Conference Finals Throwbacks – Daily Needs – BJ Crombeen – Tampa Bay Lightning


BJ Crombeen played with the Lightning for 2 seasons.

As promised, here comes the first of four “throwback” posts sharing stories of historical players from the four remaining NHL teams that are battling for the right to raise the Stanley Cup as the 2018 champs.

I figured that I better start with the Lightning as they are down 2-0 against the Washington Capitals in their series. And so this time around, the spotlight shines on Brendon (BJ) Crombeen who played 445 games in the NHL, 99 of them with the Tampa Bay Lightning over the course of 2 seasons.  He scored 4 goals and 18 points in his time in Florida and amassed just under 200 penalty minutes. He was drafted by the Dallas Stars with the 54th pick of the 2003 draft. He also played for the Arizona Coyotes and the St. Louis Blues. His father Mike, also played in the NHL, appearing in 475 games with the St Louis Blues, Cleveland Barons and Hartford Whalers.

Crombeen, diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 9, checks his blood sugar many times a day.

One thing that sets Crombeen apart from most professional athletes, is that he has type 1 diabetes.  He was diagnosed at age 9 and so he has developed good systems to manage it. His routine includes checking his blood sugar 15-20 time each day. It is an extra thing that he has to take responsibility to do but his mindset was that it was part of his daily habits. He said “He looks at it like this: Most guys have to wake up and grab their cell phones, keys, and wallets before they head out the door. “I just add my diabetes kit to that. That’s just part of my life and I don’t really think about it as a challenge or something that’s going to set me back.

Another important part of his life is his faith in God. He grew up in a Christian home – his dad was active in Hockey Ministries International(HMI) – but when he left home to pursue hockey, at the age of 16, his faith began to drift. As you can read in this article he wrote for HMI, it was in his second year of Junior Hockey that  he “started to realize that something was missing, and I needed faith in my life.” Crombeen’s biggest challenge was realizing that there was not much that he was in control of. He had surrender that desire to control to God and learn to trust Him. He said “once I realized that with a relationship with Jesus, you can trust that He has everything under control, and all you have to do is go out and put your best foot forward – whether it’s your plan or not… It’s a daily thing I have to remind myself of, even now, but going through challenges by yourself is a lot more difficult than going through them with the Lord and having faith that He has all of those things under control.”

Also, check out this article from the Player’s Tribune where BJ shares about his journey to the NHL. He says “I looked at my skill set and thought my best chance was to show a willingness to fight and stand up for teammates — so that’s what I did.” He also shares about being ready for life after hockey and gives advice to aspiring hockey players on how to transition out of the game when that time comes.

B.J. Crombeen played 445 games in the NHL with 4 teams

BJ’s dad Mike played in 475 NHL games with 3 teams. He was active in Hockey Ministries International

My takeaways from Crombeen’s story.

1- Daily Needs – I work in the school system and some of the kids in my program are diabetic. Over the 3 years that I have been working in my current after school program, I’ve had to learn the ins and out of analyzing blood sugar reading and helping the students in my care take their blood sugar reading and get the insulin they need. So that part of Crombeens story connected with me. However, what caught my attention was when he talked about how people need their wallets, keys, phone etc. to head into their day, and for him, it was the same except he also needed to take his diabetes kit. As Christians, we go through the day like everyone else, too. We have the things that we need for the day. But like Crombeen needs to have his diabetes kit with him to keep him safe and healthy, as a Christian, I need to be intentional to invite God into my day for my spiritual health. I need that time to connect with God, and ask Him to guide me through the day. Sometimes I can get in such a hurry that I leave something behind, a wallet, my work keys, – I even drove to work one day without wearing my glasses, which I need to legally drive. Like his diabetes kit, I need to remember that I need God to face each day. I need to make sure He is part of my routine.

