Feb22WedFebruary 22, 2017
“I chose to respect the hockey authorities who were making decisions regarding my sons.
I encouraged my boys to do so as well.”
Preamble: I have had two of my boys play Junior “A” hockey. Alex played for 6 teams in a 3.5 year career- in each of our four Western provinces. Meanwhile, Markson has played in the WHL for 4 years with Spokane WA, and most recently in Saskatoon SK.
The Challenges: I understand the challenges of playing junior hockey: insecurities; confidence issues; temptation to participate in the “party life”; developing an egotistical outlook; and uncertainties that come from the ups and downs of life in the game. At times I observed things that were unfair and discouraging. Other times it was hard because of our sons’ lack of maturity and understanding the ropes. My son once said: “I love the city where I am playing, but I hate hockey.”
Hopes: I have always hoped that my boys would come through the game healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually. Playing hockey challenges these three areas significantly.
Joys and Concerns: There were many joys and concerns as I followed Alex and Markson in their junior careers. Alex was severely injured when pushed from behind into the boards on his first shift in junior hockey. He returned to the ice with a vengeance and inspired his team to snap a 15 game losing streak that very first game. In the playoffs that year the opposing coach said he was the best player in the series. In Drumheller he was one of the team’s top scorers when they reached the provincial finals. As he finished his junior career people commented that he was a unique player the kind of which doesn’t appear very often. Of course I will always remember when as a midget player Alex carried a box of Hockey New Testaments into the locker room and had the courage to pass one out to each of his teammates. One of Markson’s chaplains spoke highly of his leadership with the team and mentioned that as many as 6 of his teammates would accompany him to church. One memory I will always cherish is our family hugs with the boys after games. We love our children. It is always a thrill to watch them compete in sports.
- First of all I wanted my sons to feel the freedom to choose for themselves what they wanted from the sport. (Our oldest son hung up the competitive skates following a successful bantam championship. He was being wooed to the mound and I enjoyed watching him pitch).
- I also reminded them that they were much more important to me than the game. My love for them didn’t change regardless of how they played. I wanted them to know I would support them as long as they wanted to play. I was their “greatest” fan and never stopped believing in them. I watched my sons play whenever I could. I drove many miles. If I couldn’t watch them in person I tried to catch the game online or on the radio.
- I chose to never bemoan their ice time as I felt that was the coach’s prerogative.
- Sometimes I would get a call before an important game, but more often it was after the game. “What did you think, Dad?” I picked out little things that they were doing well and identified areas where they could have done better.
- I urged my sons to take advantage of their opportunities in practice by working on their skills wholeheartedly.
- My spiritual support for them revolved around constantly sharing verses, giving books, forwarding devotions, and praying without ceasing. I knew the greatest hope and strength they required would be in God’s Word. I can’t say that they always followed my advice. I was thankful for chaplains from HMI who served my boys. Of the eight junior teams my two sons played for over their junior careers – there was only one team that didn’t have a chaplain. I was also very thankful for the impact that HMI summer hockey camps had on my sons.
- I urged them to make good choices off the ice. This didn’t always take place. This was disappointing for me but I knew they needed to suffer the consequences whatever they might be. Sometimes the consequences were very severe. Despite my disappointment they knew that my love for them didn’t change but I urged them to make better choices in the future.
- Our Junior “A” hockey experience has been characterized by perseverance. Galatians 6:9 summarizes it well: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
- *John and Valerie Bechtold live in Caronport Saskatchewan. They have 4 grown children; Ben, Alex, Markson and Elizabeth. John is HMI’s Chapel coordinator for the WHL, MHL and SJHL.
HMI Staff Members John Bechtold (left) & Tim Wiebe (right)