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Beliefs help Duck trio handle life in the NHL
Wed. Dec. 30, 1998. By Ken Campbell, Toronto Star Sports Reporter.

As Jim McKenzie and Stu Grimson peel their equipment off after practice, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks enforcers are plotting each other's demise.

McKenzie strikes first. ``Here's a headline for you,'' he says to a reporter. ``Stu Grimson practises voodoo.''

``Don't you be spreading that around, I'll be the black sheep of the ministry,'' Grimson says. ``Even more than I am already.''

It would be trite to say that Grimson doesn't fit the profile of a Christian athlete, but as is the case with almost every player who beats up others for a living, the gap between the private person and the public player couldn't be more immense. Grimson, 33, talks of his faith in God with the same passion with which he approaches the game.

And on the Ducks, who face the Leafs tonight, he's not alone. Defenceman Kevin Haller, 28, and goalie Dominic Roussel, 28, are also devout Christians. Both Grimson and Roussel found their faith in their 20s, while Haller grew up in a devout Baptist family in Trochu, Alta.

Call them hockey's God Squad. Every Wednesday morning, the three players congregate with the team chaplain at a chapel at the Arrowhead Pond for prayer, reflection and Bible study.

``It gives us a chance to listen to a message that's inspirational and insightful and always Biblical-based,'' Grimson says. ``For those of us who put a great emphasis on our spirituality, it's a great opportunity to come together right in our work environment.''

The NHL is not exactly the kind of workplace that lends itself well to those who have a deep faith in their higher power. But for Grimson, the proud owner of 1,600 career penalty minutes, it was hockey that led him to Christianity. But how does he reconcile his faith and his role in hockey? It doesn't bother him in the least now, but early in his career he struggled with what he was being asked to do.

``In my late teens and early 20s, pro hockey really intimidated me,'' he said. ``It got to the point where I was making decisions in poor judgment and I was reckless. It was frustrating. A lot of these decisions that lead you down the wrong path or wind you up in court or with a lousy hangover, these things left me feeling empty.

``So I went off on a search and started to read about guys like Mike Gartner and Laurie Boschman who were coping with these same intimidations and were going on to enjoy peace in their life through Jesus Christ. It was through their testimony that I made my decision.''