2- The Battle for Control – BJ talked about how he realized that much of life was out of his control and that trusting Jesus is the only plan that won’t fail. He then wrote about his plan to prepare for life after hockey. Is this a contradiction? I don’t think it is. When we realize that so much of life is out of our control, it is important that we learn to trust God and his plan for us. However, If God leads us to take action as Crombeen did, to prepare for what may come next, well, that is a responsibility we should take. I think that God will lead us to many opportunities and experiences and while not all of them will be used the way WE think they might be, we can aim to be prepared for whatever may come our way.

On the Defensive – Boston Bruins Nick Holden and Brandon Carlo


Well, it has been more than 2 months – sorry for the delay oh faithful readers, but there is no better time to get back into this blog than during the NHL playoffs. They are well underway with the eyes of the 8 remaining teams set firmly on the Stanley Cup. I really enjoy sharing the stories of pro athletes who have chosen to live their lives following Jesus – but I really relish writing these articles when the players I write about are on my favorite team. That is the case this time around as I put together a double feature of Boston Bruins defensemen in this post.

So much Fun – Nick Holden

However, the two men I write about tonight are not often seen in the playoffs this year. Nick Holden is playing a depth role for the Bruins – picking up an assist in the only game he has played thus far. He will fill in for an injured or slumping player as needed but so far, the Bruins are rolling and have only called on him the one time.

Holden has played in one playoff game with the Bruins this season.

Acquired from the New York Rangers earlier this year, the Bruins are Holden’s 4th NHL team. He played with the Colorado Avalanche for 3 seasons after breaking into the league with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 30 year old will be a free agent this summer. Holden is not too worried about Free agency though. His philosophy in hockey and in life is  “If you have your passion, just continue following it… Just keep pushing and work hard, and you can only control what you can control. God has a plan for everybody, so you just have to do what you can do.”  He also focus on having fun. And he knows that hockey has been a gift from God that has led to some amazing experiences. This article from the Speaking from Springfield calls Holden a “person of deep faith, Holden says he is fortunate despite injuries which sidelined him for the season last year.“God blesses you with many gifts. Luckily, my gift is to play hockey. It led me to my wife. It led me to my career.” 

Will it lead him and the Bruins to the top of the hockey world this year? That remains to be seen, but I feel like with Holden, he will be satisfied with whatever God brings his way.

Ups and Downs – Brandon Carlo.

Carlo missed the Playoffs last year with an injury

Brandon Carlo was a rookie with the Bruins last year. He was a solid contributor, playing in all 82 games last season and in 76 this time around. He routinely played over 20 minutes a game and has 22 points in 158 career games. However, one missing item from Carlo’s resume is playoff hockey. Last season, despite playing all 82 games, he sat out the Bruins 6 game series against the Ottawa Senators with an injury. He was again a solid contributor this year, but suffered a broken ankle late in the season that again cost him the post season experience. It was a terrible injury and the Bruins and Carlo’s fans (like me) are hoping and praying for a speedy and full recovery.

And will miss them again this year after a horrific injury late in the season

And I have confidence that Carlo will take this injury in side and work on his recovery with a great attitude. One of the tattoos that Carlo has is the string of sybols G>^v. (God is Greater that the ups and downs).  Another is a reminder to live by faith, not by sight. It is a verse that his mother would often quote to him and now he says that his tattoo “ties me with my mom and my religion as a Christian.”

And so as the playoffs continue to move towards the cup final, I hope the Bruins go along for the ride. But with both of these men that spent time on their blue line, their purpose is much more than a run for the cup. They are putting God first and trusting Him to control the things that are out of their control.

Check out my facebook page  this weekend for links to past stories I have written about players involved in these playoffs. Enjoy the great hockey that remains as we wait to see who will win the Stanley Cup this year.

