When the Portland Winterhawks knocked the Kamloops Blazers out of the playoffs in game 5 of the Western Conference final, Tyler Hansen practically knew that was his last game in the Western Hockey League.
“I pretty much made up my mind by then that I won't come back next year,” says Hansen. “It was tough to go out like that. I really wanted to win a championship with the Blazers.”
About two weeks later, Hansen has officially decided he is going to embark on a two-year Christian mission starting in July rather than returning to Kamloops next year for his 20-year-old season.
“It was a tough decision,” says Hansen, who is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints. “I thought about it all year long. Going on one of these missions is something I have wanted to do for a while. But I’ve also really enjoyed my time with the Blazers organization. They have treated me really well and I’ve really developed a love for the game in Kamloops.”
In a sense, Hansen’s decision is also a way of him showing his faith stands ahead of hockey on his priorities list.
“You could say It’s showing what’s the most important thing in my life,” he says. “My religion is very important to me. I guess for the people that don’t know me, it shows that it is above hockey in my life.”
On the mission, Hansen will be traveling to overseas counties to spread his beliefs.
“The mission is based on sharing our religion with other people who haven’t heard it,” says the 20-year-old. “At the end of July, it will start in Argentina. I’m going to be learning Spanish and will preach the gospel in Spanish. Learning other languages will help us reach out to people who don’t know English.”
Although the church does call its members to do a mission, this is a personal decision for Hansen.
“When you turn 18, the church hopes you go on a mission to spread the gospel,” says the Magrath, Alta., native. “This is my decision, though. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while. And I just think the timing is right with some of my friends going.”
In a society that puts so much emphasis on money, fame, and sports, it is inspiring to see a young man go against the grain. Hansen is doing what he thinks is right no matter how unpopular his peers and the world’s hockey critics perceive his decision.
“People will always judge and be critical if they don’t understand the way you live,” says Hansen, who racked up seven goals and 64 points in 254 games in four years on the Blazers’ back end. “But I’m doing what I think I’m supposed to do and what is right for me. I think it’s important not to get caught up in the world. That's the way I want to live my life."
While playing for the Blazers, Hansen didn’t have any issues with being around people who have a variety of different views on life and lifestyles. In fact, he was blown away by how the team accepted him for who he is.
“As soon as I showed up in Kamloops, I told them about my views and they accepted me,” he says. “The team and the players were always very good to me. I never had any problems with people. Like I use to still go to parties and stuff, but I didn’t drink, and the team accepted that I don’t drink and if someone who didn’t know me tried to get me to drink, the team would stick up for me and tell the guy I don’t drink.”
Just because Hansen is putting the skates away for now, doesn’t mean he won’t return to the game. The 6-foot-3, 202-pounder believes there is a strong chance he will be back on the ice one day at the CIS level.
“I’ve already talked to some people about the University of Lethbridge,” he says. “I definitely think there is a good shot I will play CIS down the road. I still love hockey and don’t want to completely leave it just yet.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen