Hockey fighting represents very little
of what comes to mind when we think
of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. It
is a violent spectacle with fans crying
for blood like the gladiators of ancient
Hockey, even without violence, is a
prevalent form of idolatry in Canada.
Its professional athletes are often
worshipped as gods while their moral
character is left in question. How then
would hockey and violence in hockey
have anything to do with the Kingdom
of God? Consider the social context of
a hockey fighter.
Professional hockey fighters don’t get
a regular shift. They don’t get to be on
the ice for the game-winning goal. The
media ignores them as their friends and
teammates are adored. They have to
be willing to sacrifice their own bodies
for the sake of their teammates in order
to stay on the team. They are the least
skilled, make the lowest amount of
money and often end their careers in
an unbelievable amount of emotional
and physical pain.
In the world of professional hockey,
they are like the poor in spirit, the meek
and those who mourn (to use the words
of Jesus from matthew 5).
Former Arizona Coyotes enforcer
John Scott is a classic example. Scott
was voted to be at the NHL All-Star
Weekend by fans despite playing in only
11 regular season games and recording
only one assist all year long. His boss
even told him he shouldn’t be at the
All-Star Weekend. When he said he still
wanted to play he was traded. Scott
and his wife, who was eight months
pregnant at the time with twins, had
to move themselves and their four girls
to Newfoundland (where the montreal
Canadiens farm team is based).
The last will be
first, and the first
will be last.
Fortunately for Scott, he not only
played in the All-Star game but also won
the tournament and was named mvP
of the All-Star Weekend. The image of
Jesus declaring that the “last will be first,
and the first will be last” readily comes
to mind (matthew 20: 16).
Other hockey enforcers have not
been so fortunate. Professional hockey
fighters like Derek Boogaard, Wade
Belak and Rick Rypien have died in
recent years with similar situations of
either depression or drug abuse. This is
the sad reality of living in a broken world.
Thankfully the Kingdom of God does
not avoid our brokenness, but enters
right into the middle of it. In Jesus’ time,
Roman soldiers were a symbol of their
empire’s power and violent history.
But the New Testament tells us about
soldiers who often had a deeper insight
into Jesus than His own followers (mat-
thew 8; Luke 9: 46, matthew 16: 23).
Just as I would not defend any type
of military violence, I also do not agree
with violence in hockey. But the sin of
the hockey fighter does not negate
their connection to the Kingdom of
God. They did not grow up wanting to
be fighters; they grew up falling in love
with a game and wanting to play it for
as long as they could.
Just as a child of the Kingdom of
God would never ask, “Who then is the
greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
(matthew 18), so too would we never
hear a hockey fighter compare themselves to Wayne Gretzky. They are just
happy to be there.
Where is Jesse's
favourite place to
spend time with God?
Skating by himself on an outdoor hockey rink and no one is around but God,
he and the sound of his blades cutting
into the ice.
BY: JESSE HOVE