Growing up on a farm in Senlac, a tiny town in Saskatchewan, Canada, Curtis lived and breathed hockey.
“I started playing hockey when I was 4 years old,” Curtis says. That year his father built a backyard skating rink. By the age of 5, Curtis was playing on an organized team.
Curtis did everything he could to reach his goal of playing professionally, practicing so much he probably could have laced his skates in his sleep. But during first grade, his dream was nearly sidelined when he began suffering asthma attacks.
“I’d run to my parents, wondering why I couldn’t breathe,” Curtis says. “I remember being rushed to the hospital on a few occasions.”
A doctor figured out Curtis’ asthma was triggered by allergies . . . and by exercise. That wasn’t too encouraging for a promising hockey player, but Curtis didn’t let it stop him from skating. “For some reason, the ice was where I felt best,” he says. “God was really watching over me, and I would play hockey whether I had asthma or not.”
When he was 15, Curtis signed a contract to play junior hockey in a larger town that offered a better chance to advance in the sport. But life outside the watchful eyes of parents wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
“I basically only made it home at Christmas and the end of the season,” Curtis says. “I made a lot of choices I wouldn’t do again.”
Though his relationship with God wasn’t on track, Curtis’ career was. At age 18, Curtis was selected by the Buffalo Sabres. But before he started playing full time in the NHL, Curtis was assigned a spot with the Rochester Americans, a minor league team.
“We ended up winning the championship,” Curtis says, “but more importantly, I met John Blue.” John was a goalie with Rochester and a dedicated Christian.
“God puts people in your life for certain reasons,” Curtis says. “John and I became buddies, and I began asking him a lot of questions about Christianity.”
John told Curtis that simply going to church and being a good person weren’t enough: Being a Christian would require a change of heart.
It took a while to sink in, but Curtis began to see that John was right. Meanwhile, Curtis reached his childhood dream—he’d been called up to play in the NHL. Although he had accomplished what he once considered life’s highest goal, he realized that Jesus offered much more. At the beginning of his second season with the Sabres, Curtis prayed to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior.
Clinging to Faith
Since then, Curtis has had a colorful hockey career. He’s played for the NHL’s Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks. He also played for Team Canada, and currently is a left wing for EHC Biehl in Switzerland.
Off the ice, Curtis and his family have experienced joy and heartache. While at home on a September morning in 2005, Curtis raced to his daughter’s crib after hearing a scream from his wife, Ami. Four-month-old Aubri had died during the night. Curtis prayed that God would bring her back, but He didn’t.
“With our faith in God, the support of our family and the devotion of friends, we made it through those darkest days,” Curtis writes.
In the aftermath of that tragedy, Curtis has been even more outspoken about his faith and encourages others about the importance of walking with Christ, even when life is difficult.
“Don’t treat Christianity as something you do once a week, or when you have time,” Curtis says. “Christianity needs to be your life.”