Tage Thompson – Trusting His Plan

Tage Thompson 1

Tage Thompson. Photo by Michael Miller

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.

Brandon Graham – Life Lessons from Mom and Dad

 

Brandon Graham

Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles.  Photo by Keith Allinson

 

Young Brandon Graham was like any other kid.  Full of life.  Full of energy.  And, sometimes, he could be a handful.

His mother, Tasha Graham, recalls on a video entitled “Brandon Graham’s Story;

“We would always go to my Auntie’s house and they had a bird.  And it would always call Brandon’s name because he would always get in trouble.  ‘Brandon!  Stop Brandon!  Stop Brandon!’  It was just funny because we all knew, even if he wasn’t in trouble the bird would say it…

Brandon’s kindergarten teacher, she told me – he had good grades for the whole year – but she said, ‘you gonna have a disciple problem.’

And, you know, I didn’t know how to take that because I’m like, ‘I’m doing the best I can, and this boy’s still ain’t acting right?’

But she started it when she told me ‘you gonna have A discipline problem!  I said, ‘well, not on my watch!  Not my kid!’

He was playing too rough with the girls.  Didn’t know that a girl don’t play like a boy… But I wasn’t gonna accept it…  So, I was like, ‘I’m gonna ask his dad, what should we do?  What do we recommend?’

He was like; ‘Little League Football.’  I never knew it could turn into what it turned into.”

Graham’s father, Darrick Walton, had a great game plan on how to keep his son out of trouble.  He wanted to keep his son so busy with school and with football that he didn’t have time to get in trouble.  One play, however, nearly ruined it all.

Tasha Graham explains; “we found him a team.  He only played one game. Quit.”

Brandon himself adds; “I remember, clear as day, this dude named Marcus Green.  He wore #3, I still talk to him to this day.  We did this drill where we line up, he got the ball, I’m the defense player and I got to make the tackle and sure enough, he run me over.  I actually quit.”

His parents, though, decided that they weren’t going to let him quit, and told him that he had to finish the year.  Walton says ‘I couldn’t have him quit, so we made him play his first year out and once he got the hang of it, ‘cause he caught on real quick cause he’s an active kid.  I knew he was something special then.  That first year, I knew he was something special.’

The real reason they wouldn’t let him quit was their desire to keep their son safe.  Walton goes on to explain; “Detroit is a rough city.  It’s rough.  We all grew up in the roughest area, so you really had to be really, really close to your family.  Keep your kids, you know, out of all that stuff, ‘cause it was bad.  He went to summer camp, stayed all day at summer camp, he had football in the evenings.  When he got home, He was too tired to eat.  So, we just basically kept him busy.”

His mother adds, “so many traps out there.  A lot of guys out there are not good for these young men.  And I wasn’t going for that.  You know, I had to keep him busy instead of the streets keeping him busy.  If you stay out of trouble, which you can, it can’t get you.”

Their plan worked.  Brandon became a star at Detroit’s Crocket High School.  He went on to become an All-American at the University of Michigan and was then selected in the first round of the 2010 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.  His mom says, looking back on it all; “Football turned into something that I really did not expect.”

Graham realizes now that it was his parent’s love for him that kept him out of trouble and paved the way for the success that he enjoys today.  Graham and his wife, Carlyne, are parents now themselves.  He sees that his purpose now it to do for others what his parents first did for him.  One of his goals in life is to help youth stay out of trouble and focus on more constructive things.  He has a charity, Team Graham 55, which focuses on providing at risk youth with the opportunity to play football.  He also visits elementary and middle schools during the offseason, spending time with the children and reading to them.

Graham explained to the Increase; “I love kids. I just want to share my life with them so that they feel comfortable with me and then maybe the door will open for me to share my faith with them.  But I don’t want to push it on them; it’s all in God’s timing. I just want to change someone else’s life the way God changed mine.  I know a lot of people are watching me.  I want to use that for His glory. My favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11 which says, ‘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.’ Nobody is going to care for you like God cares for you.  No matter what happens, I know God is in my corner.”

Hebrews 13:7 says; ‘Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  That’s what Graham is doing with his Team Graham 55 charity.  He’s passing on to others the blessings his parents lovingly gave to him.  God urges all of us to consider the people who have blessed us, whether those were our parents, teachers, pastors, role models, and friends.  He urges us to consider how we saw those people emulate Christ in their lives and follow their example.

To read more about the Philadelphia Eagles and their Christian faith, check out Rob Maadi’s book, Birds of Pray, available on Amazon.

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