Our newest Play4Him featured athlete is part of one of the best teams in the National Hockey League, the San Jose Sharks. While establishing himself as a top prospect in the organization, Ryan Carpenter has contributed on the ice and most importantly, in the community. He's been an American Hockey League All-Star and, in 2016, was named as the AHL's Man of the Year for his outstanding contributions to the local community and charitable organizations. Ryan has been the hands and feet of Christ throughout his early career in professional sports and sets a example of how athletes can use their platform to make God known. We caught up with Ryan to chat about his foundation in Christ and how that has transformed him into the athlete and man of God he is today.
When did you personally accept Jesus Christ as your Savior?
I grew up in a Lutheran church and was confirmed at 13 years old. That being said, my faith never became my own until I was a Freshman in college. I was carrying around so much guilt and shame for things in my past. I confessed a lot of my past to a pastor of the campus church and he told me that God still loves me, he forgives me, and God can still use me. I had heard that so many times growing up in church, but when the pastor told me that, it was like fresh water to someone dying of thirst. It gave me hope and experiencing that forgiveness changed me from the inside to where I wanted to live a life that honors Jesus.
Do you have a specific verse or passage you live by?
Two verses come to mind:
What is the most rewarding part of being a Christian professional athlete?
Just being able to play hockey for my job is a dream come true. Ever since I was little I wanted to play pro hockey and eventually in the NHL. I still feel like a really big kid when I go to the rink everyday. That being said, having a relationship with Jesus has given me a different perspective on being a pro athlete. I really enjoy getting to share my life story to younger athletes to offer hope and encourage them to use their talents and platforms to make an eternal difference.
Here's a funny question...What biblical character do you think would be the best hockey player and why?
King David just because that man was a fierce warrior.
How have you grown spiritually since becoming a professional athlete?
My spiritual growth has been a slow, steady process with a lot of different seasons. The one approach I try to stick to comes from 1 Timothy 4:7 talking about training for godliness. It’s important for me to have my alone time with Jesus for prayer and Bible study, to have fellowship with other believers, and be on mission in whatever city/team I’m playing for. Up, In, and Out. When there is a balance of those three things in my life, I find myself growing the most spiritually and feel like I’m abiding in Christ the most.
Do you have conversations with non-Christians on your team about your faith very often? If so, how have you seen God work in those conversations?
Just depends on the teammate. Guys know where I stand on certain issues just from being with the Sharks organization for three years. They see me every day so I hope my character and the way I live my life and the joy that Jesus gives me speaks for itself. I also believe that eternity is written on everyone’s hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and so everyone is interested in spiritual matters to some degree. I try my best to avoid forcing conversations about my faith as that can push someone away and make our relationship feel awkward. I don’t want to come across as a salesman, but I’m also not ashamed for what I believe. Also, people want to know that you care about them before they will probably open up to you about deeper stuff.
In college, a teammate gave his life to Jesus and got baptized my junior year. It all happened during a time when I had back-to-back injuries and I missed half the hockey season. Over time, he would ask more and more questions and that gave me the chance to share what Christ has done and is doing in my life. We are still really close friends to this day.
As a Christian, how do you think you can make the biggest impact on your team?
I think the biggest impact I could make is an eternal one which would be to point someone to Jesus.
Who have you seen exemplify Christ best in your life?
Probably my wife Alexis. Being married you learn quickly how selfish and self centered you are. So many times I have had to ask for forgiveness and grace and she shows me that. Her love for me is a committed, uncoditional type of love, not just based on a feeling, and that’s the same love Jesus has for us.
Finally, what does Play4Him mean to you?
It’s so cool to see Play4Him connect athletes to fans and athletes of all ages. It always inspires me when I hear about what God has done and is doing in the life of others and how faith impacts our sports and the way we play the game.
We want to thank Ryan for taking the time to chat with us while the regular season is winding down and the Sharks are looking to make another Stanley Cup run. If you would like to keep up with Ryan, you can follow him on social media @CarpyDueces