 

Olympic Faith part 3 – Skis & Skates – David Wise USA Freestyle Skiing – Half Pipe & Nicole Helmsley USA Women’s Ice Hockey


Soohorang & Bandabi – 2018 PyeongChang Olympics Mascots

I just finished watching the movie “Eddie the Eagle”. I had watched it before, but it was fun to watch during the Olympics. (we watched Cool Runnings last week too) and being a young Canadian during the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, I remember the attention that the story drew from the media. Eddie the Eagle was a huge part of those games. And the movie showed the lengths that he took to fulfill his Olympic dream.

David Wise en route to Olympic gold in 2014

It takes a lifetime of effort to qualify for the Olympics. If you should happen to medal it must be the icing on the cake. To qualify again four years later and get a chance to defend your title is another amazing accomplishment in itself. That is where Freestyle Skier David Wise finds himself  – Back in the Olympics, attempting to remain the only man on the planet to win Olympic Gold in this event. 

Wise with his Sochi 2014 medal is hoping to add a 2018 one to his collection.

Sochi was the Olympic Debut for Freestyle Skiers in the Halfpipe. Wise won Gold. It was a culmination of years of hard work and a dream come true for Wise. But his return to the Olympics has been an arduous journey as well. As you can read in this article from Religion News, some had written him off due to injury and other issues. On his blog, he writes “I am coming off the worst two seasons of my competitive career… A lot of things played into my lack of success in the past couple years: I had an injured shoulder and back, three separate concussions, my wife lost her father, my sister Christy was in a boating accident and lost her leg, I had a dear student of mine commit suicide. Not to mention my wife and I had our second child, Malachi, shortly after the Olympics in Sochi…. After Alexandra gave birth to Malachi, she went through a hard year of postpartum depression – something more common than most people realize… ” He continues to discuss that some turned their back on him (including sponsors) but that has only fueled his fire to give it his all in PyeongChang. CBN recently wrote an article about Wise.

Wise, with his wife Alexandra and their 2 kids. Faith in God has carried them many hard things

You won’t see the 27-year-old freestyle skier of the Halfpipe talking about God in interviews … What you will see is Wise talking about serving others and his family. Wise told SportsSprectrum.com  he would rather consistently live out his faith before talking a lot about it. “I don’t tell my Christian friends I’m a pro-skier. I don’t tell my skier friends I’m a Christian,” Wise said. “But you’re going to find out if you spend enough time with me either way.

 

Wise is ready to go on February 20 in the Half Pipe.

Also, check out this story from The War Cry. He says “(faith) has to be personal or else it’s not real,” Wise said. “That’s the most important part. If Christianity were just another world religion it would just be another example of people trying to earn God’s favor. The reality is Christ chose us because he wants that relationship with us. Discovering that on my own is when I really, truly felt it was my faith …We either choose to seek or we choose to drown it out with other things. I love in Jeremiah where it says if you seek me with all your heart you will find me,” Wise said. “That’s my experience. I went through life and I got to the point where I realized I just believed what I was told for a long time. Now I need to discover what it is I truly believe. What’s really true.”

My main Takeaway:

1- It’ll show – There is a lot of truth in what Wise said about his faith and his work. He doesn’t tell skiers he is a Christian, he doesn’t tell Christian friends he is a skier – spend enough time with him, who he is shows up. That is a great challenge for us. If you are a Christian, does Christ “show up” in your daily life so much  that even without declaring your faith, others know that it is part of who you are? I know that this thought challenges me to be more intentional with how I live. I want my actions to support the faith I have in God and the life He calls me to live.

Team USA goalie Nicole Hemsley

Goaltender Nicole Hensley is in her first Winter Olympics. She is a goaltender for the Women’s hockey team that has aspirations of gold after 4 straight Olympic Silver Medals. In her first game of the Olympic tournament, Hensley turned aside all 13 shots that she faced as USA defeated the Olympic Athletes from Russia team 5-0. For Hensley, her faith in God is very important to her. She knows that she has a platform to tell others about Him and does so frequently sharing bible verses on Twitter and even featuring some favorite verses on her goalie masks. She says
He’s also given me a bit of a platform to possibly reach others who are wondering about their faith, or maybe don’t have any faith, or want to grow stronger in their faith. Maybe it’s a way to start a conversation with somebody” . 

