November 03, 2010

The Flying Father: Les Costello

The November 1st, 2010 edition of The Hockey News features a wonderfully written feature about "the Hall of Fame's Missing Saint," Les Costello.

Costello was a Stanley Cup champion with the 1948 Toronto Maple Leafs but he gave up the ice for the cloth. Yet hockey always remained a big part of his life. He founded the famed Flying Fathers, a Harlem Globetrotters inspired team of hockey-playing priests who play charity games. Their all-time record: 900 wins, 6 losses and 1 tie. Far more impressively, they have raised over $4 million for charity.

Writer Ken Campbell argues that Costello deserves enshrinement into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Okay, Costello only played 15 regular season games and the 5 playoff games, but he is a Stanley Cup champion, and a junior superstar with two Memorial Cup championships before that. He spent most of his three professional seasons in the minor leagues.

That is hardly a Hall of Fame worthy resume. So why should the Hall of Fame induct Costello?

Campbell argues "Costello deserves to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame because, when you think about it, no man has ever used the game for a more noble purpose. That he died doing God's work through hockey makes the case for his induction as a builder that much stronger."

It is an interesting suggestion by Campbell. By using hockey as the means, his message of charity did more for hockey than several of old boys network gang who pat each other on the back and overpopulate the builder's category. Bill Wirtz? Harold Ballard? Give me a break!

Costello's inclusion would be a great story, although I still very much a long shot. But you never know. I assume his name will be nominated at the next induction debate. Depending on the ballot, it could happen.

By the way, a 74 year old Costello died tragically in 2002 following complications from a puck to the head injury during a Flying Fathers game. 2200 people came to his funeral in Timmins, Ontario, fittingly held at a hockey rink.

You can learn more about Les Costello here.


James MacPherson said...

it would be very important for the hockey hall of fame to recognise and include Father Les as a major contributer to hockey at all levels.not only as a founding member of the flying Fathers he should also be recognised for his dedication to all children wanting to play the game. His contributions to the game of hockey are second to none.

mommabear said...

I would say that Father Les Costello is way overdue to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Being a founding member of the Flying Fathers shows Father Les Costello's devotion to the sport of hockey.

j kitcher said...

It has been close to 50 years ago that father costello helped me tie up my skates and tried to teach me hockey at the gillies lake skating rink.I loved him so much that i played hooky from the anglican services my parents made me go to and showed up at the catholic service where i felt at home.i still miss and think of all i know that father costello did for so many just in timmins alone. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Cobalt, Ontario. Father Leslie Costello was our catholic priest from the 1960 until he transferred in Timmins, 1979.

My brothers & i, & friends played hockey with Costello on an ice rink, on Cobalt Lake. He was a "dirty" player as I was sent over the snow banks often, and I was the only girl playing hockey.
In church when he would run out of wine the night before, on Sunday morning mass we would watch him drink "tea" which he had replaced for wine.
He would whistle at pretty girls walking by.
During the summer months at the Cobalt beach (Bass Lake) he would run you off the dock as he canon ball into the water.
My brother liked him so much that he would attend 3 church services on Sunday. Even in church Costello would crack us up. Everyone loved him. From his house to the church I would often hear him sing along, he was less than 1 block from church.
Carole Pinet

Unknown said...

Father Les was my cousin!! 2nd cousin. My dad's 1st cousin. He and my dad were very close!! I have great story's about him and my dad growing up 😉

mamabear said...

Rennie man, I would be so proud to have Father Les Costello as a relative, as from what I know, he was quite the character! I say that in a nice way as he did so much unselfish work for the people of his community!

Unknown said...

he was the best, God Bless his soul.

Anonymous said...

Never mind the 50 odd years he spent playing the game, but to think that this entirely unselfish man re-learned how to walk after loosing 7 toes to frostbite in 1979 (albeit he kept three toes, referring to those as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost :) ) and for him then to keep on skating for charity until he died in 2002 from an injury received while playing Ice Hockey......there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Father Les should be inducted, the man should be revered as a National Hero because of his charitable deeds too.