Summer 2024

Winnipeg star Mark Scheifele growing as leader as 'relationship with God' grows stronger

Last season was the first time in Mark Scheifele’s 10 full seasons in the NHL that the Winnipeg Jets center recorded more goals than assists. While Scheifele enjoyed his career-high 42 goals, he told Sports Spectrum in a recent interview that he entered last offseason with the goal of improving his passing.

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It seems to be paying off. Scheifele has already surpassed his 26 assists from last season in just 41 games, and he leads Winnipeg with 41 points (14 goals, 27 assists). He’s helped the Jets (30-11-4) to the top of the Central Division, as they’ve won 10 of their last 12 games.

They set a franchise record with their eighth straight win Jan. 11, but Scheifele unfortunately suffered a lower-body injury that night. Winnipeg has gone 2-2 in four games without him, and he’ll be a game-time decision for Wednesday’s game in Toronto (7 p.m. ET).

Scheifele, who recorded his 400th career assist Jan. 9, was drafted seventh overall by the Jets in 2011 and has spent his entire career with the team. After seeing action in just 11 games over the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, Scheifele played in 63 games in 2013-14 and has played in at least 60 games every season since. In that time, the 30-year old has taken on a key leadership role as Winnipeg has made the playoffs five of the past six seasons.

“It’s really important to me,” Scheifele said in the interview with Sports Spectrum when asked about his responsibilities as a leader. “I’m a guy who prides myself on the work that I put in day in and day out, so it’s something I definitely think about and understand the responsibility that comes with it. But it’s something that I think just motivates you every day to be your best and work your hardest and to continue to grow as a person and as a hockey player.”

Scheifele also serves as a spiritual leader for the team. He grew up in a Christian home and regularly attended church as a kid. Like many people, his faith journey included some ups and downs as he matured and pursued a professional hockey career.

“The older I got and moving away from home and a lot of different factors, my faith wasn’t where it is today and I definitely had my struggles,” he said. “I would say probably in the last four or five years I’ve really gotten more comfortable talking about my faith because I feel way more comfortable with my relationship with God and how much stronger my faith has gotten.”

He’s become a chapel leader and works with team chaplain Lorne Korol to organize times for players to meet and talk about God as well as what is happening in their lives. The Kitchener, Ontario, native sees a lot of similarities between his faith and hockey journeys.

“Nobody’s perfect and there’s times where I wish I did things differently, but I know I always have God there through the ups and the downs,” Scheifele said. “Praise Him when things are good and praise Him when things are bad. I feel so lucky that I was raised in a home where faith was important and it’s kind of like hockey. Hockey is always a game that you can always grow at. You can always hone your skills and learn more and grow as a player. And faith, it’s the same thing.”

If he stays healthy the rest of the season, Scheifele has a chance to reach the 80-point mark for the third time in his career. Yet, as he tries to lead the Jets back to the playoffs, his main goal is to live in a way that points people to God.

“I try to show my faith by the way that I live my life and the actions that I do as opposed to beating someone over the head with the Bible,” he said. “So, I think that’s something I always think about, is just try to live your best spiritual life each and every day and have people see a difference in me and that difference be God.”

After the Jets’ game Wednesday night in Toronto, the two teams will play again Saturday in Winnipeg, their last game before the NHL All-Star break.

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