Hockey player tough in pursuing goals

As a 16-year-old hockey player in Edmonton, Alberta, Brent Peterson would occasionally come home at 2 a.m. after a hockey game, and then get up about 5:30 a.m. to go to seminary.

That dedication to gospel standards is typical of Peterson, acquaintances say, and has given him a sense of perspective while pursuing a professional hockey career. He admits that proper attitude is essential in all of life's aspects as well as in sports.Currently a defenseman for the Hartford (Conn.) Whalers, Peterson may be the only active Latter-day Saint playing in the National Hockey League.

The Whalers are currently competing in the NHL playoffs.

A 10-year veteran from Calgary, Alberta, Peterson is a strong family man, and a dedicated home teacher in the Hartford 2nd Ward.

"I give a lot of credit to my wife, Tami," he said. "On weeks I'm out of town, she gets the children Ryan, 8; Bradley, 5; Kristin, 1T ready and takes them to Church."

In the off-season, the Petersons live in the Oakhills (Ore.) Ward near Portland. Don Springer, first counselor in the bishopric, said Peterson has had a big influence on a family that was recently reactivated. It was Peterson who persuaded the father of the family to play softball on the ward team. That association led to the man returning to Church.

Bishop Andrea E. Varini of the Hartford 2nd Ward said Peterson is a big asset to the ward because he's a prominent figure who's willing to participate and contribute to the ward.

"Whenever he can, he works with the youths," said Bishop Varini. "He's a good influence. He speaks at firesides for youths."

Peterson shares a similar message with the LDS young people and the school children to whom he talks. "I relate experiences that help youths cope with peer pressure," he explained. "One of the things I emphasize when speaking at the inner city schools is how to say no to drugs. You don't have to do the things they do."

It's a subject Peterson lives well. Since he was young, he has played on competitive hockey teams, especially on the pro level, where he has been the only Latter-day Saint.

His father, Pres. Ronald M. Peterson, first counselor in the Calgary Alberta South Stake, said his son has always been an excellent athlete. But, more important, Brent was always obedient.

His dedication to seminary attendance occurred while he was boarding with a family in Edmonton after being recruited to play hockey while finishing high school there, his father recalled. His parents' decision to let him go to Edmonton was reached only after earnest deliberation.

"It's a serious thing to let your oldest son move away," Pres. Peterson reflected. "But Brent wanted to go. He was always mature for his age. We gave the decision a considerable amount of thought and prayer."

After going to Edmonton and finding an LDS family with whom Brent could board, his parents gave their consent. But there were conditions. Brent had to attend Sunday meetings, keep his grades up and go to early-morning seminary.

Brent's hockey career blossomed, and he was drafted 12th in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings in 1978. But his career in Detroit was slowed by two broken legs in his first two years. He was traded to Buffalo, where he developed as a solid defensive player. Later, he played in Vancouver, British Columbia, before being traded to Hartford.

"This might be my last year," Peterson said. "So many young players are in the game now. One of my line mates is 19. I've played long enough.

"It has been a great experience," he continued. "I learned a lot about life. Players don't have to be great talents to make it; it's just how hard they work. Hard work, personality and your attitude toward people determines how successful you are. Talent is great, but it is really attitude and the right work ethic. It's true in sports, business and in the Church."