Dan Ellis: Saving Grace
By Will Dawson
The 700 Club
When it comes to defending the net, Nashville Predators’ goalie Dan Ellis is one of the best. Like most boys in Canada, Dan grew up on the ice and had dreams of making it to the National Hockey League.
“I started to skate probably at the age of three,” Dan tells The 700 Club. “My dad was the head of the minor hockey association. He was up near the top so he was also in charge of rental goalie equipment and stuff like that. So I always had the pick of the litter for goaltending equipment. We won the championship three or four years in a row, and so we had a great squad.”
The success he had in the hockey rink was a welcome distraction to the turmoil he faced at home.
“There was a lot of fighting with my parents. In the midst of it, you do go through a great amount of hurt. You’re not sure why it’s happening. You’re not sure if it’s you; you’re not sure what it is. There was a lot of hurt back and forth, and my brother and I were in the middle of it.”
His parents divorced when Dan was 11, and as he entered his teens, Dan began making poor choices.
“When I was in high school, I kind of hung out with the wrong crowd, and I got into drugs every other weekend pretty much. I was getting high and drinking at a young age. When all your friends are doing it, you figure, why not give it a try. Shortly after that, though, things continued to slide. As my life was just kind of spiraling, hockey wasn’t going well and my grades weren’t going well. Obviously, the drugs and alcohol were having an effect on me in a number of areas in my life.”
As Dan’s life was falling apart, things at home were changing for the better. Dan’s father had become a Christian, and he saw that Dan was headed for trouble. So he sent him to a Christian hockey camp led by pro hockey player, Mel Stevens. A seed was planted there that would change Dan’s life.
“You would get up, go to breakfast, then you would go to the rink. Then you would have a short little Bible study with your camp leader. When he gave me a Bible, it had all the little questions you have in the Bible about who is God.”
At first Dan was skeptical, but he respected Mel and the other Christian hockey players. So he made up his mind to learn more about God.
“I would try to find Scripture verses that would help me in hockey, and that’s what created my awareness of it and made me gravitate towards the Bible and towards Christ. But as those things started to become answered, then you start to get deeper with a lot of your personal issues and with your parents and just your daily life.”
The more he studied his Bible, the more he realized following Christ was the only way.
“The other way of living wasn’t helping me in any way. It was maybe making me accepted with my friends but being accepted with your friends doesn’t really make your life work out. So as I continued to listen and apply those things to my life, I noticed big changes.”
Dan gradually gave up drugs. He committed his life to Jesus and was baptized.
“That was a moment where I really felt this is it. This is the way my life is going to be from now on.”
Although his life was back on track, Dan’s dreams of playing pro hockey seemed to be all but over.
“There was period in my life that there were no college scholarships, no major junior hockey that was accepting me. It was basically my last kick of the can. I went to Omaha, Nebraska, to play for the junior hockey team, the Lancers. I looked at it just as an opportunity just to go see the U.S. for free before I went and got a job. My dream I had of hockey pretty much felt like it was over with.”
To his surprise, that wasn’t the case.
“The season started out great. I got a scholarship within the first month of going to Omaha. When that season worked out, I started talking to some national hockey teams throughout the year, and I thought I might get drafted here.”
And that’s just what happened. Dan was picked in the 2000 NHL draft by the Dallas Stars. After three years in the minors, he made his NHL debut in 2004 and signed with Nashville in 2007. That season Dan had the highest save percentage in the league.
Along the road, Dan has faced his share of trials. But today, he’s focused on God, his source of strength.
“He’s the anchor. He’s the one you can hang on to with everything. He’s the only constant. With everything in life that changes and all the ups and downs, it’s nice to be able to hang onto one rock that’s not going to move. For Him to accept me as who I was and help me grow into someone who hopefully I can be whoever He wants me to be... It’s just neat to have someone who cares about you that much and who will help you in every situation.”
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