Hensley has been known to feature Bible Verses on her goalie mask.

Now, despite how easy it all looks from the comfort of my own couch, I understand that all Olympic journeys have more bumps than a moguls run. There are hardships at every turn and challenges that must be overcome. When these hard things come, we are often tempted to give up or turn away. But as Hensley shares in this CBN article, “Looking back with 20-20 hindsight, obviously He had a plan in every single place that He put me. It is easy to say that now, but really it’s just taught me that through the hardships you have to trust in your faith. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable to either grow in your faith or grow as a person or player as well

Hensley backstopped team USA to a 5-0 shutout against the Olympic Athletes from Russia in the opening round of the Olympic tournament.

My takeaway:

I’ve talked about it before, but it bears repeating because it is a lesson, sadly, that we need to learn over and over again. God is not calling us to a life of comfort. Far from it. When we are truly following God and living for Him, there will be many hard time that make things plenty uncomfortable for us. But in those times, and as Hensley mentions after those times come to an end, or at least give us a brief moment of rest, we see that God had purpose for the pain. It was a process of helping us lean on Him alone and put complete faith in his plan. May we always be ready to step out of our comfort zone if it leads us to a deeper faith in Him.

 

Olympic Faith Part 2 – Valentine’s Day Special – The Taylors and the Knierims


The Olympics Flame in PyeongChang

Today is Valentine’s Day and so with the Olympics in full force. So to bring together Olympic Sports and Love together, I’ve decided to use this space to share the stories of 2 Olympic couples and the stories that brought them together, and brought them to PyeongChang for the Olympics. You will also see how woven into their stories, the amazing parts and the hard parts, is their faith in God and the role He plays in their lives.

First to the ice:

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Kneirim with their Bronze medals won in the Team event last week.

Chris Knierim and his wife Alexa Scimeca Knierim already have a bronze medal to take home with them, in the Figure Skate Team competition. Now, they focus their attention on the couples competition. For a couple that was just thrilled to make the Olympic team, the medal is icing on the cake. It has been a long journey, at times harrowing journey to get to PyeongChang, and so the games have been therapeutic. Alexa says This competition’s very meaningful for us. We’ve kind of been lacking the joy and lightheartedness of life for about two years now, from all the struggles we’ve been through, so being here together, Chris and I are kind of just enjoying it.”

In the past 4 years, there have been broken bones, life saving surgeries and deaths in the family. They lean on each other and their faith in God for strength to get through these trials

What kind of struggles have they faced? Their dreams for the 2014 Sochi Olympics were haltedafter Chris broke his leg. They set their sights on 2018 in Korea. But in April of 2016, It was discovered that Alexa  had a rare disorder that had her throwing up often, losing weight and energy and having difficulty eating, drinking and sleeping.  Three surgeries to correct the issue and and nine months later,  The questions of whether they would skate competitively again were answered when they competed in the 2017 Four Continents Championship. Then, last April, in the midst of their push towards making the Olympics, Chris’ father passed away.  “I was crushed. Devastated. Broken,” Chris wrote on a social media post. “But again, I was brave on the outside. After all, we were heading into the Olympic season and there was no time to cry. I worked through the days I was empty inside and skated for the pride of my father.

Chris and Alexa have one more skate in their 2018 Olympic experience. Just being at the Olympics is a victory for them.

Standing on the podium, looking up at the flag, Chris allowed his mind to wander back to his father – who served in the military. “But for a moment Monday, he allowed his mind to drift, allowed the memories to flood back, allowed his emotions to win, watching the symbol of everything his father represented climb into an inky sky. “I know,” Chris said, “he’s proud of me.”

