Stanley Cup Finals Special – Eric Fehr & Matt Cullen – Pittsburgh Penguins

Stanley Cup Final LogoI can’t remember the moment when I first started watching hockey – I’m sure I was too young to form memories. But I do love this time of year. The talent level is outstanding and the games are a blast to watch. However, I know that it means that the season will soon come to an end and the long wait for next season will begin. And since the next game of the Stanley Cup Finals could be the last game of the season, I thought I would take one more opportunity to talk about the stories of some of the players in the series.

A few years back, I wrote a post about Sharks backup goalie James Reimer (then with the Maple Leafs).

May 16, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Matt Cullen (7) celebrates his goal with right wing Eric Fehr (L) against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period in game two of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins center Matt Cullen (7) celebrates his goal with right wing Eric Fehr (L) earlier in this year’s playoffs

And so today I will focus on a couple players on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

First to Eric Fehr. He scored an insurance goal in game 4 that secured the win for the Penguins. Check it out

21 December 2015: Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Eric Fehr (16) skates during the first period in the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

Fehr is with his 3rd different NHL team (after Winnipeg and 2 stints in Washington). This is his first Stanley Cup Final

Eric Fehr was drafted in the first round (18th overall) by the Washington Capitals in 2003 after a stellar Junior Career with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He made his debut in 2005-2006 season and became a mainstay in the NHL in 2008.  He has played in over 500 NHL games and is closing in on the 100 plateau in both career goals and assists. He is also a published author, writing a children’s book about bullying called “The Bulliest Dozer” Read more in this article from WashingtonCapitals.com.  As you can read in this article from Promise Keepers Canada, Fehr has faced some challenges in his career – recovering from injury, not fitting in with coaches, the pressure of playing in his home town, but his faith in God has helped him in these trials. He says “Once again it goes back to knowing life doesn’t begin and end with hockey“. He continues, “My feeling is, don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all He has done. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus,” (Phil 4.6-7)

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Fehr reads the anti-bullying book he authored to kids.

My takeaway from Fehr’s story:

He is our Guardian – This story connected with me because of the verses that he shares. I had read it many times, likely memorized it for some VBS or kids programming, but when I read it this time, my attention was drawn to the second part of this passage. I have the wonderful joy of being a dad to 4 girls. I love who they are and am frequently amazed at how they process and learn. Our second oldest – Olivia (almost 7) is very imaginative and has a great memory. Which is great, except when something that may be a little scary enters her world.  We have a Valentines tradition that I take my girls to a movie in the theater as a Valentine’s celebration. This year, the movie of choice was “Zootopia”. It is a very clever movie and funny throughout. But since that time, Olivia has struggled with bad dreams or thoughts about some of the scarier instances from the movie. We have struggled to come up with something that helps her. But I think there is an answer in this passage from Philippians 4. The next time that she struggles with these fears and it keeps her from sleeping, I am going to read these verses to her. It is a lesson for me too. I can be pessimistic or afraid to really step out and trust God. Re-read those verses again!  Do you see it? the promise and help that God offers. Tell God about everything, recognize what He has done and let his peace settle in you as you draw closer to Him. I will encourage Olivia to think about all the ways God has been at work in our family. I will pray with her for God’s peace to guard her heart and mind. I will do the same when stress is wearing me down at work or keeping me awake at night. God’s peace is a resource for us. Rest in Him!

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Matt Cullen is already a Stanley Cup Champ with the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricane.

Now Matt Cullen‘s story presents a similar point too. As you can read in this interview with Chad Bonham from Inspiring Athletes, Cullen shares a lot about fear. He says “So often in the Bible we see the words “Do not fear” or “Do not be afraid.” When we give in to fear, it’s because we’re not trusting God. What are we afraid of? Everything is out of our hands anyway.” Cullen is in his 19th season in the NHL. Drafted by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the second round of the 1996 entry draft, Cullen has played for 8 teams in his NHL career. He won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06. Check out this video of talking about hockey and his faith in God on CBN from a couple seasons ago when he played with Nashville.

Here are my takeaways from Cullen’s story

1- Don’t let your skates get dull – The interviewer at one point talks about letting a skate blade or one’s faith get dull. I like this analogy because if you have ever seen an NHL player – a very talented ice skater – “lose an edge”  Check out this video for an example, or read about the science of it here

When the skate blade goes dull, so does the effective ability to skate. When our faith dulls, we also cease to be effective in carrying out the mission that has been entrusted to us. Faith means belief and hope even when a solution is not easily seen. When our faith begins to waiver, we are not able to continue doing what we have been doing in the same way. Doubt can bind us up. It is like in Matthew 14, when Peter steps out of the boat and begins walking on the water toward Jesus. When his faith begins to waiver because he realizes that what he is doing is impossible and he is in the midst of a storm, he begins to sink. Sharpening our faith comes through seeing God at work and with us in our circumstance be it trial, hardship or mountain top experience.

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Cullen’s 3 sons are along for the journey of this Stanley Cup run. No doubt they are excited that their dad is one win away.

2- Connection with Dad – Cullen talks about his hockey dreams as a youth being more about playing for his dad, the local high school coach, than the NHL. Now that Cullen is an NHL veteran, he shares the journey he is on with his own sons. Check out this article from the Players Tribune by Cullen about his sons and the playoff run they are currently on. It is great to read about the relationship Cullen has both with his dad and his sons. I have a good relationship with my dad. I have learned a lot from him and as a dad, I want to build a strong relationship to my kids, too. But I also know that there are many out there that do not have a good example to look to as a dad. There are lots of kids (and former kids) that grew up not knowing or barely knowing their dad. There are some whose dad was abusive, others where he was invisible. But Jesus talked about God as our Heavenly Father. He is the perfect example of love. He is protector, provider, teacher and visionary. And He wants you to know that you are His and you are loved. He went to great lengths so you could be with Him forever. John 1.12 says “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name”. Will you connect with your Heavenly Dad?

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