Feb12MonFebruary 12, 2018
Quebec Nordiques’ Goaltender-Leaves his Net, the Players’ Bench, Team Dressing Room, Home Arena, and Quebec City, While the Game was still being played
Quebec City, December 10, 1980. Quebec Nordiques goaltender could no longer take the sarcastic boos by his own fans blaming him for Boston’s four goals. He hit the wall part way through the second period. Disheartened and seething with anger he blasted out of his net to the player’s bench; threw his gloves, mask and stick over the boards; leaped off the bench and headed to the dressing room; showered; changed; marched out of the building; climbed into his van and drove out of the city to his home town of Montreal...leaving behind his Nordiques’ teammates to battle the mighty Boston Bruins without a backup goalie. For all intents and purposes he left his career behind as well.
Michel Dion had had some great career moments. This wasn’t one of them. In 1977 a first star performance at the end of a four game sweep of the Cincinnati Stingers had the home town Indianapolis signing his name. “That was extreme joy” he later stated. And then there was the night the Nordiques played the Canadiens at the Forum for the first time. While he had idolized many of them he didn’t let them intimidate him as he turned an outstanding exhibition of scintillating saves. He was selected the game’s number one star despite being on the losing team. That night he began to make his mark in the NHL.
So what happens to a goaltender who breaks all protocol, rules and responsibilities and walks out on his team in the middle of an NHL game? Does he get another chance or is he finished as an NHL goaltender? The Nordiques suspended the disgruntled player and eight days later put him on waivers. He was sold to Winnipeg Jets for a roll of tape and a goalie stick and ended up in Pittsburgh to begin the 1981-82 season. His first year in Pittsburgh was a stellar one for Dion earning him the honour of playing in the NHL All Star game.
It was in the spring of 1979 while a member of the Cincinnati Stingers that Michel attended a team chapel which took place while the team was playing on the road in Quebec City. Inspired by the service he met with fellow teammate Chuck Luksa for coffee. He wrote: “Chuck asked, ‘are you a Christian?’ I replied, ‘of course, I had been taken to church every Sunday and had religious training in school and I try to do my best not to hurt anyone.’ But then he asked, ‘Have you ever decided to give yourself to Christ, of your own free will? Well that was something that I never heard of. When I realized I had to make my own decision-give myself personally to Christ and place my faith in Him-that’s what I decided to do. Because of the death and resurrection of Christ I now have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. I am not afraid of dying anymore; I know I am going to heaven. I dedicated my life to Christ. I told Him to do whatever He wanted, and to make me whatever He wants me to be.”
The following season The Quebec Nordiques landed Michel in the dispersal draft where he played valiantly for the Nordiques. Here Michel introduced the chapel concept to his team during the 1980-81 season. In January 1981 during a chapel program he had the pleasure of seeing his teammate, Paul Baxter, ask Christ into his life. And when Nordiques’ teammates, Baxter and Dion, were traded to Pittsburgh they carried on the new tradition by presenting the chapel program to Penguin management and initiating chapels with their team.
Michel says that the impact of his personal faith In Christ made him calmer and didn’t give up easily when things went wrong. With Jesus in His life he became a better person and player and was motivated to work harder in practice and in games. The once professional baseball player with the Montreal Expos farm team in Florida eventually ended his hockey career in Pittsburgh in 1985. Michel and his beautiful wife, Kelsie, live in Bluffton South Carolina where he is a certified golf instructor.
Michel believes that: “When we are willing to give Him our all and leave it up to Him, He never fails to give us what’s best for us.”