Joel Hanley – Triumph after Tragedy

I haven’t posted much this year; but it didn’t seem right to let the Stanley Cup Finals go by without posting something!

As the Dallas Stars face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning, one player you may see on the ice is Dallas’ Joel Hanley.  Hanley’s name is not the most familiar one to hockey fans.  He hadn’t scored his first goal until Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

While that was certainly a moment of triumph, Hanley’s story is one scarred by tragedy.

Joel had a brother, Jordon, who was four years older than him.  The two played hockey together and were extremely close.  After Joel began his freshmen year at UMass, however, Jordan’s life began to change for the worse.

Ken Campbell of Sports Illustrated explains; “Not long after that, people closest to Jordon began to notice some changes in Jordon’s behavior. He was still personable and outgoing, but his emotions seemed to range from euphoric highs to the depths of despair without notice or explanation. Then on Oct. 11, 2010, when Joel was barely into the first month of his freshman year at UMass, he got a phone call from his parents telling him that Jordon had taken his own life. Joel was crushed, not only at losing his brother and closest friend, but at the seeming randomness of it all.”

While the Hanley family believes that Jordon suffered from bi-polar disorder, Joel can’t help but blame himself sometimes.  He told Campbell, “I wish I had known more about mental health when I was 19. I was not a punk, but looking back I only cared about myself and I only cared about hockey, so it was really hard for me to see his down times. He was so upbeat and he cared about everyone, so it was really tough for that to have happened. But I know Jordon is in a better place and I know that one day, I’ll see him again. That’s kind of what gets me through the day.”

Joel relied on his faith to help him carry on after Jordon’s death.  Jordon had a sincere love for Jesus and enjoyed studying theology – which has inspired Joel to do the same.  He now also studies the Bible every day and approaches his faith with a renewed vigor.

Of course, Joel misses Jordon dearly and thinks of him nearly every day.  He told Campbell, “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. There were probably about 50 people who reached out to me and said that Jordon changed their lives. 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.”

Though his life was far too short, Jordon made an effort to point people to Christ.  One of Joel’s favorite Bible Verses is John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Joel strives each day to live out his brother’s example of living his life with the goal of allowing others to see Christ.

The Stanley Cup. Image in the public domain

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