Golden Knights forward Ryan Carpenter pauses in front of the team’s bench every game just before he leaves the ice after warmups to take a knee and say a quick prayer, a habit he picked up not long after he turned pro.
“I sometimes still get so nervous before games,” the 28-year-old said. “I just want to play so well. I think nerves are good, but it just gives me a peace and a calmness. Plus, it really puts the game in perspective. I’m just playing a game. It allows me to just have fun and give thanks to God just for the opportunity to be here.”
He wasn’t always so pious.
Carpenter, who has five goals and a career-high 15 points this season, was raised a Lutheran in Florida going to church on Sunday with his family and refining his hockey skills, but his life veered off course a bit when he moved away from home at age 16 in search of better competition in Michigan.
“When you’re on new teams, I think kids go through the different pressures of wanting to fit in and wanting approval rather than having the courage to stick up for what you believe in and what you think is right even if others make fun of you or whatever,” Carpenter said.
He would eventually move on to Bowling Green State University and started to find his way back on course when he and his teammates got into some trouble on the road.
One of his coaches challenged the busted players to go to church because, as Carpenter recalls, he figured they could use it.
Carpenter followed the advice and something about the service immediately clicked with him. He began attending more regularly along with weekly bible study and dedicated himself to living a more spiritual life.
Carpenter also discovered a chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization he still works with now. He shared his story at the FCA’s recent slam-dunk contest and 3-point shootout for local high school players before coaching opposite teammate Nick Holden in a celebrity basketball game.
“I hope other people can relate to (my story) and connect to it and be encouraged,” he said. “I never want to force it on people. Everyone has different beliefs and people have grown up different ways.”
Ryan Carpenter file
■ Age: 28
■ Hometown: Oviedo, Florida
■ Position: Forward
■ Shoots: Right
■ Ht./Wt.: 6-0/200
■ 2018-19 stats: 5 goals, 10 assists (minus-8)