NHL Playoffs – Final Four – Chris Neil – Ottawa Senators and Chris Wagner – Anaheim Ducks

We have reached the semi finals in the NHL playoffs and it has been a very entertaining playoff thus far.  In the past I have written posts about players on the Penguins (Matt Cullen) and Nashville Predators (Mike Fisher), and so I thought it would be good to share some stories from the other 2 teams too.

First to the Ottawa Senators and their rugged winger Chris Neil.

Chris Neil greets former teammate Mike Fisher at a game in Ottawa.  Are the Preds and Sens going to meet in the Cup Finals this year?

His story is an amazing one in that he was a sixth round draft pick in the 1998 draft (#161 overall). He has played all 15 seasons in his career with the Senators. This year, he played his 1,000th NHL game.  His best season in was 2005-2006 when he scored 16 goals and added 17 assists (both career highs).  It was also one of his 4 seasons with more than 200 penalty minutes.  The latter is what Neil is most known for.  With over 2,500 career penalty minutes, his tough play is his calling card.  As you can read in this article from the Ottawa Sun, even though Neil is known for his tough physical play and his willingness to fight the opponent’s toughest competitor, he is also a loving family man, a prankster and a devout Christian who was a roommate with Mike Fisher while Fisher was in Ottawa.

He says “I was always part of Vacation Bible School as a kid … My mom had a very strong faith. We’d go to church. Sometimes she couldn’t go because she had to take the other kids to hockey and I’d ride my bike to church. It gave me something to believe in and something to look forward to every Sunday — to worship God.

Neil is known as a tough competitor, but he has a great heart giving back to his community.

Neil and his wife Caitlin met at church.  They have been married since 2006 and have 3 kids.  They have become very active in the community, as an advocate for “Roger’s House” a pediatric care center named after former Senator’s coach Roger Neilsen.  Neil is 37 and played in only 2 playoff games thus far, but he has been a key part of the Senators for 16 years and is no doubt excited to be a part of this team on a deep run towards the Stanley Cup. Will they get their chance? We will find out this week.

And in Anaheim, we meet winger Chris Wagner.

Wagner celebrates a goal against the Flyers. He has played parts of 3 seasons with the Ducks.

The Anaheim Ducks have their own Chris that was drafted late.  Chris Wagner was drafted by the Ducks in the fifth round of the 2010 entry draft. He played 2 seasons of college hockey with Colgate and 2 years of play with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL before getting a couple tastes of NHL action. He would play 20 games over a season and a half with the Ducks. However, at one point during the 2015-2016 season, the Ducks were forced to put Wagner on waivers to send him down and that allowed other teams to be able to claim him. And he was claimed by the Colorado Avalanche.

He played with Colorado for 26 games scoring 4 goals for them. But he was again placed on waivers and reclaimed by the Ducks. He played 6 more games for them, netting 2 assissts.  He played 43 games with the Ducks this year, scoring 6 goals. He has played in every Ducks game this playoffs, scoring 2 goals. On the FCA Hockey Page, Wagner shares a favorite verse – one he learned as a child at AWANA, and the importance he sees in it.  He says “John 3:16, This verse is so important to me because it sums up the keys to Christianity and is the easiest to explain to a non-believer. I remember being taught this verse my first day at AWANA and after memorizing it, I have never forgot it.”

Wagner scored in a game 5 loss. The Ducks are down 3-2 in the series.

My Takeaway

1- Faith Like a Child – Both Chris Neil and Chris Wagner talk about being involved in their church at a young age.  Through programs like Vacation Bible School and AWANA help kids know the truth about who God is the depth of his love, forgiveness and grace.  I’ve had the pleasure of working in children’s ministry for many years. I love working with kids and challenging them to seek God for themselves. When a youth chooses to really put learning about God a priority and make him the most important part of their life, the things they learn will not leave them. Do you have opportunities to pour into the lives of youth? How can God use you to share his love with the younger generation and help equip them to depend on Him for the rest of their lives?



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