For a Junior hockey player, mentorship and connection to the community outside the locker room can be hard to come by. An unsung group which provides guidance to players in the BCHL are the team chaplains.
Kenny Toews, who served as the Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ chaplain for the past six seasons, is moving on to new opportunities in Victoria, but says his time providing mentorship and guidance for the Silverbacks was immensely rewarding.
Toews says every team in the BCHL has a chapel program administered through Hockey Ministries International (HMI), a group whose goal is to provide a spiritual perspective to life in sports. The Silverbacks have had a chapel program for 13 years.
Toews said his chapel sessions used the Bible as a textbook for leadership, mentorship and team building. He said every effort was made to accommodate players from non-Christian backgrounds in the chapel sessions.
“I’m not trying to twist their arm or get them to believe something they don’t. I’m using my own experiences in life and my own faith for the basis of a conversation about encouragement.”
According to Toews, his approach was successful in engaging the young hockey players; the non-mandatory chapel session received nearly 100 per cent attendance during his time with the ’Backs.
“That wouldn’t happen if the boys didn’t see some sort of value in coming together.”
The players wearing the Silverbacks’ jerseys for each of Toews’ six seasons with the team were unique but he feels he connected well with each year’s team. Toews spoke about one team in particular whose assistant captains regularly texted him with an inside scoop of what was going on with the team that week so he could address it in the chapel session.
Toews and his family are making the move to Victoria because his wife has accepted a job at UVIC and he is starting work as a construction site manager. He said he has enjoyed the opportunity to help guide Silverbacks players through life off the ice and will probably seek another community chaplaincy or mentorship opportunity in the future.
Kyle Reddemann, program director at Sunnybrae Bible Camp, will carry on the chapel program in Toews’ absence.
Toews was given a warm send-off by the team and the fans, when he was brought out to sing the national anthem at the team’s Jan. 19 home game.
“Every Tuesday we have our chapel program here and he impacts each one of these kids’ lives probably more than he ever knows,” said GM Troy Mick to the crowd at the game.
Toews received an autographed Silverbacks jersey with his name on it from Mick at the Jan. 19 game.
“What I always said at the end of my time with the boys is: My hope is you know how much we care about you, we meaning my church and the Christian community in Salmon Arm, and how much God cares about them,” Toews said.
“I think if we sensed that people cared about us we would walk with our heads held high no matter what came our way. That’s why we do it, because we care about the boys.”