WINONA, MN: Annual SSPX seminarian/priest hockey game

hockeyThe SSPX seminary for the USA is found in the southern part of my native Minnesota, … hockey is just plain normal.

A thoughtful reader alerted me to this story from the Winona Daily News for your “Just Too Cool” files.

Priests, seminarians renew rivalry of ‘The Game’


When nearly 200 priests and seminarians get together, an ice rink isn’t the most logical meeting place. But once a year in Winona, that’s exactly what takes place. In what is simply known as “The Game,” seminarians from St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona take on the priests from across the United States and Canada who studied at the very same institution[It would be far better where this to be extended to all priests and seminarians, if you know what I mean.  Still, it is great that they have this intra-squad game.]

It all happens at Bud King Ice Arena and is radically different from any high school, college or youth game that usually occupies the ice.

VOTE FOR WDTPRSSince 1988, “The Game” has been the biggest rivalry no one really knows about in Minnesota — yes, the State of Hockey.

Let me tell you, it is a hockey game unlike any other. I witnessed “The Game” on Wednesday at Bud King Ice Arena and it left me, well, smiling.

“The game is pretty well known throughout our society of priests,” said Father Arnaud Rostand, who is stationed in Kansas City.

Every February, priests are summoned to Winona for annual meetings.

Back in 1988, Father Charles Ward wanted to add something extra to the meetings and came up with an idea that has turned into a tradition.

Ward decided to start an annual hockey game between the priests and the seminarians.

After arranging it with the District Superior, his dream came to fruition.

“The seminary was originally based in Richfield, Conn., and a lot of the seminarians out there played hockey,” said Ward, who now is stationed in Los Angeles. “When we moved here we found a way to keep playing.”

hockeyWhile some priests — their team is known as the “Flyin’ Fathers” — wear traditional hockey equipment, many are on the ice in their robes. Yes, robes. Let your mind wander free for a moment and imagine that.  [Indeed.  I think that is entirely daft, but… I wasn’t invited.]

Robes are not likely going to turn into the latest hockey uniform craze, but hey, that’s not what this is all about.

It’s about fun, although both teams play to win. [To WIN.  None of your political correctness here.  Do keep in mind, however, that St. Thomas Aquinas explains how play is very like prayer and worship of God: they both are done for their own sake.]


That’s the essence.  You can read the rest over there.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. arotron theou says:

    God is a goalie – He just keeps making save after save!

  2. irishgirl says:

    This is pretty cool!
    How do the seminarians/priests keep their cassocks from getting ripped while on the ice?

  3. AML says:

    Isn’t it kinda goofy for seminarians to play hockey in their cassocks? I’m a big fan of cassocks and like their revival, but isn’t it actually contrary to tradition for seminarians to wear them constantly like this? Is this faux traditionalism we’re seeing?

  4. wolfeken says:

    AML — would you also recommend a Franciscan, Dominican or other religious replace his habit with other clothes for certain activities?

    I don’t understand why people think the cassock is somehow different from the habit. It isn’t. One is the dress for secular priests and societies like the SSPX, FSSP and Jesuits, and another is the dress for Franciscans, Carthusians, Carmelites, Dominicans, Benedictines and so forth.

    It’s such an American thing to be anti-cassock outside of the church.

  5. Centristian says:

    Rick Martin, Gilbert Perrault, and Rene Robert, nothin’; Lefebvrists on ice: now there’s your “French Connection”, Pegula. But who will win Lord Fellay’s Cup?

  6. Frank H says:

    200 priests and seminarians, and they are not in communion with Rome. How sad, and how needed are our prayers for the efforts toward re-unification.

  7. Jack Hughes says:

    I remember our local FSSP Superior recalling the time that he and his assistant played socar against the altar servers whilst wearing their Cassocks; the fact that the superior was a frenchman meant he lost to good english boys and excused himself by saying that it was hard to play whilst in Cassock :)


    I’m just glad the priests arn’t playing in chasables

  8. kat says:

    Hey, they didn’t say who won!

  9. Tim Ferguson says:

    It’s always good (and refreshing) to see priests and seminarians engaging in manly pursuits. I recall a certain bishop (who has gone on to God) asking a group of seminarians (of which I was a part at that time) whether there was ever a pickup game of football or basketball at the seminary. When one of the guys responded in the affirmative, the bishop said, “Good, good. I have far too many priests who play guitar and not nearly enough who play football.”

