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Monday, December 16, 2002
Costello dies from injury at charity hockey game
TORONTO -- Les Costello, the former Toronto Maple Leafs player who left the NHL to become a priest, died Dec. 10 after being injured during a charity hockey game. He was 74.
Costello was admitted to Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital after sustaining a head injury during a Flying Fathers game.
He was injured when a puck got caught in his skates during the pregame warmups, causing him to fall backward and hit his head on the ice. Costello was not wearing a helmet.
Costello sat out the team's game the following night and said he wasn't feeling well. He was transferred from a hospital in Peterborough, Ontario to St. Michael's. He slipped into a coma Dec. 4 and died just a few hours after his family decided to take him off life support Dec. 10.
He joined the Maple Leafs for the 1948 playoffs, after helping his junior team win the Memorial Cup in 1945 and 1947.
With Toronto, Costello had two goals and two assists as Toronto captured the 1948 Stanley Cup. He only played 15 games the following season before leaving the Maple Leafs for the priesthood.
Costello rarely talked about his decision, but Father Tim Shea, who played with Costello on the Flying Fathers for about 20 years said he discussed it once with fellow priests after a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"That night at supper he told us it was a great experience, but he was surprised that once he got to the NHL and won the Stanley Cup, he didn't feel better about it,'' Shea said. "About a year later, they lost a game and Les was whistling in the shower and one of the older players came in and said, 'Hey kid. When we lose, no whistling.'
"And at that moment, he said, 'This isn't for me.' The call had always been there, but he wanted to give that Canadian dream a chance.''
In 1962, Costello helped form the Flying Fathers which has raised more than $4 million for various charities. The club, made up of Catholic priests, has traveled across Canada and the United States, toured Europe in 1970 and was granted an audience with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican.
Costello's funeral was Dec. 16 in Schumacher, Ontario.
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