“He played almost ten years in the National Hockey League on seven teams. He has seven kids: six daughters and baby number seven is on the way… He has one wife, one God, one NHL All-Star Game MVP trophy from 2016. He’s written one book. It’s called A Guy Like Me: Fighting to Make the Cut… There is one movie coming out about his life… He’s the creator of two podcasts: Dropping the Gloves, which is related to hockey as you might’ve guessed, and also The Fight that Matters, which focuses on the Catholic life and Catholic manhood. He is hockey’s Cinderella Man.”
And his name is John Scott.
Cale hosted John on a segment of The Cale Clarke Show to talk about his stories of faith and perseverance from his time in the NHL and after he retired in 2016.
Cale began the conversation by juxtaposing the seemingly different aspects of John’s life. John played in the NHL as an “enforcer”, an unofficial position whose job it is to respond to opponents who play dirtily or violently. Their role is less focused on their skill as scorers or puck-handler and more on making a statement to the other team by either dropping the gloves or checking and hitting the opposing players.
When John first signed up with the New York Rangers, their general manager was Glen Sather and he said, “I want the toughest guy in the NHL,” to which John responded, “I’m that guy. I’m that guy.” John is 6’8” and weighed in around 260 lbs during his career, so he was certainly intimidating. Of the 43 fights in his career, he said he only “lost one clean” to Justin Johnson. All told, John totaled 624 career penalty minutes in his career.
Given that John was involved in such a violent career for a decade, you might be surprised to learn that John is now a devout Catholic who hosts a Catholic podcast, is a member of a Catholic business group, and three times a week, altar serves at the extraordinary form Latin Mass. In the Latin Mass, similar to a pre-game prayer, the server and the priest have a conversation in prayer. The priest expresses his hesitation to say the Mass because of his unworthiness and the server responds, encouraging him that the Lord is loving and forgiving.
Cale informed his listeners that John had converted to Catholicism in 2017, but had a near-death experience just two years later that rocked his spiritual life.
John used to live on a lake, and every winter, he would go to shovel off the lake so that they could skate and play hockey on the ice. One day, it was particularly sunny out, but it was very cold. So, John walked out to their dock in his boots, carrying a shovel. John got about five or six steps from his dock when all of a sudden, the ice gave out from under him, and he plummeted into the icy water. He lost his boots and the shovel in the water but shot directly back up.
He reached the surface in the exact spot he had fallen in, and he grasped the ice around him. Looking around, he spotted an ice fisherman and he called to him. No response. After a beat, John figured he would have to pull himself out. He managed to scramble out and onto the dock. His clothes were so cold from the water that he stripped them off before walking back to his house.
“Did that affect you spiritually, coming so close to death?” asked Cale.
“It almost solidified it because I was like, ‘Okay, if I would have died, where would I have gone?’ And you start to [think], ‘Was I good? Was I good? Okay, I have gone to confession. I have gone to Mass.’ And death will do that.” John talked about how people his age have started dying, whether it be from accidents, disease, or other unexpected factors. He’s only 39 years old, but God can call you home anytime. He wants to be ready.
“Are you right with the Lord?” John offered. “Are you going north or are you going south? What’s going to happen when you die?”
There’s no “cruising altitude” when you’re Catholic, as Cale said. It’s a constant battle to stay in the state of grace and reach heaven. Many people on the outside of professional sports looking in might guess that the famous athletes are happy because they’re making millions, but that’s hardly ever the case.
John recalled being in the NHL and hanging out with his idols in the locker room and on the rink. They were bigshots. They were living it up. But then the final horn would sound, the lights would go off, and everybody would go home. And out on the town or at dinner, John saw the “chinks in their armor”.
Many of John’s friends and peers from the league indulged in drugs and other vices, and several of them passed away prematurely from their habits. Three NHL players died from overdose and suicide in the 2011 offseason alone. A lot of these guys, though wealthy, were searching for happiness still and money could only buy distractions. At this point, John was going through his own growth with RCIA and preparing to enter the Church, and he thought to himself, “Man, these guys don’t have the Lord in their life. They don’t have God. They don’t have a rock to lean on.”
John went through his own difficulties while in the NHL, but credits his wife, Danielle, who was his rock. She was the Catholic influence in his life who led him to conversion and when he wanted to give up on hockey, John recalled, “The whole time she said, “No, they don’t have your best interests. Keep plugging along, keep chugging along and something good will come of this. God doesn’t put these opportunities in your life for no reason. And that was the reason I stuck… That was God working through her… If it was anybody else, I would’ve said, ‘Kick rocks, I’m not listening to you.’ But it was my wife. And we’re one flesh.”
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show on weekdays at 5pm CT