Feb12MonFebruary 12, 2018
Enough claimed Chuck Luksa. After 4 seasons in the minors, the Canadiens’ promise to trade him or play him at the NHL level was not happening. At the 1978 training camp, the rugged defenseman challenged the Canadien’s G.M. to own up to his commitment. Having won the Calder Cup twice while with the AHL Voyageurs and been selected to the AHL First and Second All Star Teams he was convinced that he had enough minor league experience. At camp Chuck grew more and more infuriated as the team’s management dragged its feet on their commitment. Upset with the unfair treatment, Luksa challenged the most powerful G.M. in the game. He threw down the gloves and walked out on the Canadiens refusing to go back to the minors. Finished with hockey, he packed his bags and headed home to Toronto.
Meanwhile out in the mid-west city of Cincinnati, Ohio, Floyd Smith coach of the WHA Stingers was searching for a defenseman. Having scrutinized the scouting reports on Luksa and convinced he was the man he needed he managed to successfully entice the 6 foot, 190 pound blue-liner to join his Cincinnati Stingers Club in the WHA.
Unknown to Chuck, God was about to do something very special. Shortly after his arrival in the Ohio city, he was joined by David Forbes through a trade from Washington. David was a Christian. The brothers, Luksa and Forbes, prayed and became convinced that they should seek permission to initiate a chapel program for their team no matter the consequences. It was a courageous step for players to take in a game entrenched in tradition, protective of its unique culture and dubious of anyone who might introduce change.
Growing up in a Christian home, Chuck gave his heart to the Lord at ten years of age. The prayers and influence of his godly parents continued on through his life. Arriving home after walking out on the Canadiens in September of 1978, he was challenged by his mother to give the Lord full control of his life. She pointed him to Romans 12:1: “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him” (NLT). These words pierced his heart. He stated later: “I got down on my knees that night and offered my life-my body-my all- as a living sacrifice to God. I asked God that if He allowed me to play pro hockey again, to please send me some place where He could use me.” Cincinnati was that place and Luksa answered the call.
The first chapel program in professional hockey began that season (1978-79) in Cincinnati-thanks to the strong commitment of two Stinger players. A movement was launched which has gradually spread across North America and into Europe with some 300 teams in over 40 leagues participating...and its growing.
In the spring of that season (1979) after a team chapel in Quebec City, Chuck had the joy of introducing his teammate, Cincinnati goaltender Michel Dion, to the Lord. Michel recounts their discussion: “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.”
And the story continues...Michel was traded to the Nordiques in Quebec where he introduced the chapel concept to his team during the 1980-81season. 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 initiating chapels with the Penguins.
Jackie Robinson once said: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Chuck’s life is making an inspirational impact on all who know him.