From Street Gang to Hockey Gang - a thirty year journey, Sept 21-2007
Parkdale in the 1970's was not a pretty place. Street crime was rampant and youth gangs roamed freely - preying on poor unsuspecting home owners and small businessmen, leaving a trail of devastation and wanton destruction in their wake. In the years before computer dating, one hundred channel cable and the invention of the Game Boy, there was nothing for these mis-guided young men to do.
"It was cut, or be cut" said veteran Jim Pearce. "You learned to live by your fists and your wits"
With the juvenile crime wave at its peak, a concerned resident of the Toronto borough stepped forward with a solution.
"We'll make the brats play hockey" was Father Bert O'Hearne's call "that'll keep the little blaggers off the street."
And thus Father Bert set out to make the Village of Parkdale a safer place to be. Disguising himself as a street wise hooker named "Crystal", Father Bert patrolled every corner - from Lansdowne to Dufferin to the corner of Dundas and Brock.
Two of the original members of the "Parkdale Boys"- and current members of the Tuesday Night Hockey ensemble- were the first in the padre's line of fire. Patty Corrigan and Jim Bob Pearce didn't know what hit them.
"They cornered me one night and tried to get a free one" recalls Father Bert. "But I would have none of it. Sure, I was a fake whore, but I had my pride. I grabbed them both by their male parts and hustled them down to the lake for a quick dousing. There's nothing better to combat teenage horniness then a good dump in Lake Ontario"
Corrigan and Pearce are thankful for their "baptism"
"I think Pat and I would be in prison if it weren't for Father O'Hearne" says Pearce in an exclusive interview, "or working for the government. He grabbed us right out of that lake, dried us off, and drove us straight to the McCormick arena to his weekly game"
Father O'Hearne had been staging a game of pick up for the Parkdales orphans and social outcasts since taking over the Parkdale parish. He drew his players from a wide selection of urchins and wannabes, a tradition that still stands today.
"I couldn't skate when he first threw me on the ice" recalls Corrigan " but with a lttle dilligence and practice, I was one of the top three players"
Pearce on the other hand had a tougher time learning the game, and did not take well to O'Hearne's discipline.
"There's times when I wanted to choke him with that collar of his" recalls Pearce, a yet to be recovered Catholic. "But then he would show up in his Crystal outfit, and there was nothing I could do. You can't hit a girl right?"
Pearce, who is a leading contender for the King of TNH hockey says that it was O'Hearne's simple lessons and tips on discipline that has guided Pearce through life, in both work and play. "I still have no respect for authority" comments Pearce "but I still don't hit girls. And oh yeah, you'll never see me wearing a dress"
From street urchins to ice demons, Pearce and Corrigan are living proof of juvenile reform in action. The streets of Parkdale are now a safer place to be, thanks to the actions of one Father O'Hearne*
*O'Hearne was caught in a sting operation in 1992 and is now receiving treatment to cure his affinity for cross dressing.