I Finally Found It—The Real Life!
Maclean’s, a prominent Canadian newsmagazine, reported in its November 13, 1978, sports section: “Tom Edur, at 23 years of age, had it all, the all-Canadian dream—women, money and a spot in the NHL. He was the highest scoring defenceman for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. He quit to recruit for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Denver.”
Six months later The Denver Post of June 14, 1979, featured a story about Edur, reporting: “Tom Edur, it seems, still hasn’t convinced everyone that his decision to retire from professional hockey at age 23 wasn’t just a temporary whim.
“The former defenseman for the Colorado Rockies and the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday was claimed from the Penguins by the Edmonton Oilers in the National Hockey League expansion draft. . . .
“Edur was in his second season with the Rockies when he was traded to Pittsburgh . . . He played the final 58 games that season with Pittsburgh, and compiled one of the best plus-minus ratios in the NHL before announcing he was giving up his estimated $92,000 yearly hockey salary and retiring from the game.”
What prompted Edur’s decision? What did he find that is so superior to big-time hockey? Let him explain:
I QUIT hockey—but not because I don’t love the game. I do. My dream had been to become a National Hockey League player. I can still remember when I was about ten years old and faithfully watching my favorite hockey team on TV. Sometimes, when their games were on radio, I’d fall asleep listening to them in bed.
I would play after school and late into the night—until the lights at the ice rink were finally turned off. Eventually, I was playing in Canada’s organized amateur leagues, steadily moving up. At 17 years of age, I had reached the top team, the Toronto Marlboros. In 1973 we won the most prestigious title in Canada for amateurs, the Memorial Cup, comparable to winning the Rose Bowl in American football.
Becoming a Professional
At about this same time, a second professional league, the World Hockey Association, was formed. In competition with the long-established National Hockey League, it was looking for good young players. The Cleveland Crusaders of the new league approached me. This broke precedent, for the older NHL had an agreement not to draft players before they were 20. So this was a teenager’s chance of a lifetime!
The Crusaders offered me $250,000 to play for them for three years, a lot of money in those days. For an 18-year-old, it was indeed an attractive offer! But, really, I loved the game so much I would have played for much less money.
So in July of 1973 I signed a three-year contract with the Cleveland Crusaders of the newly formed World Hockey Association. Part of my dream had become a reality—I was a professional hockey player! The “real life” I’d been seeking was about to begin. Soon I would be on the ice with some of the very hockey stars I used to watch on TV—the heroes of my childhood!
The Shock of Reality
Once I arrived at the team’s training camp, however, I was in for a shock. Here for the first time I saw what a professional hockey team’s “real life” was like. The first thing I learned was not about hockey but about which local drinking establishments to go to. True, when I was in the amateur leagues, we had got drunk a few times. Here, though, it was straight to a bar after practice or a game. I wasn’t old enough to do that legally, but since I was one of the players, I was allowed in.
Then there was the adultery committed by so many of the professional hockey players. That I just didn’t expect. Yet I soon came to accept it, figuring that it was all part of the “real life.” So I decided to be a real pro like them. How easy it was to change my views on these matters just to be accepted!
My first season went well—on and off the ice—or so I thought. However, my second season showed signs of the effects of off-ice activities. In fact, the last month of the season I was drunk every night for 30 days. My playing and my attitude really deteriorated.
The third season started off worse. I didn’t think I would even make the team. My roommate helped me with my attitude. He wasn’t a follower of the other guys; he was his own boss. This impressed me, and I began to control my life to a greater degree. I wasn’t as easily swayed by the fellows when they said, ‘Let’s go for a drink’ or, ‘Let’s find some women.’ My playing improved.
My contract with the Cleveland Crusaders ran out at the end of that year. I wanted to play in the long-established National Hockey League, but the NHL team that had my rights—the Boston Bruins—hadn’t offered enough money to satisfy me. As you can see, my attitude toward money had changed. My coach had found a job in the NHL and wanted me to play for his new team, the Colorado Rockies. I accepted.
