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Fellowship of Christian Athletes: North Stars' Bill Butters to speak in Bemidji

Former Minnesota North Stars hockey player Bill Butters is coming to Bemidji.

Once known for playing "outside the rules," the retired professional hockey player is now a chaplain for Hockey Ministries International. He comes to Bemidji to share his life story and his journey to faith at 6 p.m. Sunday, April 18, at the Bemidji State University Gymnasium.

The event is free and sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

"We have such a great hockey community. Hockey is real important in this area," said Jeff Tesch, BSU's head football coach and advisor of BSU's FCA group. "Here's a guy who was a pro athlete with a great testimony about his faith."

Butters played at the University of Minnesota in the early 1970s, then went on to a professional career that included 100 fights.

At the age of 22, he signed with the Oklahoma Blazers of the Central Hockey League. During his rookie season he played in 71 games, scoring seven goals and 25 points while racking up 174 penalty minutes.

Throughout his hockey career, Butters had signed with the World Hockey Association's Minnesota Fighting Saints, the Houston Aeros, Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers and the Minnesota North Stars. He played 72 National Hockey League games with the North Stars. He ended his career in 1980 after playing for the Oklahoma City Stars of the CHL.

Butters played for Glen Sonmor and later Herb Brooks at Minnesota. He was teammat with Gordie Howe, Dave Hanson and Paul Holmgren. He had twice been involved in WHA trades along with Jack and Steve Carlson, who played two of the three Hanson Brothers in the 1977 film classic Slap Shot.

While Butters had his share of successes on the rink, he also dealt with his own professional issues as a player known for his intimidation on the rink and "wild" behavior. He also battled with personal issues and family tragedies throughout his life.

"It's fascinating to me to listen to a former professional athlete speak on his journey, let alone his life experiences and hardships," Tesch said.

Hockey Ministries International hosts Christian Hockey Camps International, chap programs, breakfasts, banquets and conferences throughout the United States, Europe and Canada that combines hockey instruction with a Christian gospel message.