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Behind the Game: Hockey Ministries International providing subtle off-ice spiritual support

Behind the Game: Hockey Ministries International and its importance in Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: Hockey Ministries International was created in 1977 by a former hockey player. It brings faith to the rink. In this week’s Behind the Game Quinn Phillips meets with Tim Wiebe and discuss a side of hockey that is very rarely talked about.

Tim Wiebe first learned about Hockey Ministries International when he attended one of its hockey camps when he was 12 years old.

During his playing days, he admits he struggled with balancing being a hockey player and following his Christian faith.

As he worked through that, he realized he wanted to help fellow hockey players do the same. It was in 2005 when he joined Hockey Ministries International as a volunteer chaplain. Now, he’s the Alberta director for the international organization.

READ MORE: Catholic masses in Alberta to resume as early as June 1

He works closest with the Alberta Junior Hockey League, seeking chaplains for each team. He also provides services for the WHL’s Oil Kings and minor hockey programs in the Alberta area.

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“We believe there’s a spiritual aspect to being an athlete that people tend to overlook,” Wiebe said, who added he works with players on a variety of issues from depression and other mental health concerns, as well as the pressures of being an elite athlete.

“As the demands on these players get higher, they’re looking for more and more answers in different areas, so we tend to fill that need for them.”

Wiebe and Hockey Ministries International were a big piece for junior hockey teams struggling with the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in 2018. That was a tragedy of massive scale, but Wiebe said often there’s life-changing evenings within teams that don’t get out to the public.

“A player’s grandmother dies, or a family member is diagnosed with cancer and [players ask] ‘How do they deal with that?'”

READ MORE: Family, leaders mark 2nd anniversary of tragic Humboldt Broncos bus crash

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For Wiebe, it’s an incredibly important job to connect with these players. But as a former athlete himself, his favourite part is the setting.

“For me just hanging out with the players after we do a chapel,” Wiebe said. “It’s almost like a locker room setting for me kind of reminiscent of being a player.

“I think if you talk to any retired player that’s what they miss the most — is just hanging out with the guys.”

Hockey Ministries International was created in 1977 by former hockey player Don Lismer.