As the puck drops on the 2019-2020 NHL Season, A Lamp unto My Cleats will focus on Hockey for the next few months. We will kick off the season by featuring some exclusive content from Tage Thompson, Blake Lizotte, and Josiah Slavin!
“God writes straight with crooked lines.”
This old saying – which is sometimes attributed to St. Teresa of Avila – often sums up our lives precisely and completely. We trust that God has a plan for our lives, but sometimes that plan is so full of twist and turns that it becomes impossible to look ahead and see what God is doing.
One person whose life has been full of such twists and turns is Buffalo Sabres right wing, Tage Thompson. In 1989, Tage’s father, Brent Thompson, was selected 39th overall in the NHL draft by the Los Angeles Kings. The elder Thompson began his career playing minor league hockey in Calgary and Medicine Hat in Alberta. He then went to Arizona to play for the King’s minor league affiliate, the Phoenix Road Runners. This was followed by stops in Winnipeg and Springfield, Massachusetts. In the Summer of 1996, the Jets moved to Phoenix, bringing Brent back to the Southwest.
While in Phoenix, Tage was born and his own crooked path began. After one season in Phoenix, Brent spent the next 8 seasons bouncing from team to team and city to city, making stops in Harford, Louisville, Hershey, Windsor CO, and Providence along the way. After the conclusion of the 2005 season, Thompson retired, and life for the Thompson family could finally settle down. It didn’t. In the years to follow, Thompson began coaching hockey. That took the family to Anchorage, Alaska and Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Tage’s early life was defined by constant change. He attended 11 different schools before graduating from Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor in 2014. He then went on to play for the U.S. National Development Team in 2014-2015 before spending the next two seasons at UConn. During his time at UConn, he was selected in the 1st Round of the 2016 NHL draft by the St. Louis Blues.
In March of 2017, Thompson signed a three-year, entry-level contract, launching him on a journey that mirrored his father’s. In the 2016-2017 season, he played for the Chicago Wolves. The following season, he played for the San Antonio Rampage and the St. Louis Blues. In July of 2018, he was traded as part of package deal to the Buffalo Sabres for Ryan O’Reilly. He will begin the 2019 season in Rochester, playing for the Sabres AHL affiliate, but is expected to make the trip back to Buffalo again soon.
It’s exhausting even reading his journey!
What Thompson realizes, though, is that all the twists and turns were a part of God’s bigger plan. His family’s experiences moving across the country in the name of hockey has equipped him for his own journey. He told Buffalo Hockey Beat; “My dad went through the same thing, so he knows what it’s like and I have someone to go home to and talk to about what I’m feeling, the situation I’m in. He just lets me know the right way to be acting, (to) come to the rink with a positive attitude.”
Of greater importance, however, than how his experiences have prepared him for his hockey career is how they have shaped his faith. While Tage grew up on a Christian home and attended church regularly, he says that his faith truly became important to him when he moved to Alaska. He explained to the young hockey players at a Hockey Ministries International Camp; “I was fortunate enough to play with a kid on my team – his father was actually a pastor, so we ended up going to his church – and he was one of my best friends on my team and I talked to him a lot. [I became] just kind of interested in what it meant to be a Christian and growing my faith and trying to help others.”
That wasn’t the end of Thompson’s faith journey. He went on to explain; “I actually had a kind of a big injury the following year. I tore my ACL, MCL, I was out for a long time. It was a big year for me too – I thought it was a huge year. You want to play for the best teams and, like I said, when you’re that young you dream of playing in the NHL and you think that one year that you miss is going to cost it. It was a really tough year for me. I was getting passed up by a lot of teams. I didn’t get drafted in the USHL or the OHL or anyone. Everyone was passing on me and I was injured going through a tough injury. I was kind of doubting myself and lost a lot of confidence… When I was injured things obviously are tough and I kept trying to fix it myself. I thought I could solve it and things just kept getting worse and worse… You realize that you’re not in control of anything really – that everything happens for a reason – and that God is there and that He’s the only one that can get you out of tough situations. So, once I realized that, and just kind of gave it all to Him it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I had no more worries about the injury and I just kind of let everything go and He took care of the rest. God took a back seat there and it was amazing, once I put Him back in perspective, in front of my life, it was amazing how my life in hockey turned around and became so much easier. Things just started clicking for me. I had a great year… For me it was just giving my life to Christ that tough transition there with the injury and then, that following season, making God my priority and doing everything for Him; playing for Him; living each day for Him.”
Watching God work through changes and trials throughout his life has taught Thompson to sit back and trust in God’s plan for his life. His favorite Bible verse is one that reflects that truth; Jeremiah 29:11. God speaks here to the Israelites during their own time of trouble. They had been carried off into exile by the Babylonians and longed to return to their home. In their time of despair, God offered a word of hope and encouragement. He promised them; “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.”
Tage has seen this truth in his own life. He prints these words and hangs them in his stall in every locker room for every team he plays. These words remind him to trust in God’s plan for him and how God’s plan is better than anything he could ever even imagine for himself. He explained to us here at A Lamp unto My Cleats; “This verse is my favorite because for me it’s so easy to get caught up in my own plans and what I want and what I hope to happen in my career and life, that I forget who’s really in control and when I look back at this verse it gives me peace knowing that God’s in control and that He has great things in store for me if I just let go and put all my trust in Him. I never have to worry or stress because God is always faithful, all I have to do is trust His plan that He has for me.”
This week, the new NHL season begins. The plan is that, after a brief stint in Rochester, Thompson will rejoin the Sabres and continue his growth as an NHL player. Whatever happens this season, Thompson will continue to trust in God’s plan and give Him glory in honor, wherever he finds himself.