“He kept talking to me and trying to help me. And before you knew it, I couldn’t keep any of my junk in anymore. I didn’t need another coach in my life.

I was playing in the NHL and had the best coaches in the world. What I needed was a life coach, someone to help make sense of my life, why I was making the decisions I was making, and how to find freedom from them.”

– Tim Jackman, high school hockey coach and former NHL player.

In 2012, eight-year NHL veteran Tim joined the Calgary Flames and it was the best year of his career. “I was playing awesome. I was doing all things that the coach needed me to, that the fans wanted to see; everything was going really well. But away from the rink I was making some really poor choices and was full of fear.” It was the fear of not living up to expectations. “One night I got on my knees and prayed, ‘Lord if you’re real I need your help. I can’t do this anymore. I’m exhausted and tired. I need some help. Can you please take this away from me?” But nothing happened, or at least, not as far as Tim could tell. 

At the start of the following season, AIA Chaplain Rodd Sawatsky walked into the Calgary Flames locker room for the first time and started leading chapels. Tim started attending and soon Rodd invited him for coffee. Anxious and determined not to share anything with Rodd, Tim showed up. “Before you knew it, we kept meeting, and then he invited me over to his house for dinner. I met his family and playing games with his kids. He kept talking to me and trying to help me. Rodd explained Jesus knew all about my junk and loves and forgives me. I realized Christ was my hiding place, and I didn’t have to hide by fitting in. When I knew Christ already knew everything about me it removed my insecurity and fear. I didn’t have to carry that junk anymore.” 

In the years that followed Tim credits his success to his freedom in Christ, which gave him incredible joy when he played. It also allowed him to accept the end of his career without fear, and to look to what was next: finishing college and pursuing coaching. When friends pointed him to Christian Academy that was looking for a hockey coach Tim scoffed. “I remember calling Rodd laughing, ‘Can you imagine if I worked at a Christian school?! How bizarre would that be?!” 

God’s timing can be strange, and Tim still finds it difficult to believe where God has placed him. His life ten years ago certainly did not point him in a direction of godliness, peace, and joy. Today, however, he is modeling the redemption and freedom of Christ at that very same Christian Academy he first joked about. “As their coach, I get to point these young guys to the Saviour every day because I need one and I know they need one too. Currently, we’re disicpling forty-four young men. Many come for the hockey, but they’re hearing about Jesus and growing in their faith. It’s an amazing place!”

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2 NIV

Tim now calls Rodd when he is about to lead someone to Christ, when he isn’t sure how to reach a difficult player, or he just needs to talk. Rodd considers it a privilege to see the legacy of investment lived out. “Tim’s the kind of fruit that’s bearing fruit and that encourages me. There can be a temptation to focus on the next star athlete, but what we want is to invest in those that will multiply their faith. During this season of Covid, when it appears that my hands-on ministry is stunted, I can see that it is still ongoing because I mentored a reliable man who today is helping other young men find freedom in Jesus.”

-Athletes In Action