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Flying high in Nashville

03/16/2017, 8:00am MDT
By Dave Pond

For the last two years, members of Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, have spent their Sunday nights gathered together for fun and fellowship.

It’s a scene played out by many church families across the nation although, in most cases, getting “dressed up” involves a completely different type of sweater – and definitely doesn’t include skates, pads and helmets.

Although the Phoenix Flyers hockey team came together just two seasons ago, hundreds of friends and church members-turned-fans pack Ford Ice Center – home of the NHL’s Nashville Predators Amateur Hockey Association – for every Flyers game.

Remnant defenseman Steve Smith, armed with more than 40 years of playing experience, saw the opportunity to form the Flyers after learning that a few younger Remnant churchgoers played on a team together.

“I thought this could be my longtime answer to a prayer,” Smith said. “In the past, I had told myself that I wouldn’t play on a team again unless it was with my brothers in Christ, as they’d help keep me grounded and help me keep the game in perspective – as it’s just that, a game.”

Non-hockey-playing members of the Remnant church family have gone far beyond just cheering for their friends – the Flyers have held pre-game food-truck parties outside Ford Ice Center. Meanwhile, inside, a Remnant pep band and the team’s mascot, Ash, help keep the crowd pumped.

“Most of the pep band members are teenagers, and many of the players on our team have watched them grow up or grew up alongside them,” Smith said. “It’s a blessing that our kids want to be around us, and often bring their friends along as well. I mean, really, how many teens do you know that willingly give up their Sunday nights to play in a pep band for adult hockey?” 

Beyond a common love for the sport, Ford Ice league play has given the Flyers a chance to get to know their opponents as well, whether that’s before, during or after games.

“My hope is that the way we play on the ice and conduct ourselves throughout the season reflects our faith,” Smith said. “No matter the situation, we’re looking for God's lead and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know the other players.

“It's been great to get to know guys in the Nashville area that we wouldn't have otherwise met.”

Ford Ice’s partnership with the Predators allows Ford Ice teams a handful of additional benefits to increase Nashville-area community involvement in the sport, even down to the simplest of social levels – providing teams with post-game pitchers, Predators discounts and end-of-season gifts.

But overall, said Flyers co-captain Brent “BB” Barcus, playing in the Ford Ice league has brought even greater gifting to Remnant team members. On the Flyers, fathers skate side-by-side with sons and, for four team members, including the team’s coach (Larry Sims) go by another name: grandpa.

Spiritually and literally, hockey’s become a family affair for Remnant Fellowship Church. But, regardless of the Flyers’ win-loss record, or how long the team will continue to take the ice, the Flyers will continue to skate with a singular purpose.

“We have a very strong sense of community at Remnant Fellowship Church, and so it is very easy for that bond of community to carry over to hockey,” Barcus said. “On a practical level, I think one of the biggest things we’ve learned as a team and through our church is trusting in how even game decisions play out by God through the authorities – whether that means league decisions or a referee’s call on the ice.

“We’re constantly learning that how we respond, with full respect for authority and without getting bent out of shape about something, is huge,” he continued. “Our shared goal is that every one has a relationship with God, and we know that how we carry ourselves even in a community hockey game is a reflection of who we are.”

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