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Piston’s Chaplain Helping Players Cope With Pettinger Injury

Courtesy of Steinbachonline.com

The chaplain of the Steinbach Pistons says the severe injury suffered by former Piston Braden Pettinger is affecting many people. Pettinger, now a member of the Portage Terriers, was paralysed in a game November 12th in a seemingly innocent hit. Pistons’ chaplain Mike Kehler, speaking the day after the Pistons’ game last Wednesday, says the impact of this incident is far reaching.

“(It affects) everybody who, not only plays the game, but watches the game, whether they’re a 10 year-old kid or they’re a billet family. I mean, I watched the game differently yesterday. You asked, did I notice them play differently? For me, watching every hit was different yesterday. The way Braden was injured was so innocent, just a rub and a skate getting stuck in the ice and falling forward and hitting yourself in the boards. It looked like, there’s been a lot worse and guys have just gotten up and walked away. Here this happens and he’s not walking away.”

Kehler notes a couple of players did not dress last Wednesday because they are still processing what happened to Pettinger. As a chaplain, he says his role is firstly to listen to the players.

“And guys have a tendency not to say a whole lot, they internalize a lot which isn’t always healthy either, in fact, I know it’s not healthy. Then it’s trying to figure out: Is it okay to say what I’m thinking? Is it okay to express and who do I express that to? And, we did it at chapel and a bunch of guys expressed some of the things they’d been thinking and how Braden might be feeling. Some of them related some past experiences that they’d gone through and they just need a chance to talk that out.”

Kehler says he is also drawing on his experiences as a junior hockey player, when situations left him feeling vulnerable.

“Nothing could fill that except, in my case, finding God and allowing him to carry the good, the bad, all of the emotions, whether that was anger, whether that was joy and just saying, Lord, I can’t handle this thing and I need somebody to walk with me. And, that gives me an opportunity to say, you know what, God doesn’t push you to have a relationship. He wants one. Life throws curves, life happens and I’m there to offer joy and peace and comfort and strength to get through those kinds of times. It’s not always about advice. And, I told the guys on Tuesday, I’ve had a heavy heart and some of this I cannot explain and I don’t know why and I don’t know if I will.”

Kehler says, at last word, Braden has very little or no feeling below his shoulders and the players are starting to wonder things like whether he’ll be able to get a job or get married or will he have kids, all of things we normally expect in life. Then they realize that they are playing the same game and Kehler says that realization can be life changing.