspects the cooler bags before we take to the ice each week.

And if there is a violation, the offender will be made to play that night’s game wearing only his skates, shin guards, protective cup, gloves and helmet.

In our wives’ eyes, all of this is pure silliness. And they may be correct. But it’s all done in a spirit of friendship and — like millions of other Canadians — it is an expression of our love for the game; unlike owners and players and their love of money. When they’re fighting over a few hundred million dollars here and there in a $3-billion business, I will take our silliness over their ridiculousness seven ways to Sunday.

Published in Robert Brehl

TORONTO - It's mid-summer at the MasterCard Centre in south Etobicoke, and a Toronto Maple Leafs' prospect game is about to get underway. Some of the most talented young hockey players in the world are powering across the ice for the pre-game warm up. Sporting the blue and and white of the hometown Leafs, some names are already familiar to fans, and all are currently under the scrutiny of scouts in the National Hockey League's biggest market. Leafs' general manager Brian Burke himself is visible on occasion from a box above the ice, surveying the prodigious talent circling below.

For one player, however, this is a setting that may seem more familiar than to the others. Matt Finn, Toronto born and raised and selected by the Leafs in the second round, 35th overall, in the 2012 draft, is poised to become the hometown hero fans of the franchise have been awaiting.

The middle sibling of three brothers, Finn grew up in central Etobicoke as a Leafs fan, attending St. Gregory's Catholic Elementary School and Michael Power/St. Joseph High School before leaving for Guelph to play for the Storm in the Ontario Hockey League. He played school hockey in both places, and helped to start up the first St. Gregory's intramural team.

"I loved it. Just being out there and playing with them," said Finn of his time in school athletics. "You don’t get many chances to do that often. To be able to play and compete with some of your best friends is pretty special.

“It was really great to have that community supporting not only myself but hockey (development) as well in that neighbourhood,” said Finn, who also attended St. Gregory's Church where he was confirmed.

He also attributes the hockey community in Etobicoke for some his most influential and fond memories of the sport that he hopes to make his career.

“When I was six or seven years old, my team, the West Mall Lightning, won a tournament where the final game was played at the Air Canada Centre. That was a really cool experience for me," said Finn.

"Playing hockey with your friends on the backyard rink at all hours of the night, and being out there doing what you love — it's something that you don't forget,” said Finn, whose childhood friend, Connor Brown, was also drafted by the Leafs.

“We actually grew up playing hockey together, since we were about three or four years old. He’s one of the first friends that I made playing hockey," said Finn of his fellow Michael Power/St. Joseph's alumni.

Finn had a breakout season last year with the Storm — Finn led the Guelph defence in goals, assists and points (48 in total — and is finally coming down from what has been the most exciting time in his young career.

“Things are calming down," he laughs. "It’s been a crazy couple months, for sure."

At six feet tall, Finn is a multi-talented player.

"I think overall, I’ve found my comfort level as a player... I just kind of took it and ran with it,” said Finn of his success this past year. “After my first year we lost a lot of the senior players and they moved on to the American or National leagues so there was a lot of room for young players like myself. I saw an opportunity and did the best that I could.”

For now, Finn expects he will return to the Storm for another season or two, where he hopes to work on his strength and skating to allow him to fulfill his dream of playing for the Leafs.

“That’s always been the goal," he said, "and I was fortunate enough for that to become a reality this summer.”

Now 18, he also relishes the potential opportunity to be selected for Team Canada for this year's World Junior championships in Russia.

"To represent Team Canada and play in the World Juniors, that would be a dream come true for me.”

Despite the often strained relationship between the fans of Leafs Nation and the sometimes beleaguered Leafs, Finn welcomes the opportunity to become a part of the historic franchise.

“Growing up in Toronto... I think I know more of what to expect. I’m extremely excited to be a part of the organization.”

For now, Finn intends to work hard and dedicate himself to earning a place in the NHL, and speaks earnestly about his love and enthusiasm for the game.

“I think it speaks volumes about the sport, how passionate you have to be to play it.”

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

TORONTO - St. Michael's College School is officially out of the Ontario Hockey League.

After reappearing in the major junior hockey ranks in 1997 after a three-decade hiatus, with the sale of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors earlier this month, the midtown Toronto school has severed all links with the OHL team.

Published in Education

TORONTO - Toronto’s St. Michael’s College School is revamping its Senior Division 1 hockey program with the aim of improving student grades while maintaining a competitive hockey program.

“The program we had, as it was, wasn’t working because the student athletes were asked to juggle too many commitments,” said Paul Forbes, the midtown Toronto private Catholic school’s athletic director, noting that many players were committed to the school team as well as their community team.

“The reality of it is that they don’t really have time to play for two competitive teams in this day and age.”

Published in Education

TORONTO - Students who suffer concussions should not only be removed from sports but also be excused from class until they heal, according to the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA).

Bob Murray, the OCSTA director of legislative and political affairs, is urging the Ontario government to include full curriculum exemption into Bill 39. The bill proposes that school boards be required to develop policies to deal with students who suffer brain trauma from concussions.

“You need to be removed from the classroom to let your brain get what is referred to as cognitive rest,” said Murray. “Even the regular classroom can have profound effects on the brain if a person hasn’t received the rest they need. They should be removed from all curriculum in order to properly heal the head injury.” 

Published in Education

TORONTO - Screams of support welcomed the Toronto Marlies March 7 as 4,500 Catholic students from the GTA cheered an 11 a.m. faceoff against the Binghamton Senators at the Ricoh Coliseum.

Students were allowed to cut class to catch the American Hockey League game between the minor-league affiliates of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, learn about healthy living and raise money for the Angel Foundation for Learning. Attending schools raised about $10,000 as a portion from each ticket sold went to the charity.

Published in Education

MONTREAL - Can prayer assure your favourite NHL team a chance for a run at the Stanley Cup? An ad that is all tongue-in-cheek, taken out by the archdiocese of Montreal, is inviting hockey fans to give it a try.

In a city where the secular passion for hockey has been compared to a religion, the archdiocese has decided to ride the wave and sneak in a Gospel call to turn to God.

Published in Canada
February 14, 2012

Charity for salvation

The Quebec Church may have lost legions of worshippers in recent years but it hasn’t lost its sense of humour.

That was evident last week when, with tongue in cheek, the archdiocese of Montreal placed newspaper ads asking the faithful to pray for the Montreal Canadiens.

Published in Editorial
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