roman curio

His Hockeyness: Pope John Paul II visits St. Louis in 1999.If when the white smoke wafts over the Vatican this week, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet comes out pope, here’s what we’ll say: hockey was his first choice. The Globe and Mail’s Ingrid Peritz was onto this back in mid-February, right after the Joseph Ratzinger formerly known as Benedict XVI announced he was stepping down. Profiling the pride of La Motte, Quebec as “a top prospect” to become the new Vicar of Jesus Christ, she fashioned a portrait of Cardinal Ouellet’s youthful self:

He had been an athletic, hockey-loving boy who hunted partridge, worked summer jobs fighting forest fires and even enjoyed the company of young women on occasion.

Then came the day where everything changed.

The future cardinal’s road to Damascus began on an  outdoor hockey rink in Abitibi town of Cadillac, when during a friendly match the 17-year-old’s skate got caught on a crack on the ice.

A younger brother, Roch, recalled:

“My brother was the star of our team. He was a good scorer. When he fell to the ice, we knew it was over. As soon as he took off his skate, his leg swelled right up. We could tell it was broken.”

And that was it, no looking back. The ice was behind him, now.

During his convalescence, the injured player began to read Saint-Thérèse of Liseux, to pray and to contemplate. “There was a calling. A search for meaning,” he told the newspaper Le Soleil in 2005. “I wanted to give my life to something important. And faith had always been part of my world.”

That’s some solid stuff. But the blue ribbon for reportorial enterprise in papal/hockey research goes to Andy Blatchford of The Canadian Press who actually travelled nearly 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal hundred to Cadillac to visit the rink the could-be pontiff’s hockey career came to its earthly end. Continue reading