Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin has been praised for his poise on the ice, for his unflappable play in pressure situations.
Slavin, one of the Canes’ steadiest players, appears to have an inner calm about him when he plays, and there’s a reason for that, he said.
“My hockey doesn’t define who I am,” he said. “My identity is not found in the game.”
Slavin is a young man of strong faith. He’s not pushy or outspoken about it, nor does he shy away from professing it.
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“I’m not rooted in the game of hockey,” he said. “I know hockey will end one day, but God is forever. It puts me at peace knowing God’s in control of every aspect of my life.”
Slavin, 22, grew up in a Christian family in Colorado and likes to reel off the names of his siblings: Justin, Jordan, Josiah and Jeremiah.
“Bible names,” Jaccob said, smiling.
Robert and Wendi Slavin also raised a family of hockey players. That’s includes Josiah, 17, a forward playing in the U.S. Hockey League; and Jordan, a sister who played defense at North Dakota and was called “a tough one” by Jaccob.
“Jaccob has always been a role mode for the family,” Wendi Slavin said. “He’s very grounded. He’s grounded in his faith and as a person.”
A lot of Sundays were spent at hockey rinks, but Jaccob said some Sundays also were spent in a non-denominational church, saying, “I don’t consider myself religious. I have faith in Christ.”
Slavin met his wife, Kylie, when he was playing hockey in Illinois. The two met through Twitter, their Christianity an instant bond, and were married in the summer of 2015.
This past summer, while most of the Canes players scattered, the Slavins spent much of the summer in Raleigh. They were active with their new friends, many from church.
Jaccob said he and Kylie are back and forth between two churches, attending Bay Leaf Baptist during the week and Southbridge Fellowship on Sundays.
Kylie Slavin helps with the children’s ministry at Southbridge Fellowship, Jaccob said. He tends to parking-lot duties at times, smiling and saying, “Put on the vest and everything.”
Sid Graham, the Hurricanes’ team chaplain, and his family have gotten to know Jaccob and Kylie well. Graham says Jaccob is like a “second son” and that their conversations are many.
“I don’t know him as a hockey player. I know him as a brother in Christ,” Graham said. “He’s the real deal. He’s a solid guy. For many pro athletes, their sport can become their life. But hockey is what Jaccob does, not who he is.”
Graham, who said he has worked with the Canes for five years, is affiliated with Hockey Ministries International, a Montreal-based organization that provides chapel programs for many professional teams and leagues.
Graham, 52, said he has counseled, been a listener and adviser, for several Hurricanes players. He said Canes coach Bill Peters has welcomed and encouraged his involvement with the team.
“Jaccob and I talk a lot about accountability,” Graham said. “We have a Savior who looks after us, and we have to look after each other. You have to hold yourself accountable that way.”
Among the Slavins’ church friends are Steve and Emily Madsen. Steve Madsen, 27, is the college and young adult pastor at Bay Leaf Baptist and heads up “Connect” on Wednesdays, a program for college students and young professionals that the Slavins attend when they can.
“It’s a one-year study, a walkthrough of the Bible, book by book,” Madsen said.
“Connect” also is about friends connecting with friends, talking, relaxing, Madsen said, and has allowed him time to see Slavin in a different setting.
“I’ve never seen a more mature person, for the situation he’s in as a pro athlete,” Madsen said. “He’s very genuine and very genuine about his faith. He’s the same person in the locker room as he is in church on Sunday. He’s authentic.”
Madsen said Slavin has professed his faith to some of his teammates, saying one player was “consumed” by the sport but was “blown away by the way Jaccob viewed it in the tiers of his life.”
On the ice, Slavin is all about the game. Averaging about 23 minutes per game in his second NHL season, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound D-man is second on the team in blocked shots with 55 – defensive partner Brett Pesce has 57 – and willing to give up the body to make a play.
A humble guy
In the Canes’ 1-0 victory last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena, Slavin had a team-high seven shots and blocked four shots. He has one goal this season and three in his career, but is 3-for-6 on career shootout attempts and has some crafty moves.
“He’s a humble guy not after fame,” Graham said. “He told me it would be OK that if I ever see him not being humble, I can be his ‘Dad’ in North Carolina and say, ‘We need to talk.’ ”
Slavin’s Twitter bio says “All Glory to God” and he often attaches the hashtag #AGTG to his tweets.
For Slavin, Galatians 1:10 is a verse he has taken to heart: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
“When he first got to the NHL and his nerves were maybe higher, he’d turn to that verse to helps calm his nerves,” Wendi Slavin said. “It’s good to see he still leans on that. He leans on his faith.”
That won’t change, Jaccob Slavin said.
“God has put me here on this team, with Carolina, for a reason,” he said. “I play every game 110 percent for Him and see what He brings out of it. It kind of gives me a peace, knowing that whether I play well or I play bad I’m still loved by God.”