Annual Good Friday ball hockey game still going strong 50 years later

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Annual Good Friday ball hockey game still going strong 50 years later

After an early morning church service on Good Friday in 1967, John Linton and his friends were unsure what to do and decided to start up a casual game of ball hockey in an Etobicoke elementary school parking lot.

They did the same thing the next year. And the year after.

Fifty years later, they're still playing, and Linton, 14 years old when the tradition started, hasn't missed a single game.

"It was probably a little faster paced than it is now. We've gotten a little bit older and a little bit slower, but that's why we've got some new recruits, who are, you know, younger children and friends of children," he said on Metro Morning.

Though Linton is the only one who's been at every single game, he calls the tradition a "cementing force" for his group of friends.

Over time, as spouses and children and co-workers started coming, the games have grown in size.

"It started out sort of small, I think originally there were maybe six or eight of us playing, and we now have as many as 25 or 30 people that come out, so we have to put people in shifts," he said. "Because it's fun and sort of quintessentially Canadian, it has attracted other people."

Through the years, the gang has shoveled snow and played in rain — but never cancelled.

Katie Linton, John's daughter, said she remembers playing before she could even hold a hockey stick properly. 

"It's a tradition that's been going on in my family for as long as I can remember," she said. "My brothers playing, my uncles, my cousins come, my best friend is here." 

In one notable game 10 years ago, her teeth were knocked out. She returned, undaunted, the following year.

But of all the years he's been playing, for Linton, 2016 was a year to remember.

"I had gone 25 years playing the game without getting a single goal. Last year I got a goal, so that was a real high point for me," he laughed.

After the hockey winds down, the group traditionally goes to a local pub for lunch and a pint. 

"I always think the best beer of the year is the pint of beer at the end of this game," said Linton.