Giving up alcohol and following in his father's footsteps led to hockey star Brad Mills joining the LDS Church

Published: Thursday, Dec. 13 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Brad Mills enjoyed the first meeting so much that he stayed for Sunday School and priesthood meeting, both of which shared lessons that provided answers to questions he’d been pondering. When it was over, he was still skeptical, but knew he had felt something special, he said.

“I knew I had to go deeper,” Brad Mills said.

When the hockey season was over, Mills started meeting with the missionaries. After awhile he returned home to finish taking the discussions with his father, the ward mission leader, in Alberta.

The decision to get baptized didn’t come right away. He was learning bits and pieces, but half expected a lightning bolt to confirm the truth, he said.

But he soon realized he didn’t need a bright flash to realize he had a testimony of the gospel. One day while reading his scriptures, Mills felt the same powerful spirit he had felt when first went to church in Massachusetts. It reminded him of happy memories in his life and it was enough. He decided to get baptized.

Brad’s mother worried that he was moving too fast, but ultimately supported his decision. With many ward members and friends looking on, Craig Mills baptized and confirmed his son a member of the LDS Church on May 28, 2010. As Brad came up out of the water, he told his father he felt a profound sense of internal cleanliness. It was a special moment between father and son.

“He looked at me with this strange look and said, ‘That’s exactly what I said to the missionary that baptized me when I came up out of the water,’” Brad Mills said. “I had to let that sink in for a little while.”

While Craig Mills delighted in his son’s decision, he didn’t openly celebrate out of respect for his wife and other children.

“It was definitely a tender mercy — there is no other way to describe that — but I did not jump up and down too much,” Craig Mills said. “I’m pleased he (Brad) has made some positive changes in his life to align himself with the Lord.”

Brad Mills is grateful for his father’s stalwart example.

“I think my dad had been active in the church, praying and fasting for more than 25 years for this,” Brad Mills said of his father. “My whole life he has been a tremendous example.”

Third period: A Devil comes to Utah

The following season, Mills was called up to the New Jersey Devils for four games. He scored his first NHL goal against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco in a 5-3 Devils’ victory on Nov. 3, 2010. The arena was silent except for the rowdy cheers of Mills’ little brother, Glen, who endured a nightlong bus ride from Toronto to Chicago to be at the game.

Mills split time between the Devils and their American Hockey League affiliate in Albany last year, playing in 27 NHL games. When a lockout postponed the beginning of the 2012-2013 NHL season, Mills was grateful for the opportunity to come to Utah.

So far this season, Mills has scored 11 goals and recorded 10 assists while helping Utah to a 9-10 record in the ECHL standings. In the process, the 6-foot, 195-pound forward has earned the respect of his coaches and teammates.

“He’s a guy who has played at the highest level, and you don’t get to the highest level by accident,” said Kevin Colley, the Grizzlies’ director of hockey operations and head coach. “He’s a true leader. His off-ice habits are a ’10.’ Guys need to look at him and see what he’s done and how he prepares to play at the highest level. He’s been remarkable on and off the ice.”

Riley Armstrong, Utah’s other captain, said he and Mills were hated rivals on previous teams, but now are good friends. Armstrong even accompanied Mills to an LDS young single adult dance once.

What sets Mills apart, Armstrong said, is his competitive drive in hockey and his commitment to his church.

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