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Steve Kearns - Chaplain for the Tiger-Cats and Raptors
He Knows the Playbook and the Prayer book

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Sao Luiz is a small city 200 miles to the northwest of Sao Paulo Brazil. To say that the people of Sao Luiz love their football would be a huge understatement. They live for their football and their pride is well founded. With five titles, Brazil is the most successful World Cup team and also the only nation to have participated in every World Cup tournament final round.

Steve and Dan Kearns were no different than any other boys growing up in Brazil, passionate about watching and playing the national game. Their parents were Christian missionaries working in Sao Luiz in the 1950's. When the family moved back to Canada, Steve and his brother were already excellent soccer players and were quickly welcomed to the team at the high school in Scarborough. During their time at high school, the brothers were encouraged to try out for the "other football" team and they both loved it.

After graduating high school, Steve accepted a scholarship from Liberty University — a Bible college in Virginia. Here he had to learn football all over again — for the third time! This time it was American style four down football. He adapted and become the University's Slotback.

At the same time Steve's brother Dan was continuing his education — and honing his skills as a defensive lineman at Simon Fraser University in B.C.

The brothers finished university and both were drafted by CFL Teams. Steve played for six years in the CFL with the BC Lions and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Dan's career was with the Edmonton Eskimos which meant they played against each other several times. Steve says those matchups are some of his best memories of playing in the CFL.

Steve came ever so close to a Grey Cup win. In 1984 while with the Hamilton, the Ticats faced Winnipeg in the Grey Cup game. The Ticats were leading 14-3 in the 1st quarter but ending up on the wrong side of the 47-17 ending score.

Before the 1986 season Steve decided it was time to hang up the cleats and move on to continue God's work in a new role, well, almost new! Steve joined the staff at Athletes in Action (AIA) Canada, a ministry division of Power to Change that focuses on the domain of sport.

Through his responsibilities at AIA, Steve serves as the Chaplain for the Hamilton Ticats as well as "co-Chaplain" for Toronto Raptors of the NBA. He shares the Raptors duties with Herbie Kuhn, the Raptors’ public address announcer.

In reality, his Ticats Chaplaincy was in the works before Steve's retirement …he just didn't know it! While playing for Hamilton he met Gord Barwell, a former-Saskatchewan Roughrider, and the Ticats' team Chaplain. They became great friends and they continued to be close when Steve retired from the team. Soon after his retirement Barwell died unexpectedly so Steve took over as the Chaplain to the Ticats (and the Argos which he did for 21 years!).

Steve has not been in a Ticats uniform for 27 years but he still looks like he could take the field and play like the best of them — his shaven head and powerful build makes him appear ready for the call from the coach.

Steve describes two very different scenes of his work place and the atmosphere at the Air Canada Centre and Ivor Wynne Stadium.

"There is no comparison between the two. The access to the facility and access to the players is so different. At Ivor Wynne I come and go as I please and I have complete access. It is a very relaxed and informal atmosphere. As long as it is not game time or practice time, I can spend time with the guys in a group or individually depending on their needs. We have our regular prayer time but also I am available for any of the guys just to talk or for an individual prayer session."

"When a player is new to the city or he is worried about being traded or whatever the situation they are going through, they know I can relate as I have been there. I remind them that we must thank God for giving us the talent and abilities to play this game at a professional level and to trust in Him to lead us, even though the difficult times."

The NBA setting is very different. "Years ago we had a room that was designated as the Chapel at the Air Canada Centre where Herbie and I could meet with those the Raptors who want to read and talk about the Bible and share prayer before games" explained Kearns. "We still meet but it's at the end of a hall in a curtained off section. Our Chapel was claimed by a past Raptors coach as he wanted it as the media room to host his postgame press meetings. We got the end of the hall and a curtain."

"Few NBA Chaplains have unrestricted access to the facility or to the players and we are no different. When we prepare our pre-game Chapel meeting at the Air Canada Centre, the players with members of the team's security detail make their way to our makeshift Chapel. The players come in and the security guys stand on the other side of the curtain."

Kearns is also available for the visiting teams as few have their Chaplin travel with the team. For the visiting players that want a pre-game prayer meeting, Kearns will host one at the team's hotel, usually in one of the player's rooms.

Again, a big difference between the NBA and the CFL, Kearns explains. "The CFL team Chaplain does not travel with the team for "away" games so the visiting players come to the stadium to join with the Ticat players for their pre-game chapel service. There is great camaraderie between the players in the CFL, at least off the field".

Away from the field and the court, Steve is dedicated to his family. He and his wife live in Grimsby while all three of his children live in the US; his daughter Allie (29) lives in Texas where she works as a nanny for a professional golfer, his 22 year old daughter Stephanie lives in Virginia and is getting ready for her big day — her wedding in March. Steve's son Drew is 26 and serves in the US military.

He has a lot of responsibilities and he handles them all well. But there are those days that Steve cannot be found. No family gathering and not visiting friends? Not in the Chapel, on the sidelines or courtside? Try the local golf course as this is Steve's time for reflection and relaxation.

Romans 8:31: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"






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