Dominic Roussel’s career as a professional hockey player has been full of bumps and detours.
by Heather Carroll
Like a drive on an Edmonton street in the springtime, Dominic Roussel’s career as a professional hockey player has been full of bumps and detours, as many off the ice as on.
Roussel’s latest bump has landed him in the lap of the Edmonton Oilers. He’s here to backup Tommy Salo, the Oilers’ star netminder. As the No. 2 man, Roussel may not see action for several games or even weeks at a time, yet he remains ready to step in and face 100 mph. slapshots at a moments notice — not an easy feat. But life hasn’t been easy for Roussel.
A native of Hull, Quebec, Roussel broke into the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1991. That season he backed up Ron Hextall, playing in 17 games and registering an impressive 2.60 average. He went on to play another 122 games for the Flyers, including 60 games during the 1993-94 season. As a result of a contract dispute in 1995 Roussel was sent to the Winnipeg Jets. His stay there was short lived. After playing in only seven games, he was sent to the minors. What started as a brilliant career had now turned sour.
“It was a really frustrating, hard time,” recalls Roussel, 31. “I wasn’t sure if I could make it back to the NHL or would even get a chance.”
During his two-year setback in the minors, Roussel had more than hockey on his mind. Compounding his on ice situation was the added stress of a serious family problem. Roussel’s father, and manager, had been caught skimming the hockey player’s income. What ensued was a struggle in and out of the courts, leaving the Roussel family divided and devastated.
“The only thing that got me through it was my faith in God,” admits Roussel.
Under heavy burdens Roussel turned to God for help.
“One night I went into my room with my Bible ... I knew I wasn’t coming out until I had some answers to my problems.”
At a time when he felt like he was drowning in turmoil God tossed him a lifeline.
“God showed me He was right there handling everything for me,” says Roussel. “He gave me peace. I remember telling God I would go anywhere He wanted me to go.”
Next stop: Team Canada. Not the high profile squad that captures the attention of this Nation. This was the semi-pro Team Canada that primarily played in obscure tournaments in Europe.
While it was a far cry from the NHL, Roussel was content to be wherever God wanted him to be. While on the team Roussel lead two young teammates to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. That alone made the experience special. So too, however, was his performance on the ice, earning him another shot at the NHL.
Seeing potential, the expansion Nashville Predators scooped up Roussel for the 1998-99 season. Things were looking hopeful again. But surprisingly, while at the Predators’ first training camp, Roussel was traded to Anaheim. Following two and a half seasons with the Mighty Ducks Roussel was hit with another surprise. The Ducks, wanting to make room for an up and coming netminder — J.S. Giguere — placed him on waivers. The Edmonton Oilers, spotting the solid backup the team was lacking, claimed him.
Edmonton. A new team; a new town. Each bump along the road has required Roussel to uproot himself, his wife, and three children, from what was starting to feel like home. While it might seem impossible to feel anchored with a life and career seem so uncontrollable, Roussel takes it all in stride.
“Knowing that God’s in control takes all the pressure off me,” comments Roussel. “Without God I wouldn’t be able to play NHL hockey. I’d be too stressed out.”
Roussel’s faith in God stems back to a defining moment in 1989. Ryan Walter, at the time a member of the Montreal Canadiens, invited a young Roussel, playing for Trois-Rivieres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to hear him speak — not about hockey, but about his personal relationship with Christ — at a Billy Graham Crusade in Montreal.
“I didn’t even know who Billy Graham was,” laughs Roussel. “I just wanted to hear Ryan speak. I wanted to find out about God and eternal life. Ryan talked and I listened. I knew that I needed God in my life.”
The decision Roussel made at the Crusade, to have a relationship with God, has given him peace and security and has helped to shape his professional and personal life. Now wanting to share God’s love with his teammates, Roussel is working towards setting up a chapel for the Oilers.
But God only knows how long he’ll be here. His contract with Edmonton is up at the end of the season. If he’s picked up again it will be to continue his career as the No. 2 man. Although few athletes are satisfied with second best, Roussel looks at his job differently than most.
“God has a different plan for everybody,” states Roussel. “I need to be the best I can be ... even as No. 2.”
And if God’s strategy doesn’t include the NHL?
“I trust whatever God has in store for me,” concludes Roussel. “I haven’t only read about God in the Bible ... I’ve seen proof of Him in my life.”
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