An Olympic ice hockey player has opened up about his experience with injury, revealing that he was drawn closer to Jesus through his worst career setbacks. Harvard-educated Noah Welch had just signed a lucrative two-year contract with the NHL’s Florida Panthers when disaster struck. Just five games into the season, Welch got into a brutal fight, dislocating his shoulder in the process. His season has barely just begun, but it was all over in the blink of an eye.
A devastated Welch turned to Christ for comfort, realizing that he had become somewhat obsessed with this sport – it had become the place from which he derived meaning and identity. “At that point in my life, hockey was one of many idols that I had, and probably my main one,” Welch explained, as reported by Baptist Press.
Despite the obvious unhealthy in placing so much value on an earthly pursuit, Welch revealed how the Lord was kind and gracious in the way transformed his heart through this challenging time.
“I didn’t realize it, but God was using this circumstance to draw me to Him. He took the biggest opportunity that I’ve ever had in my hockey career, and just took it right away from me,” Welch said. “He pretty much smashed the idol of hockey.”
“For this,” Welch added, “I am grateful.”
Despite his devastating injury, Welch insists that this event changed his whole perspective regarding his career as a professional hockey player. Now, as he takes to the ice in South Korea, he can do so with a greater freedom of spirit.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing for Welch, however, who is currently playing for Swedish team, the Växjö Lakers. Back in the early days of his career, after being signed by Pittsburgh, he struggled to gain any decent time on the ice. He remembers pleading with the Lord for more of a chance to prove himself as a capable player – at the time, Welch believed that excelling as a pro would bring him happiness and fulfillment. But it went from bad to worse.
Just as things were looking up following a move to Florida, Welch was knocked down once again through that horrific injury.
It was at this pivotal moment Welch was invited to church. That day, everything changed. “That was the day that I realized there was no chance I could stand before a holy and righteous God on my own as a sinful man, and accepted Jesus as my Savior, and believed in who He claimed to be and what He did for me,” Welch said. “I would say that’s the day that I became Christian.”
The biggest shift in Welch? His outlook, and his renewed ability to place hockey in healthy perspective in relation to his faith.
“I have the proper worldview now of what hockey is,” he said. “Hockey is just a game. It’s a great game. I love it. Before [surrendering to Christ], it was more of something that identified me. My identity as a human, as a man came from being a hockey player.”
Now, Welch is convinced that God ordained his challenging circumstances in order to teach him some valuable life lessons and to increase his trust in the infallible plan of the Lord for his life.
“I believe God is sovereign, and I don’t completely understand how He does it, but He does,” Welch said. “I still work hard and with joy, praying that His will be done. And there’s a peace in that.”