  10. M.D.R. says:

    I love it! Here’s one more reason why the SSPX should reconcile fully with Rome: so that they can perhaps have regular games with the other traditional fraternities…seriously.

    Regarding the cassocks while playing, well, I recall that when I attended an SSPX chapel, the priest would sometimes go out to the field next to the Church after Mass and play soccer or baseball with the boys. He wore his cassock, but changed his shoes I think. It was good for the kids to see that father could have so much fun, too!

  11. kat says:

    I’ve also seen it do wonders for boys when their priests come out on the field or court and play sports with them. Just like St. John Bosco. The children love it.

  12. S. Murphy says:

    “[It would be far better where this to be extended to all priests and seminarians, if you know what I mean. Still, it is great that they have this intra-squad game.]”

    Lots of schools have student-alumni games, so maybe non-alumni shouldn’t feel left out… But maybe you could get together with Bishop Paprocki and set up a hockey league for priests?

  13. benedetta says:

    Very cool! A great sport for mind, body, and soul.

  14. kat says:

    How about the Winona diocesan priests and seminarians from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary challenge the SSPX seminarians/priests in a hockey game at the same arena?

  15. M.D.R. says:

    May I ask about why it is that my comment here went to moderation, when other comments have not done so? [The blog’s anti-spam software does this all by itself.]

  16. Haec Dies says:

    The Society of St. Pius X is positioned in many cities accross this great land. Very few times do we hear of SSPX priests being invited to chancery offices to explain who they are with a goal to understanding each other. I believe that it would be a wonderful idea for the SSPX to invite other priests to play but wonder how many non- SSPX priests are fearful because of misinformation or bias. After all Bishop Fellay hit the nail on the head when he says that there is, in many parts of the world, hatred for the Society. Yet their only goal is to build the chuch up.

  17. everett says:

    This is an excellent tradition. I know several of my friends who participated in a variety of inter-seminary sports while they attended the NAC in Rome.

  18. Hieronymus says:

    How about the Winona diocesan priests and seminarians from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary challenge the SSPX seminarians/priests in a hockey game at the same arena?

    They would have to expand the penalty boxes and add confessionals…

  19. Childermass says:

    I remember reading about Brother Matthias of the Xaverian Brothers, who was Babe Ruth’s mentor when he was growing up at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore. Brother Matthias was a big, tough, strong Irish man who coached the baseball team, and he always wore his cassock while playing baseball with the boys.

  20. Centristian says:

    “How about the Winona diocesan priests and seminarians from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary challenge the SSPX seminarians/priests in a hockey game at the same arena?”

    When I was at St. Thomas Aquinas in the early 90s, there were a group of seminarians who regularly drove down from Stockton Hill on weekends to play against students from St. Mary’s during the season. I imagine they still do.

    As regards the wearing of cassocks during sports activities, that phenomenon is the result of the always odd notions of (Bishop) Williamson, who felt that a cleric who removed his cassock was being somehow interiorly unfaithful to his clerical state. He had lots of ideas about clothes, in fact.

    Although he never actually mandated that seminarians wear their cassocks all the time (although he did mandate that we cut the fringes and tassels off of our sashes), he frequently suggested that we ought to wear them, no matter what our activity. As a result, one frequently saw seminarians at Winona hiking and riding bikes and playing basketball, hockey, soccer, and even football in cassock. Those seminarians who took Williamson’s advice to heart typically bought cheap altar boy cassocks with snaps to wear while playing sports. You wonder if some of them slept in their cassocks.

    Not every seminarian worried that he was going to be smote by the Almighty if he removed his cassock from time to time, however, and a number of seminarians did wear normal athletic attire for athletic events, jeans and sweatshirts for hiking, and so on. To Williamson’s credit, he never gave a hard time to anyone who didn’t subscribe to his strange notions about cassocks being worn 24/7. We were allowed to ignore him in peace.

  21. JKnott says:

    The Clericus Cup in Rome
    The Clericus Cup is an annual association football tournament contested by teams from the Roman Colleges, which are seminaries of the Catholic Church located in Rome. During the fourth season (2010), the tournament involved sixteen schools and fielded players from 65 countries, with the majority coming from Brazil, Italy, Mexico, and the United States of America.[1] The players are normally seminarians studying to be Roman Catholic priests. A handful of players are ordained priests. The annual tournament is organized by the Centro Sportivo Italiano (CSI). The league was founded in 2007, and has now finished its fourth season.