Now I was really in the big leagues—the NHL! My childhood dream had been completely fulfilled. I would be on TV across Canada and receive more recognition. Now this was surely going to be the “real life”! In my personal life, there had been many changes as well. I’d followed through on the advice of a friend and in the off-season had taken a personal development course. This helped me to be somewhat more positive.
Thinking that I now had everything under control, I began my first season with the NHL. My drinking had been reduced considerably, and I was changing my view on immoral activities. Still, it was becoming increasingly unpleasant to see all the drunkenness and immorality going on around me, with the sad consequences of the broken marriages of teammates.
I began to wonder if I would ever be able to find a faithful wife and have a happy and trusting relationship. Didn’t anyone else think as I did about moral standards? For the time, I put that thinking aside and concentrated on playing hockey. This resulted in my best year as a pro up to that time.
Help From a Former Schoolmate
After the season was over in 1977, I returned home to Toronto when my grandmother died. With my new, positive attitude and self-reliance, I was most uncomfortable with all the crying and sorrowing that took place at the funeral. I felt: ‘My grandmother is supposed to be in a better place, according to what my relatives sincerely believe, so why this attitude toward death?’
Later that week I came across Liz, a former school friend. I explained my feelings to her. She told me that rather than rely on myself and a so-called positive attitude I should learn to rely on God and trust in him.
That struck me because my belief in God was negligible, even though I had been confirmed as a Lutheran when I was 16 years old. My reaction was: ‘You can’t trust God; you have to do it yourself. Money doesn’t fall out of the sky!’
Liz explained that she had just started to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. This meant nothing to me as I had never heard of the Witnesses. So she read to me some scriptures that, she said, Witnesses feel must be adhered to by all Christians. These included Ephesians 5:3-5; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; and Galatians 5:19-21, which show that fornication and adultery are works of the flesh that alienate a person from God and future life.
As soon as I heard these texts, I marveled because now I had found something to support my beliefs about standards for behavior—just what I wanted to hear! I didn’t have to rely only on myself anymore, but I had support from the Bible. ‘What better source is there?’ I reasoned. ‘It’s been around for thousands of years.’ And here there is a people actually trying to live by these same principles.
Liz gave me a Bible and the books The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, True Peace and Security—From What Source? and Is the Bible Really the Word of God? Within a month I had read all of them. Afterward I looked for Liz but couldn’t find her. I was desperate because I wanted to learn more. Then I remembered that she had said: “There is a place in Toronto where they print these books.”
So I looked up Jehovah’s Witnesses in the phone book and made arrangements to go to the offices of the Watch Tower Society. There I obtained all the pocket-size books that were available and headed north to go canoeing and to do some serious reading. I read all the books that summer, and they really had an impact on me. I reached the conclusion that Bible principles and professional hockey just don’t mix. On ice, there is often brutal, deliberate violence, and off ice an immoral life-style is common.—Matthew 22:39; Proverbs 10:23.
When returning to Toronto, I was able to contact Liz. I told her: “I know that what I have read is the truth. I feel I should quit hockey and teach these things to others.” She herself was only two weeks away from her baptism as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I was one week away from training camp, not really wanting to go. She directed me to the branch office of the Watch Tower Society in Toronto for some guidance.
A Decision to Make
I was really hoping that there they would immediately tell me to quit professional hockey. But they didn’t. Rather, they read some scriptures to help me see the need to make my own decision and to be sure I understood what I was doing. (Proverbs 21:5; 29:20) I could see I should study the Bible more before making a decision.
I headed back to Colorado to go to training camp. The first thing I did was look up Jehovah’s Witnesses in the phone book and make arrangements for them to study the Bible with me. Everything progressed well. My Bible knowledge was increasing, and my hockey playing was the best ever.
Suddenly, as happens so often in professional sports, I was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. My coach in Cleveland and Colorado had himself in the off-season gone to Pittsburgh and now traded for me. This was a forward move in my career as a hockey player, since Pittsburgh was a better, longer-established team, but it was a setback spiritually.
