As I considered writing a post about men of faith in the Sharks/Predators series, I did find a player on each team that I could shine the spotlight on. However, I have already written posts about each of them – click here for my article on Predators forward Mike Fisher and head here for my article on Sharks goaltender James Reimer. And so with those 2 articles already in the archives, I decided to go “throwback” for this series on Living Up to My Name.
First, Former San Jose Sharks Jonathan Cheechoo.
Jonathan Cheechoo left his home in Moose Factory, Ontario at age 14, beginning a journey that he hoped would lead him to the NHL. And it did. He was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 1998. This article from the salvationist.ca tells about how in 2002, Jonathan Cheechoo became the first member of Cree First Nation to play in the NHL. He would play 501 NHL games over the next 8 years with the Sharks and Ottawa Senators, winning the Rocket Richard trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer in 2005-2006. He still holds some Sharks scoring records (including most goals, hat tricks and Power Play goals in a season). These days, he is playing professionally with Dynamo Minsk in the KHL. All told, it has been quite a ride for Cheechoo who was one of my favorite players during his NHL days.
Cheechoo is the son of a pastor and growing up, faith in God was an important foundation for life. As you can read in this article from CanadianChristianity.com, his faith in God remains important to him. He shares how he came to faith in God and how God helps guide him in his career and his life. He says “I feel God has really had his blessing over me. If you live for him, he’ll bless you. It’s all his doing. I just work hard – and I know he’ll help me out.”
Here is a piece of his story from a few years back, before he went to play in the KHL.
Here is my main takeaway from Cheechoo’s story:
Worth the Sacrifice – Cheechoo’s incredible journey required a lot of sacrifice. Thinking about my childhood, there is a lot I would have missed out on if I had left home at 14. Yet Cheechoo, with the amazing support of a loving family and community and trusting God to order his steps, saw it work out. Looking back on the journey, it was worth the sacrifice. In our faith walk, there will be sacrifices. There is a constant battle between our natural wants and wishes and setting those things aside for the sake of following God. And while sometimes those things we sacrifice here seem to be significant, when weighed on the scales of eternity, their importance fades. Following God is worth the sacrifice. In Philippians 3 Paul gives his resume of being at the top and “having it all”. But check out the conclusion he has in verses 7-9a 7 These things that I once considered valuable, I now consider worthless for Christ. 8 It’s far more than that! I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain Christ 9 and to have a relationship with him. Knowing and following God is the most important thing in our life and worth sacrificing everything else.
And now to the Nashville Predators:
Blake Geoffrion‘s story is one worth sharing on Living up to My Name because He had a name to live up to. Blake is a 4th generation NHL hockey player following in the footsteps of his father Dan, his grandfather (Hall of Famer and 6 time Stanley Cup Champion) Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and his great-grandfather (inaugural Hall of Fame member) Howie Morenz. That is a long legacy to live up to. And Blake was well on his way. He won the Hobey Baker award as best US collegiate player in 2010. As you can read in this story from ESPN, Geoffrion became the first 4th generation player in the NHL. Not only that, but after parts of 2 seasons with the Nashville Predators, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. This was cool because all 3 previous generations had played for the Canadiens. Morenz’ #7 and Boom Boom’s #5 have been retired by the Canadiens. Blake chose to wear jersey #57 to honor them. He played 13 games with them following the trade from the Preds in February 2012.
But the start of the next season was delayed by a lockout, so Blake began the season with the AHL affiliate for the Canadiens, the Hamilton Bulldogs. During a game with the Bulldogs at the Canadiens’ arena, Blake was body-checked by an opponent. As you can read in the above story, and in this article from Brentwoodhomepage.com, it was a clean body check, but it resulted in a fractured skull and was not only career ending, but life threatening. Quick action from the medical staff on hand and at the local Crystal Hospital saved Blake’s life.
This could be a shocking and devastating blow to a young hockey player and to a family with such a legacy of hockey, but as you can read in this story from Brentwoodhomepage.com, the family’s faith in God and trust in His plan were more powerful. Perhaps this legacy of faith came from Boom Boom himself. You can read about his conversion to faith in God in this article from Hockey Ministries International. Blake says “My career has been incredible, and I truly believe the Lord has a plan for me. Our family has great faith. I have met and established relationships with some really great people and accomplished almost every hockey goal I had set for myself. I am proud for what my family and life has taught me, and I am proud to have worn the Geoffrion name on my back.”
Here is the hit that changed Blake Geoffrion’s life
My Takeaway from Blake’s story
1- Make the Most out of it – It seems basic and obvious but it is a reality that still takes me by surprise. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Tonight is not guaranteed. The next minute is not guaranteed. What is important in your life? Do you know what will happen when it changes drastically and turns out different than you dreamed it would? Do you know what happens when this life ends? It is a question that is considered by everyone at some point or other. The faith that I have in God gives me assurance that at the end of my life, if it is 80 years from now or if it is before I go to sleep tonight, I will spend eternity with the God who created me and loves me perfectly. I will be in a place where there will be no more tears, sorrow or pain, just all who chose to follow Him living the way we were created to. In perfect, unhindered relationship with Him. I am so looking forward to it and I hope and pray that I will see you there!