Back to Top

Loving my Neighbour on the Rink

I had two favorite days growing up: Christmas and the day the NHL playoffs started. It used to be so much easier to love hockey and the more Don Cherry rock-em-sock-em the better. Then in the summer of 2011, three former NHL players died of apparent suicides. Post-mortem studies of two other former NHL fighters, Bob Probert and Reggie Flemming, showed brain damage. Science is showing a link between concussions sustained in hockey and permanent brain damage that can be severely mood altering and even fatal. The clinical condition is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which presents much the same as Alzheimer’s.

Christians are people who not only do not murder, but seek the good of our neighbors. We are people who do not recklessly endanger ourselves or others. Is it time to ask the question: should we continue to watch sports that seem to have inherent life-threatening risks? Is it okay to blindly root, root, root for the home team without much thought paid to the cost of health and life of the athletes?

What’s a fan to do? There is abundant evidence for the physical benefit of participation in sport and for the life lessons learned in sport. Watching a game can be fabulously entertaining and rally a whole community into tighter bonds. And besides, many athletes retire with sore knees but fabulously wealthy and with brains fully intact, not to mention that they know all the risks going in.

But all of this must be weighed alongside an unstoppable drift of Scripture: our faith is expressed publicly. You died to an old life, says the book of Colossians. You are raised up with Christ. The book of Galatians says that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. Ephesians says that we used to live gratifying our sinful nature, but by his great love for us, God made us alive in Christ. Jesus himself promised that what you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. There is no secret or separate place for one’s religion and another place for one’s hobbies and pastimes. Everything is public. Our decisions and actions have ripple effects far beyond our own immediate circles. Though the connections might be slim, we might be the causes of the effects felt by people downstream. We are connected to concussed athletes. By watching, by buying the caps and the jerseys, do we become complicit in an activity that is doing our neighbors great harm?

There is no such thing as a private relationship to Jesus. It’s personal, but not private. It is intimate, but publicly expressed. Every decision and action has ripple effects. Every decision and action makes an impact.

Full disclosure: I hope I’m wrong on this because I still love hockey. But what if I’m right?


[Photo: Flickr user s.yume]

The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.