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‘Holy Goalie’ Chicago bishop takes to ice, not ready to give up day job

By Tom Sheridan
January 19th, 2006
Catholic News Service (www.catholicnews.com)

CHICAGO (CNS) -- The puns are obvious: "Who IS that masked man?" "'Stick' with me, kid." And, of course, "Hey, fella, you're on thin ice." But in this case, the "fella" would be Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki -- all dressed up in a Chicago Blackhawks uniform and ready to take to the ice at the United Center.

Neither is it all for show.

Bishop Paprocki, 53, has been involved with hockey for a long time -- as a fan and a player.

He was profiled in the December issue of USA Hockey magazine, where he was pictured in his episcopal robes holding a hockey stick and helmet.

The article's headline, appropriately enough, was "Holy Goalie."

Bishop Paprocki has been playing hockey -- floor hockey -- since he was a boy, but it's only been in the past decade, he told the magazine, that he's taken to the ice. Now, twice a week he plays at McFetridge Ice Center stopping pucks in an over-30, no-check league. The bishop is also a veteran marathon runner, which he does just to stay in shape for hockey, he told the magazine.

The feature in USA Hockey -- the official magazine of the national governing bodies of U.S. ice and inline hockey, with a circulation of 430,000 -- led to an invitation from the Blackhawks to attend a team practice Jan. 12 and get a little ice time with the team.

"When they started practice, I watched from the bench for about half an hour," the bishop told The Catholic New World, newspaper of the Chicago Archdiocese.

Toward the end of the formal practice, goaltender coach Stephane Waite warmed him up on the sidelines. "He did some drills with me,” he said. “He wasn't shooting real hard, but stopping his shots boosted my confidence."

But then the warm-up was over. "I was in the net and facing the Blackhawks. Several players took shots at me," he said. "I stopped several until one of the players said, 'Has anyone scored yet?' On the next shot, Mark Bell ripped one past me. Then Denis Savard came over and took a few shots. My head is still spinning from his moves, but I think I did manage to stop at least one of his shots."

However, Bishop Paprocki conceded that he "lost count of the ones that went through."

It was, he said, a day he'll never forget.

Is a career on the ice in the offing? The bishop laughed and said, "None of the Blackhawk goalies should feel their jobs are threatened -- and the cardinal doesn't have to worry that I'm going to give up my day job."

Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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