    Officially, the goal of the league is to “reinvigorate the tradition of sport in the Christian community.”[2] In other words, to provide a venue for friendly athletic competition among the thousands of seminarians, representing nearly a hundred countries, who study in Rome. The league is the brainchild of the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, who is an unapologetic football fan

  22. Vince K says:

    “All goals scored in the game were valid but illicit. Therefore, the official score will not be reported.”

  23. Centristian says:

    The first part of your comment here is untrue.
    My Father was a student at the Dominican Providence College between 1954-1958 and my Dad related to me how the good priests would frequently wear their cassocks whilst playing soccer or baseball with the students. I saw photos of this in my Pops yearbooks.
    And nary a sign of Bishop Williamson.”

    My comment, however, was in specific reference to the habits of seminarians at the SSPX seminary in Winona, and those seminarians who wore their cassocks for every conceivable activity did, indeed, take their cues from (Bishop) Williamson, who was rector at the time. I can’t speak to the sartorial exploits of Dominicans from the 1950s.

  24. Supertradmum says:

    I think the photo is haunting and wonderful. I was having lunch with my Aged Ps today and looking at the hockey photos in the sports section, when the above photos popped into my mind. Love the cassocks on ice.

  25. When our friars still studied in Ards Friary, Donegal, they played Gaelic football and hurling (think hockey – no ice – with a hard ball and big, wide headed- sticks with the ball in the air more often than on the ground and it’s the fastest team game on grass) in their woolen habits. Problem is it makes the habits stink. At some point it made more sense to play in proper sports gear. Religious or not, in habit or sports gear, some took the game very seriously. Either way good fun.

  26. ejcmartin says:

    The original “Flying Fathers” was a group of hockey playing priests in Canada who played various charity tournaments over the years. They were led by Les Costello a Stanley Cup champion who later became a priest. Then of course there was Father David Bauer priest and coach of Canada’s Olympic hockey team.

  27. Fr Arthur says:

    Re Bishop Williamson and the cassock…

    Either what has been said about +W is either untrue, or he changed between the early 90’s and the late 90’s when I was at Winona. Bishop Williamson never encouraged seminarians to wear their cassocks out while at sport and recreation, though he didn’t discourage it either. I don’t think he cared either way. He did mention something when some seminarians began to wear shorts – he wanted them to wear track-pants. By the way, every outing (or hike, as its called) I went too, Bishop Williamson never wore a cassock, but his black clericals.

    I’m rather out of the SSPX loop now, but my guess is that the seminarians would have won. Their too fit for the haggard old Flyin’ Fathers, who to my knowledge have only beaten the seminarians once since the Game started… I’m happy to be corrected on this!

  28. Teddy says:

    That awesome picture reminded me about this video.

  29. irishgirl says:

    I went last July to a ‘Men in Black’ soccer game, which featured the seminarians of our diocese along with several of the younger priests against the team from a small private Catholic school. It was a blast-the ‘Men in Black’ played a pretty intense game! Didn’t wear their cassocks, though….
    Teddy-I saw the video…I loved it!
    ejcmartin-Oh yes, the ‘Flying Fathers of Canada’! I remember reading about them! and about Father Bauer, too!
    Tim Ferguson-I like what the Bishop said: ‘Far too many priests who want to play guitar, and not enough to play football.’ Good one!

  30. Kate Asjes says:

    My father went to Aquinas High School in Rochester New York in the 40s. He was not a big athlete, but has a fond memory about hockey. The first day in the winter when a lake near the school was frozen enough to skate upon, the principal would cancel classes and the Jesuits, in full regalia, would play hockey against the students…and usually win.

    He also talks of a little piff of a priest who would intentionally pick a fight with the biggest, burliest boy in the freshman class, then challenge him to a boxing match–turns out the priest was a light-weight champ in his younger years. He’d handily win, and gain the respect of the freshman class.

    Those were the days…

  31. Maltese says:

    When I was at the University of Michigan, our Boxing coach was a Catholic Priest (though not FSSPX); he was in his sixties, had had two minor heart attacks, and yet would glove it out with men over forty years his junior! But he was also a good Priest, and good boxing coach….

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