Writers roam the corridors of life probing for stories to inform and inspire readers, viewers and listeners.
Recently, hockey players caught my attention.
Here, I focus on three stories and suggest what the church can learn from their examples.
P.K. Subban: bullying and racism
Ty, a 13-year-old player, has been the object of bullying and racial slurs during hockey games.
Nashville Predators’ P.K. Subban sent him a short video message (view it on You Tube).
P.K. told the teenager, “As long as you’re still breathing in this world, you’ve got to believe in yourself and let nobody tell you what you can and can’t do, especially if it’s because of the colour of your skin.”
Sometimes we cannot understand why people do what they do, continued P.K., and that’s OK. However, “All we have to do is understand our self, believe in our self and keep trying and keep pushing forward.”
He suggested Ty play hockey because, “You love the game and you want to play. Let nobody take that away from you.”
Anonymous: mental heath
Anonymous (real name withheld), a professional player, shared his journey coping with mental health (URBANICITY – urbanicity.ca).
He expressed gratefulness for his accomplishment through hockey, especially noting its “glamorous and desirable” lifestyle.
But there is another reality. “The hard part is the mental component behind closed doors that make athletes like myself, struggle with.”
Plagued almost daily by anxieties and stresses, he described his constant concerns: worrying what his coaches would think, afraid he may lose his spot on the team and distressed about how opposing teams would react. “It seemed easier to suppress those thoughts and avoid having the tough conversations than attempting to express what was going on in my mind.”
After enduring “years of riding (hockey’s) mental and emotional roller coaster,” Anonymous acted.
He put himself first, sought counselling and began talking with teammates.
Knowing you are not alone and sharing your story, concluded Anonymous, is “the key to creating a ripple effect that will not only change the macho culture around hockey but also the male mental health culture in general”.
Jaccob Slavin: a Christian playing hockey
I’m just a Christian playing hockey was my introduction to Carolina Hurricanes’ Jaccob Slavin (Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran).
From there I scoured the internet. I learned Jaccob enjoys his faith. “It’s the most important thing in my life, the most important thing in my wife’s life. It’s what we try to base every decision off of.”
Faith makes him a better player by giving him perspective and identity. “I believe God has given me this platform of hockey as a way to spread the Gospel. That’s what I want to use it for.”
He told writer Mark Shiver, “I don’t stand in the locker room preaching from the Bible, but I’m definitely going to stand for what I believe in and live it out the best I can on and off the ice.”
When team mates want to discuss serious issues, he is not judgmental but speaks from a “place of love and hopefully point them in the direction of something they can (find) hope in and cling to”.
Jaccob balances hockey and life. “I’m not rooted in the game of hockey, I know hockey will end one day, but God is forever. It puts me at peace knowing God’s in control of every aspect of my life.”
Messages for the church
Each hockey player presents us with reminders …
- to stand against bullies and racists and treat all people equally (P.K. Subban);
- to create environments free from fear and open to help people work towards wholeness (Anonymous), and
- to be a Christian in all that we do (Jaccob Slavin).