Welcome to the Stanley cup finals!
Sadly, my beloved Bruins were excused from the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning, so I hopped over to the Vegas Bandwagon, hoping for a cup run for the Golden Knights, but they were dismissed by the Dallas Stars.. Those two teams now meet in the Stanley Cup finals, not quite what I hoped for, but I am so glad to have hockey back that I decided to find a point of interest and a team to root for. And I have found one!
A few years ago, I wrote a post about Jim Nill -the Dallas General Manager. His faith journey and his wife’s ongoing battle against cancer. Check it out here.
Now, Nill has put together a Stanley Cup contender in Dallas hoping to raise the Cup for the first time in 21 years. For Nill, it would be his fifth time cup win (4 as a front office staffer with the Red Wings in the 90s and early 2000s). And while the current roster isn’t filled with star power (excuse the pun) the players that he has assembled have brought the cup within reach.
One of those players, I admit, I had not heard of until he scored in game 1. Joel Hanley has played parts of 5 seasons in the NHL – 48 games total spread among 3 different teams and 8 more playoff games – 7 this season. He opened the scoring in game one with his first ever NHL goal, regular season or post season.
So, I looked into his story to see what I could learn about him. Undrafted out of UMASS, Hanley signed with the Montreal Canadiens in the summer of 2015. In March 2016, he would get the call to the NHL – where he contributed 6 assists in 10 games. He got another taste with the Habs the next season before moving on to Arizona. He only played 5 NHL games for the Coyotes before signing with Dallas before last season. This year, he played 8 games early on this season for the Stars before being sent down to the team’s AHL affiliate – the Texas Stars.
Now, I’m sure you always remember your first NHL goal – what a moment to celebrate! But for Henley, there is something else that is never far from his mind. His brother Jordon. As you can read in this article from Sports Illustrated, Joel was close to his big brother – older by 4 years. In 2010, while Joel was a freshman at UMASS, he learned that Jordon had taken his own life. I can’t imagine the grief that losing a sibling would bring but I do know that grief doesn’t ever really go away. Another wave is often nearby. I’m sure playing in the Stanley Cup final, and scoring a first NHL goal are highlights that you never forget, but I’m also sure that thoughts of his brother and the love of hockey that they shared were present.
Another thing that these brothers shared was faith in God. These days, Joel spends time studying the Bible and living out his faith with “renewed vigor”. He says “ I know there are going to be struggles in life and that things aren’t always going to go my way, but the one thing I do know is He is going to be there for me.”
In reference to his brother, he continues saying “I do know that when Jordan was here, he was really good at articulating the Christian faith and what it’s all about, And he was really good at witnessing to people… We live in a fallen world and I know that Jordon’s passing wasn’t particularly God’s plan, but I know that He worked it out for the good and that Jordon touched a lot of people while he was here.”
A first career goal, a Stanley Cup Finals appearance and this off-season, he will get married. A lot to celebrate for Hanley– but I’m sure his brother is never far from his mind. I hope that his platform to share his story of reliance on God to sustain through grief and bring hope continues to grow. I’m excited for him to share his story far and wide!
1- Remembered – Grief is hard. We put on a brave face, and try to convince ourselves to “get over it”. We think that dwelling on our sadness shows weakness and that we should “get on with the rest of our life”. But grief never really leaves. If you have ever known loss, then you know that whatever you lost remains close and sometimes another wave of grief comes out of nowhere. We don’t ever get over it, and we are not supposed to. Instead, the tragedy that brings grief into our life becomes part of our story. And as we trust that God will make “all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) we see Him at work, we sense Him close to us – grieving with us and reminding us that the hard things that come are not the end of the story. There is hope, Heaven awaits – a place where grieving will end and pain will stop.
2- Live our story – Those we grieve are gone from us, and yet we remain. Why does it work that way? Why are some lives, experiences or relationships cut down early leaving us to deal with the loss? Well, because it is becoming part of our story, and as part of our story. It reminds us that we must trust that God sustains us in our grief and works in its midst. So if you are grieving the loss of someone or something, God will use that part of your story to help others who are grieving – so keep living out your story, even if it is changed by grief. You never know how God can use your story to help others.