The Flying Fathers, CKSO Good Guys, Fr. Brian McKee & A Boys Home

The Flying Fathers, CKSO Good Guys, Walk-A-Thon and Sudbury and District Boys' Home Had Someone In Common, Father Brian McKee
Fr. Brian McKee may have had reservations about becoming a Roman Catholic priest, but he was ordained and following his death, his younger sister Sybil Cangiano said, "He never regretted becoming a priest."  In describing her brother in his high school years, she stated, "He was very athletic.  He was a good runner and a good football player -- he was the quarterback, very popular, but extremely shy."  Brian McKee might of had a career in professional football following a successful tryout for the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers.  Football would not be his calling.  He was ordained on April 6, 1957 and was stationed at Pro-Cathedral of the Assumption in North Bay.

The founding of The Flying Fathers was inspired by the success of a what was planned as a single local hockey charity game in North Bay.  One of the church's alter boys sustained a serious eye injury in a hockey game.  He required surgery, however the young boy's mom was a single parent and only just getting by.  Fr. Brian McKee had the idea of forming a hockey team of fellow priests who would bring their own brand of hockey and shenanigans to the ice against an opposing team consisting of area celebrities, police, teachers and so on.  Playing plenty of tricks, indulging in mischief and gimmicks and sprinkling holy water on the ice to help them win, the fund raiser was a success.  The Flying Fathers won that first game 7-3.  Years later in an interview Fr. Les Costello, who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1940's and won a Stanley Cup in 1948 said, "The reason we win so many games, is, because we cheat!"  Fr. Les Costello and Fr. Brian McKee were co-founders.  That first game raised $5,000 for the family, and from there The Flying Fathers became a Canadian Catholic tradition for 45 years!  Disbanding was about the only option the organization had by 2009 due to the age and the lack of players.  However the team made a come back in Peterborough, Ontario in January of 2018.  Fr. John Perdue and a former Flying Fathers general manager Frank Quinn have breathed new life in the charity!  The original Flying Fathers were busy over the years having played more than 900 games while touring across Canada and raising better than $4 million for a number of charities.  Hollywood nearly made a movie about The Flying Fathers but tragically Fr. Costello succumbed to a head injury he had suffered hitting the ice during a game.  He passed away about a week after the accident on December 10, 2002.  He was 74.  The original Fathers played their last game in March of 2009.

CKSO Good GuysEnter the CKSO Good Guys who would meet the Flying Fathers on ice from time to time for a wonderful and fun filled game of hockey.  Such matches would be successful fund raisers for the Sudbury and District Boys' Home and one knew there would be just as much entertainment as there was hockey on the ice thanks to the spirited, unique brand of hockey 'misfits' brought on by the Fathers.  It seemed there was no limit to the tomfoolery!  During one of the games a real horse was brought out on the ice and made its way around, likely coaxed in a specific direction such as the goalie nets and having left behind certain deposits!  In the winter of 1967-68 such a game brought in $8,000!  Father Brian McKee has been described as a "reverend Irish fireball" and the "main spark plug" in the boys' home program.  In fact McKee was founder of the Sudbury and District Boys Home, not to mention the Knights of Columbus Youth Camp, diocesan director of Catholic Charities, and co-founder of the Flying Fathers hockey team, and of the Sudbury Food Bank.

CKSO Radio and TV also got behind the efforts of Fr. McKee who was instrumental in organizing an annual 21-mile walk-a-thon again to raise funds for The Sudbury and District Boys Home.  The "Canadian Broadcaster", a national trade magazine, reported in its July 1968 issue that $21,700 was raised in that first walk-a-thon.  The report added that 85% of the several thousand participants completed the course, and at that time was thought to be nearly triple the Canadian average of some 30% of walks of similar nature.  With boundless energy Fr. McKee would always walk the route twice!

An understanding and compassionate man, Fr. McKee understood people and their needs and was a man of immediate action in advocating for a better life situation for each.  Brian McKee found himself in Sudbury by 1964 and took on the position of Director of Catholic Charities.  This was just the tip of the iceberg in so far as what he accomplished in his lifetime.  Throughout his career Brian McKee received many accolades for his work and tireless efforts, and although grateful, he wasn't that interested in the attention, but more so through his faith and commitment he knew the importance of helping, sharing and loving.  In his heart and soul, his feelings were incontestable.  These were the right things to do.

Fr. Brian McKee died on November 15, 2000.  He had been battling cancer. He was in his 71st year.  In November of 2010, the late Fr. Brian McKee was honoured with the unveiling of a memorial plaque at the Sudbury Community Arena.  The plaque displays a photograph of Brian McKee at a younger age and most appropriately, shows off an inscribed hockey stick.

In addition to the Flying Fathers, McKee also played an integral role in starting the Sudbury Food Bank.  He was the founder of the Knights of Columbus Youth Camp.  His community involvement was so extensive that everyone knew Fr. McKee and everyone loved him!  At the unveiling of the commemorative plaque, a friend and priest, Rev. John Caswell reminisced their high school days revealing Brian's nickname, "Buck" recognizing his strength and speed, but likely more so for his "relentless pursuit of funding".

In the Sudbury Star Newspaper November 17, 2010 issue, Geoffrey Lougheed, Chair of the Sudbury Food Bank reminisced, "I will always remember the rain coat. It was patched and old, worn thin by years of use. Certainly no match for Sudbury winters. Yet Father Brian McKee refused to wear anything else."  He also described how Fr. McKee would stand with bucket in hand outside at Science North, asking for donations.  McKee would not wear a parka, even one which had been purchased for him. Lougheed said, "My biggest issue was, 'Don't get sick. You're valuable.' He turned to me and he said, 'You don't get it. When people see that old rain coat with the patches, it represents a lot of people that need help.'"

There were other posthumous honours extended on behalf of Fr. McKee.  On December 1, 2003 Solidarity Lane which runs from Lloyd Street down to a cul de sac at Brady Street, was renamed Brian McKee Lane.  The St. Joseph's Foundation of Sudbury honoured the late Fr. McKee on April 29, 2006 by naming the town square at St. Joseph's Villa, a long-term care home, after him.  The Knights of Columbus named their council in Father McKee’s honour and founded a Cambrian College bursary in his name in 2011.  Wishing to extend the life of the bursary, the Knights topped it off with a $5,000 cheque to Cambrian College and Cambrian Foundation in April of 2017.

Sonya Pidutti, a member of the Sudbury Regional Hospital Foundation Board of Directors in 2010 was quoted in the Sudbury Star November 17th issue as stating, "You just can't forget Father McKee. He was the most unpretentious man I had ever met. He told it like it was, but he had a kind heart".

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