Testimony of Hockey Star Jinelle Siergiej: Bringing Christ to the Ice (1)
In just four short years, FCA Hockey has grown from a small, upstart sport-specific ministry to a flourishing international force.
Much of that can be credited to National Director Rick Randazzo, whose vision for the minis-try has spawned significant growth in summer camp participation, the addition of three staff members and multiple international mission trips, including a college team outreach to Turkey last year.
Randazzo also utilized his relationships within the hockey world to create the first FCA Hockey New Testament, which features stars like Mike Fisher, Matt Cullen and Dan Ellis. Also included are Olympic silver medalist Jinelle Siergiej and minor league hockey player Gary Steffes, both of whom are making a big difference in the youth hockey community.
A year before the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, former Wisconsin women's hockey star Jinelle Siergiej had shoulder surgery. With her arm in a sling, she told her mother she would never make Team USA unless God wanted her to be there.
"I was dead serious," Siergiej says. "It was going to take a miracle for me to be healthy enough to make that team. So when I made it, I just laughed because it was clear as day that God wanted me on that team. I wasn't there to be on the front of a magazine or to score all the goals. It wasn't like at Wisconsin where I was the leader. On the Olympic team, God wanted me for a different reason. It was to be a light in that very dark world."
Siergiej had come a long way since playing hockey with the boys at Northland Pines High School in her home state of Wisconsin. She was fortunate, however, that the women's college game was established enough for her to embrace the opportunity to play for the Badgers. There, she won two national championships and was named to the 2007 Frozen Four All-Tournament Team.
It might be hard to believe, but before gaining notoriety on the ice, Siergiej had to deal with some significant issues with confidence and self-worth.
"Growing up, I never felt like I was good enough," she explains. "I always had a competitive drive to work hard every day, but I was never confident in my hockey talent. And even when it came to being a high school girl, I didn't have confidence in how I looked. I always looked to my teammates or girlfriends for something I felt like I didn't have. I was jealous of the guys for their hockey talents, and jealous of the girls for their looks or boyfriends I didn't have."
Siergiej says, however, that her spiritual foundation at home ultimately allowed her to see herself through God's eyes, and a divine confidence gave her the strength to achieve great things.
Siergiej, a member of Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics
"Moving forward, I finally realized that God made me the way I am and that I am perfect just as I am," she says. "I started to not focus so much on what I didn't have but rather what I did have. I was a talented female athlete, and I succeeded in almost any sport I played. I went on to college and then to the Olympics realizing that I needed to focus on the gifts that God had given me and use them for Him. That was the turning point in my relationship with God and my playing career."
These days, Siergiej is doing her part to grow girls hockey in Wisconsin and beyond. She co-founded Crazy Eights Hockey with her sister and a close friend more than eight years ago and conducts summer hockey camps across the state. Siergiej also works with beginners from ages four to 50 through "learn to play" clinics, and coaches both a youth boys team and a high school girls team.
Self-described as a "rink rat," Siergiej takes advantage of her platform to create relational evangelism opportunities.
"I'm not one who has used traditional witnessing techniques," she says. "I just love on people and over time they get curious and ask questions about my faith. I want to help people learn hockey and develop a passion for hockey. Through that, I'm able to share bits and pieces of my story."
In the future, Siergiej hopes to partner more closely with FCA Hockey. One of her long-term goals is to host a Christian girls' hockey camp in Wisconsin, but she realizes it will take "baby steps" to get to that point. Randazzo is excited to see how that develops in the coming months and years.
"Jinelle's desire is to impact the hockey world by making hockey players better," Randazzo says. "She's blazing a new path in women's hockey. She's the only full-time missionary to that world that I know of. She has a heart to serve the hockey community and ultimately to share the love of Jesus Christ."
When she has the chance to open up about her faith, there is a specific message that natu-rally enters the conversation.
"God gave me the talent to play hockey," Siergiej says. "That's a gift from Him. I have a choice of what I want to do with that gift. My choice was to use that to reflect God's love to oth-ers. Through that choice, many doors have opened, and many doors have closed. Sacrifices have been made. But ultimately, He's put me where He's wanted me to be."