The final score really doesn’t matter when the Flying Fathers play hockey.
Yes, the priests almost always have more goals than their good-natured charity game opponents, but the real winners are the spectators, young and old, who always enjoy the on-ice shenanigans and the charity that benefits.
On Sunday, Nov. 24 in Tillsonburg, that charity was Hockey 4 Everyone, a January-March program that gives school age children (Grades 2-8) not involved in organized hockey a chance to learn and play the sport – free of charge.
Funding for the Nov. 24th game was donated by the Knights of Columbus in Tillsonburg, Council 3212, who covered the Flying Fathers’ expenses for the game.
The home team was the Tillsonburg Thunder Alumni with players from the past 12 years including the WOAA championship season.
“A lot of these guys are from the championship team,” said Thunder president/owner Mike Holly, who remembers watching the Flying Fathers when he was a teenager. “Guys like (Shane) Balcomb, (Terry) Lammens…”
“We didn’t really read the full script beforehand to know what was going on,” said Thunder Alumni captain Cody Chute.
“Just go with the flow,” said Thunder Alumni Terry Lammens. “Just go with the flow.”
In the script, the Thunder captain scores on the first shift followed by a centre ice ceremony where he is ordained as an honorary Flying Father. And gets a shaving cream pie in the face for laughs.
It didn’t happen that way. Shane Balcomb scored the first goal – and got the unexpected pie.
“Shane and Cody were my two favourites to get it,” Holly smiled.
“They had said, ‘Chute, go take the faceoff and score the first goal,'” said Chute. “I tried, but…”
Chute headed for the bench and was replaced by Balcomb who scored a beauty ‘bar down.’
“Not easing up at all, he had a pretty nice shot there,” said Chute. “It was better off that way, that worked out really well because he’s been a real Thunder captain. And he didn’t know what was going on… where I kind of did and I got off the ice.”
Holly was also a pie recipient. A one-game backup goalie for the Flying Fathers, Holly did not plan to play that night. He found out on game day he would be covering for the starter in the second half of the two-period, running-time game.
The crowd thought referee Chris Parker, who was escorted to centre ice by the Flying Fathers, would be getting the pie, but Parker ducked just in time and Holly, standing behind the ref, got all of it.
“I had the script,” Parker nodded, “so I knew that I was ducking.”
“That was funny,” Chute laughed. “He (Holly) definitely needs to get the pie in the face. He organized it all, I think, and put a good group of people together.”
“It was a good time,” said Parker. “It was well organized, the script was followed, it made things easy. You just go out and have some fun.”
Lammens, who still plays oldtimer hockey, and with some friends in Tillsonburg, remembers watching the Flying Fathers in Langton.
“I remember it distinctly because I got a puck in the face,” said Lammens. “Walking around the arena, it hit me flat in the face. That was 1990-something? That was a lot of fun.
“It was good to just get with some of the old teammates again,” he added. “And they’ve all got kids now, so it’s pretty neat.”
The highlight of the night for Chute was just stepping into the Thunder dressing room.
“The whole day was kind of overwhelming, just with not seeing the guys and then they want you to be the captain. I was just a bench player for the team, so it actually means quite a bit for them to want me to represent the jersey like that in a charity game.
“It was a real blast to be out there. And it was really nice to be back with all of the guys and just sit in the room and talk about old times.”
Chute, who last played for the Thunder about five or so years ago, is just starting to get back into hockey and has been volunteering as a tyke coach.
“It’s nice to be out and just playing. I felt a lot better than I thought I would. Just getting some passion for the game back again and hopefully I can help out some young kids. I’m not going to teach anyone how to do math or how to read, but I can teach them how to skate. Give back to the game.”
And, perhaps, get back into the game.
“Yeah, I’d like to play Club O (Club Oxford). And there’s a fellowship league in Aylmer that I want to get involved in. I got all new equipment and stuff so I’m ready to go. I definitely want to play Club O again, yeah, so anybody playing Club O call me.”
Holly, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, said it was a different type of atmosphere in the Flying Fathers dressing room.
“Before we went out we all said a prayer. It’s not about winning… that’s not what it’s about. It’s the fans and making sure they are all well entertained, because it’s all about the kids. We were going to win – we won by eight goals or something like that. Of course the touchdown helped, that was a quick six.”
“Hopefully the crowd had fun,” said Lammens. “They tried to make it fun for the kids. The clown running around, the little football game, the candy. It’s all for fun, and donations to a good cause. It’s an afternoon of hockey and that’s what it’s all about.”
“You could see the smiles,” said Holly. “You look up in the crowd when you’re playing – and I’ve never played in front of crowd before, I play Thursday morning pickup league with the boys – you look up and everyone’s smiling. Everyone’s having a lot of fun. And all of the profits raised are going to the Hockey For Everyone program.
“It was fun, it was fun to be involved in something like this. We’ll do it again in four or five years or something like that.”
Other on-ice antics included Thunder Alumni being forced to use mini hockey sticks for one shift, Flying Fathers bribing the referee with fake money, distracting the Thunder goalie, a clear plexiglass net blocker that frustrated the Thunder Alumni, and buckets of water.
“The water – I didn’t realize I was getting the bucket of water” laughed Parker, who was drenched on-ice. “That was not in the script,”
“They changed that,” Holly nodded.
“I thought they were going down the bench,” said Parker. “I got the full brunt of the water, oh yeah.”
TEDDY BEAR TOSS
The annual Tillsonburg Thunder Teddy Bear Toss game is Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Fans coming to the Kinsmen Memorial Arena that night are asked to bring a teddy bear or stuffed toy, which they will throw on the ice when the Thunder score their first goal.
The stuffed toys are collected and donated to The Salvation Army to be distributed through the Christmas hamper program.