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    Beezer Takes on a New Challenge

    July 11, 2013

    In late June, John Vanbiesbrouck was selected to be the new G.M. and Director of Hockey for the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the United States Hockey League. The NHL All Star and Vezina Trophy winning goaltender is excited about the opportunity to be a shining city on a hill as he assumes the responsibilities of building a winning team in the USHL. John has hired HMI Michigan Camp Director, Rob Murphy to oversee the team’s business operations and former NHLer,Todd Kryger, as coach.

    The former New York Ranger Goaltender is not foreign to new challenges and opportunities. At 18, he welcomed the challenge of suiting up for his first NHL game with the Rangers and thereby launching an extremely successful NHL career. He remembers his first meeting with Ranger coach, Herb Brooks. The young goaltender had expected the coach to reach out and shake his hand but was shocked when ignoring the handshake Brooks, “directed his finger into my belly to check if I was carrying extra fat.”

    The 1985-86 season was a big one for John. He won the Vezina trophy as the league’s best goaltender and of much greater significance, he married his high school sweetheart and the love of his life, Rosalinde. After 10 years of success in New York, Vanbiesbrouck was picked up by the Florida Panthers in the 1993 expansion draft. The families move to Florida would turn out to be a turning point in their lives.

    Winning ways followed the net minder. In 1996 he led the team all the way to the NHL Stanley Cup final against the Colorado Avalanche, the highest achievement in the team’s history. However it would be events off the ice and away from the rink that captured John’s attention. Coach Roger Neilson, a long time dedicated Christian, initiated team chapel services through HMI. Out of deep respect for Roger, John attended the first service. To his surprise he was the only attendee. He and the chaplain, Steve DeBardelaben, decided to meet on a regular basis at an IHOP restaurant. Each time, Steve eventually got around to the same question which began to haunt the veteran goalie: “John, where is Jesus in your life?”  One day, Vanbiesbrouk responded in anger: “Steve, I have had it. I don’t see Jesus around here do you?” To which Steve calmly responded, “John, Jesus just wants to share your family’s life and love. If you really want to help yourself, just allow Him to come in and share your life.” God touched the goalie’s heart that day and he prayed to receive Christ. A waitress stood nearby in tears and as the men finished their prayer asked if she could have Jesus in her life as well.

    What would John do now? What if word got out? What would his teammates think? Indeed the world of hockey? And, how would he communicate this news to his wife with whom relations had been strained largely due to demands of his career and the selfish lifestyle that came with the package...a growing family of three boys which added to tensions at home... as well he was still dealing with the tragic and sudden death of his dear brother Frank which had caused great anguish in his soul.  “When I heard the news, I didn’t cry. I thought I had success in hockey and life but was completely empty inside.” But now he had Jesus inside. The emptiness was gone.

    As night came on that historic day he and Rosalinde sat on the edge of their bed. He indicated to his wife that he had something to tell her....she responded by saying that she had something to tell him. John explains: “We each said, ‘you go first.’ She drew a breath and courage from the Lord said:  ‘I accepted the Lord Jesus as my Saviour today’ and looked at me as if I was going to divorce her now...but I surprised her and responded, that is so amazing because I did the very same thing today. We were reconciled to God and to each other...this was the most pivotal day in my life...and one that is marked for all eternity.

    John Vanbiesbrouck was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.  Despite all the honours bestowed on him and his many accomplishments, the All Star goalie concluded his remarks to the overflow crowd at HMI’s NHL All Star Breakfast event in Raleigh N.C. with this verse;“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

    HMI appreciates John’s ongoing commitment to its many programs and projects including participating in Christian Hockey Camps, Hockey Chapels, Outreach Events and printed Christian hockey resources.

    Don Liesemer

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