Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson is well known for his aggressiveness on the ice. His physicality has helped his team more times than one can count.
But on the flip side, injuries are more common. He played in only 23 games this past season, at one point missing nearly six weeks because of a strained oblique muscle he suffered during an on-ice fight. Injuries have been a battle for Manson the past two seasons.
As a Christian, Manson also grapples with reconciling love for someone with the aggressiveness of hockey. In a sport predicated on violence and intimidation, it is not always easy to show love to opponents.
“Its been a weird transition for me,” Manson said on the Sport Spectrum Podcast in December, right before the 2021 season kicked off. “I’ve really tried to watch my mouth first and foremost and the things I say with my mouth. My actions — OK, if I need to fight, it’s part of my game and who I am, but I’ve really been trying to watch what I say and keeping that pure the best I can.”
That’s part of the journey the 29-year-old Manson has been on since giving his life to Christ four years ago.
“I’m not at the point I want to be and I don’t know if anybody is, truly, but I have a lot of learning and growing left to do in my journey and I can say that honestly,” Manson said.
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) June 8, 2021
Manson did not grow up in a Christian household, but he did grow up in a hockey home. His father, Dave, played in the NHL as a defenseman for 16 years with several teams. Josh just finished his seventh NHL season, all of which have been with the Ducks, who selected him in the sixth round of the 2011 NHL Draft. Throughout his time as a pro, he has scored 22 goals and accumulated a total of 104 points.
While hockey always played a part in Josh’s life, church did not. He says he did not even know anything about Jesus.
“I didn’t believe it was real,” Manson said. “I had grown up not putting much thought in. I just thought, ‘There’s no way this could be true.'”
This began to change four years ago when Josh met a Christian girl, Julie, who would eventually become his wife. As they began to talk, she made it clear that her relationship with Christ was the highest priority of her life.
“If you want to be with me, this is a part that comes with me and this is a huge part of my life: the spirituality, loving Jesus,” Josh remembered her telling him.
Through his relationship with Julie, as well as reading books like “A Case for Christ” and “More than a Carpenter,” Manson’s heart was softened to the Gospel, and he accepted Christ.
“When I got to the end of [‘A Case for Christ’], it made sense to me a lot more than it had before and that made my decision very easy to give my life over to Christ,” Manson said.
One thing that gravitated Manson to the Gospel was the kindness he saw from Christians.
“I went to church with (my wife and in-laws) and I had never really been to church before and all the people there were so accepting and so nice,” Manson said. “I was like, ‘These are the kind of people that I want to surround myself with. These are the type of people that I can tell they care about you, they care about what’s happening in your life. They want to get to know you’ … I knew that was the type of person I wanted to be like and if Jesus was the answer, if this is what made people like this, then that’s the path I want to go down.”
As he continues to grow in his faith, Manson says he looks to older believers for guidance.
“You want to talk to people who have been down the road for so long,” Manson said. “They’ve been walking with the Lord for 40 years, ask them a question because I guarantee they went through what you’re going through right now at some point in their life.”
Manson’s faith also allowed him keep things in perspective as the NHL battled the COVID-19 pandemic. While others were upset the 2020 season was cut short, Manson saw it as a blessing because he could spend more time with his newborn daughter, Gemma Grace, who was born in April 2020.
“What a blessing not having hockey but having all this time to spend with my daughter in these formidable years,” Manson said.
He also, unfortunately, had more time at home recently due to injuries. While he was able to recover and rejoin the Ducks as they finished out a disappointing 17-30-9 season, Manson will use this offseason with his family to rest and prepare for next season. He and the Ducks hope to get back into the playoffs after missing out the past three years.
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