Michael Sauer - Hockey and FaithJuly 18, 2017
2007 was my first year pro, and I had a great training camp. The coaches were happy and they seemed so impressed, and I really thought I had a good chance of making the team. I went into training camp expecting to make it, and everything was going great. Then I got sent down in the last cut, and they told me, ‘Just keep playing like you are, and you’ll be up before you know it,’ and I was so excited – it was awesome! Then I went to the AHL, and it’s just a different league, and a different experience. You’re living on your own, you have money you never had before, and there are a lot more temptations. I was one of the last ones sent down, so I ended up not having a roommate because everybody else had pretty much already grabbed their spots. I started, and the first half of the year was really tough – like, of the defensemen, I was one of the worst plus/minuses on the team. I wasn’t living up to the expectations of the coaches there, and I wasn’t very confident. Everything was sort of turned upside-down, and hockey wasn’t even fun – it was terrible. About halfway through the year, I was getting lonely. I was dating at this point, but my girlfriend and I had decided not to live together, and even though I liked the guys on my team, I just felt distant for some reason. Some of them had their families and other guys liked to go out and party, and I didn’t want to do those things. So it was a tough time. I even took a class just to keep busy with my time.
As the year went on, my games kept getting worse and worse, and I kept getting lonelier and lonelier. We played a game against Providence, and we lost 6-2. I was a minus 4, and it was just crushing. I felt like I had given up on myself in many ways, and I didn’t know what to do – I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I know my dad would say, ‘think positive, think positive’ – he always preached positive thinking – and I believed it, and I knew it was true, but I couldn’t apply it. I went home one night, and I called my dad. I was pacing in my room, and I was really depressed. He told me he’d been there, when he was playing pro ball one time – like if someone had handed him a plane ticket home and said, ‘get out of here,’ he’d have grabbed that ticket and flown home and never played the game again. That’s kind of how I felt, but he told me, again, to think positively – and I just couldn’t do it. My hockey was going out the window, I’d lost my college education because I signed an NHL contract, and I was letting lots of different things put pressures on me. I had such an emptiness in my stomach, I actually thought about hurting myself just because I was so empty – like so empty that pain sounded good to me, and it actually made sense to me. And this was not me at all – really not who I am, not who I ever was. But then, instantly, I got this thought – ‘No, you will not do that – you’re better than that.’ And I thought of my then-girlfriend, now wife’s mother telling me that the bible is alive, and that if I ever needed the Lord, I should ask the Holy Spirit to guide me.
Then I got on my bed, and I was crying, and I said, ‘You know what, Lord – if there was ever a moment in my life when I needed you, it’s now. I need you now.’ Then I opened up the bible, and I happened to open it up to Hebrews 13:5, and it said, ‘…never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ It just pierced me, and I felt, wow, just wow. Then I was weeping like crazy, and I couldn’t believe God just said that to me – ‘I’ll never leave you…’ At that moment, there was such a presence in that room, and I kept thinking, ‘keep reading, keep reading,’ so I began to read Hebrews 13:6, and it says, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ Up to that point, I had been so into my hockey, and I was just trying to please people – like my coaches and my teammates. I was trying to do all this stuff, and it was almost my demise. I was trying to please everybody, but I was killing myself when I couldn’t. And I was giving them so much power over me, because if they were disappointed in me, it would crush me. From that moment on, it occurred to me that the Lord is in control – He is in control of my career, and I’m to give it to Him, let Him lead it, and that’s all that matters.
That was such a huge transition in everything for me – even in my hockey. I went from being the worst plus/minus to almost being out of the minus. My game had changed, my perspective had changed, my life had changed - and it was such a big day for me because I had gone from a point where I was ready to throw it all away, to all of a sudden receiving something from the Lord like that and knowing that this is where He had called me and how He wanted me to handle it.