Aug9WedAugust 9, 2017
By Dan Hamhuis
A huge transition in my life, and when my faith really hit home, was when I went to play my first year professional. I was drafted by Nashville in 2001, and after a couple of unsuccessful training camps, they sent me to the American Hockey League to play a season in Milwaukee. While Prince George had been comfortably close to home, and I was familiar with the city and close my teammates, that first year in Milwaukee was a tough year for me. Even though it ended up being a huge turning point in my life and in my faith life, it was one of the worst years I’ve had in hockey. Coming from such a great junior hockey environment in Prince George to going to Milwaukee, where we played in a 17,000-seat arena with maybe 5,000 people in it, was an adjustment. Living on my own for the first time, being far away from family and friends, and playing with twenty new guys who were all older than me was really intimidating and a tough transition – it was a lonely time for me. I didn’t play that well, and I had my struggles off the ice as well.
We had a chaplain there named Iggy Cofaro with Hockey Ministries International, and he kind of shook me up a bit. We had a pretty big group of people going to chapel, and he challenged us, and I think me in particular, that growing up knowing about God is not good enough. He painted a vivid picture of Jesus’ love for us through the sacrifice he made dying on the cross. This motivated and inspired me to live the way Jesus taught about and demonstrated for us. I think Iggy knew that I needed this at this point in my faith journey – and I was actually kind of mad at him for giving me that message, because I was pretty comfortable where I was at, sort of picking and choosing where I wanted to be a Christian or not. So that was a real eye-opening experience and turning point in my life and my faith. That whole year, I had lots of time because I was living on my own, and decided I needed to take a deeper look at my faith. That’s when I really started to grow as a Christian. I started looking at this for myself, and that’s when it became very important to me.
As I made that transition for myself, that first year of pro, I started learning more and more about God and how to live the right way by reading the bible and some good devotional books and inspirational Christian sports books. Reading books of other Christian athletes helped me a lot – hearing these other guys’ stories of how they dealt with things. It was very important to me to try to get some of this reading in every day. In those first few years of pro, I found I was hot and cold with my faith. I would be really into it – doing a lot of reading, studying, thinking and praying – and then there’d be a few days or even a couple of weeks where I thought, ‘Oh man, I haven’t thought about God at all,’ and I felt guilty about it. But I’ve developed a discipline now to always have a devotional book or some Christian literature there at my bedside table, and read a few pages here and there at night or in the morning. I think that has helped me grow in my faith and become aware of temptations, and helped me make good decisions.