MAPLE RIDGE â€” For Jon Morrison, the pressure of being a hockey team’s last line of defence, and speaking in front of a congregation of more than 600 people mirror one another.
The hockey goaltenderturned-pastor is also a published author, with his recently written book Clear Minds Dirty Feet available on Amazon.
Morrison is one of the pastors at Maple Ridge Baptist Church. This past spring, he was hired by the church to be the primary teacher/preacher.
But his personal history in Maple Ridge dates back much further.
He played goal for the Junior B Ridge Meadows Flames during the 1998/99 season, before graduating to the B.C. Junior Hockey League (Junior A) ranks, tending the cage for the Surrey Eagles and Coquitlam Express, respectively.
His journey is no different than any other hockey playing kid in Canada.
"I’ve always wanted to be in the NHL," said Morrison, 33. "I dreamt of being the first Canuck to hoist the Stanley Cup."
Morrison’s junior career ended at 20, and that’s when he hung up the goaltender gear for good.
"My last game of junior was the last time I played goalie," he said. "I haven’t played goalie for 13 years."
Back then, Morrison was well aware of his limitations, especially in the BCHL: "I really wanted to play NCAA but God had different plans for me."
When fans watch junior hockey, they should realize that the majority of players aren’t going to make it all the way to the NHL, Morrison said.
"We end up (working) in banks, and in trades, or churches," Morrison said. "How many people think, ‘Oh that guy is going to end up as a pastor, one day.’ From goal pads to pastor is kind of an interesting route."
On the ice, Morrison had an opportunity to play with and against some elite players, especially with the Eagles and Express. The last junior player to score against him was former Vancouver Canuck Jeff Tambellini, then with the Chilliwack Chiefs.
Morrison became friends with former Express star David Jones, who now plays for the Calgary Flames.
It was in Grade 9 when church went from being boring to having a deeper meaning for Morrison."I started to ask the big questions like, ‘Why am I here?’ ‘What’s my purpose in life?’ ‘Is there a God?’ ‘What do I do with the science thing?’ ‘If there is a God, why is there so much suffering?’" Morrison said.
Those questions led Morrison to Oxford University in England, where he studied theology and philosophy for a year while playing forward for Oxford’s hockey team.
Looking back, Morrison said his strong faith during his hockey career had a somewhat polarizing effect on his teammates.
"Publicly, they (his teammates) would be hostile or perhaps they wouldn’t understand why it was important to me," Morrison said. "But privately, I would often get asked to come to the back of the bus to talk to guys if they had a crisis in their family, or even if they were wondering about scholarships or the pressures of hockey they would come and talk to me. It was kind of like I could be the pastor of the team."
God was a real source of strength for Morrison during those days he said, adding that he also "grew up a lot then, too."
"I think hockey molded me to be a pastor," Morrison said. "When you’re a goalie, like a pastor, you get a lot of attention â€” all of your mistakes get recorded, everyone has an opinion about you â€” and it prepared me for pressure situations, too. It develops character. Not all hockey players are going to make the NHL, but they’re learning life skills for wherever they end up as a career."
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times