The setback did not last long, however. Again I looked up the Witnesses in the phone book and made arrangements for a Bible study. Here, though, it was a little more difficult to get away from the players to study, since for a while several of us lived together in the same hotel. It became easier, however, when I rented a house in the suburbs and had my own car to drive.
With the knowledge I was gaining, the hockey season was for me just a countdown. That didn’t mean that my playing suffered. I enjoyed my best season as one of the top scorers on the team, something viewed as very good for a defenseman. Yet in my heart I knew I was through with professional hockey. ‘Why waste my time, energy, and strength in such pursuits,’ I reasoned, ‘when I can serve Jehovah God?’
The season ended, and I made preparations to be baptized at the Montreal international convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in July 1978. So that I could get a taste of what the full-time ministry is like, the month before my baptism, I spent about 60 hours sharing my new beliefs with others. My prayers to God for help and training did not go unanswered. He showed me many things in that time and gave me training for future privileges as a full-time pioneer minister.
Efforts to Change My Mind
Things did not progress without pressures from well-meaning family members and others who thought that I was on the wrong road. I endeavored to explain my convictions to them and at the same time tried to help them spiritually. Yet they considered me foolish to give up fame and so much money. However, with Jehovah’s help I endured their criticism. In the meantime, I proposed to Liz, who had first sparked my interest in the Bible’s message. Two weeks after my baptism, we were married and were soon off to Colorado to serve as pioneers.
I had not yet told the hockey club about my new career. So in September, a week before training camp began, I announced to them that I was retiring. They were shocked. They went to great lengths to try to persuade me to return. Since I still had a year to go on my contract, they thought I was holding out for more money. They made an offer of an open contract—any amount of money I wanted. Wanting to be helpful, they also said that I could have Sundays off to pursue my religion.
But serving Jehovah, the Most High God, is not just a one-day-a-week affair. It is a way of life. Hockey is also a full-time career. You have to be dedicated to it, playing and practicing all the time. And now I was dedicated to Jehovah. (Matthew 16:24) To play as a professional and at the same time try to serve Jehovah would, I felt, be like having two masters—something or someone would be bound to suffer. So I let the team know I was quitting professional hockey.—Matthew 6:24.
Even four months later, when we visited Pittsburgh, the team tried to entice me back to playing. They offered me $20,000 to play two weekend games. This was a real test, as we were low on funds at the time. But I stuck to my decision and did not play. A little while later, my accountant informed us that one of our investments had sold. Thus we were able to look after our needs. Jehovah certainly provides if you stick close to him.
Enjoying the Real Life
What I had previously thought was the real life was not. I had reached the top in the hockey world, and what was there? Not contentment or happiness. No, the glamour and glory of the sports world is not the real life. While from the outside it may seem happy and rosy, inside there is generally extreme selfishness and no real direction or purpose in life.
This doesn’t mean that I changed career because hockey itself is a bad game. I enjoyed playing very much and still play on occasion for recreation. But “godly devotion” is more beneficial than “bodily training,” says the apostle Paul, “as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8) Yes, my present career offers something money and fame cannot buy—a precious relationship with Jehovah God, as well as his promised gift of the life to come, everlasting life!
How happy and thankful I am to Jehovah now to have a wife with the same mind and purpose that I have! After pioneering together for two years in the United States, we were invited in 1980 to share in the construction of the new branch facilities in Canada. Since the completion of the beautiful new home, office, and printery, we have remained here as permanent members of the branch staff.
Together Liz and I can serve the Most High God by pursuing, not “uncertain riches,” but, rather, spiritual interests so as to “get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19) Yes, I’m grateful I finally found it—“the real life”!—As told by Tom Edur.
[Picture on page 14]
When I was playing in the National Hockey League
[Picture on page 16]
Liz and I prepare together for Christian meetings and service