Alexa also shares that their faith in God has grown. (Faith) is the reason I was able to get back on the ice, because I stopped worrying and stopped trying to control life, because I couldn’t. In the moment, you know, I was so sick and didn’t really know where things were going to go for me, whether it was skating or life in general. So I finally just threw my hands up and said like, ‘You lead the way,’ and it’s my testimony and I stay true to it. And even here at the Games, it’s no longer about me. I have fans out there who know that I am a true believer in the Lord and I’m trying my best to shine his light and let people know that it’s okay to promote him and do things for him.”

They have one more skate to go tonight. It is worth cheering them on for persisting through hard times and leaning on God for strength. I am challenged by her words. We try to keep control and learn often that we really don’t have any control over what comes our way in this life. Let’s follow this example to give up our idea of control and find our strength in God.

Elena Myers (front) is competing in her 3rd Winter Olympics.

Nic Taylor and Elena Meyers-Taylor are bobsledders. Nic is an alternate on the Men’s team and will step in in case of injury. Elena is competing in her 3rd Olympics. She is a 2 time medal winner – bronze in Vancouver in 2010 and Silver in Sochi 4 years ago. If the trend continues, she will find herself at the top of the podium this time around. You can read this article from CBN that shares the story of how they came to be husband and wife and how they work together to better each other.

In a recent interviewed by Belief.net, Elena shared about how her relationship with God plays into her athletic career and her personal relationships. She answers “The Lord calls us to love everybody. Every day it’s a challenge. Within this sport, I’m called to love everybody. That means that every single German or Canadian that I want to beat, I still have to love. That means competing the way God wants me to compete. That means doing things that might not necessarily be seen as giving me a competitive advantage but instead doing what God would want me to do. As Christians, we’re asked to give.

Myers and Lauryn Williams – silver medalists in Sochi 2014

In my sport, if someone needs equipment or help with something, regardless of who they are as a competitor, I’m called to help them for a higher purpose. So it definitely affects everything I do…  I know that God is working through me within this sport. I know He’s put me here for a purpose and it’s not just to win medals. Winning is great and hopefully it gives me a platform to spread His love and spread His Word, but at the end of the day, I’m called to do what He wants me to do.

Nic Taylor at the Olympics on the US Men’s bobsled team and Elena Meyers-Taylor were married in April 2014.

Again, I find her words challenging. We tend to be so self-serving. We do whatever it takes to look out for ourselves and often it comes at the expense of others. Elena’s words challenge me again to think of others first, to set aside temptations to look after my own needs regardless of what it may mean to others. I pray that God will give me eyes to see the needs of those around me and how He can use me to help. I pray that I will willingly do whatever He asks me to do and spread his love and word in the world around me.

Olympic Faith Part 1 -History Makers- Maame Biney, Seun Adigun and Simidele Adeagbo


 

The Olympics are now on day 4 of competition and it has been a lot of fun to watch. I think the Olympics are my favorite overall Sporting event. I was born just a few days before the start of the Montreal Olympics, and I remember fondly watching almost every Olympics since then. I enjoy the stories of the athletes, most lesser known than the “professionals” that absorb most of the sports landscape in North America. Many have incredible journeys and vast measures of sticktoitiveness to make it to the Olympics. Today, I want to share 3 of those stories.

Maame Biney – USA Short Track Speed Skater

Maame Biney

It doesn’t take long to become a fan of Maame Biney. Maybe it is her father, Kweku, holding a sign saying “Kick some Hiney Biney!” at Olympic Trials. Maybe it is the huge smile that is seen almost all the time flashing across her face – except at race time.  Maybe it is the dance of excitement she breaks into when she is successful in a race. Maybe it is a bit of all this wrapped together with an amazing story of moving from Ghana to Virginia, being separated by all those miles from her mother and younger brother. You can check out the story in this CNN article. It shares how 3 months after arriving in America, her dad pointed out a “learn to skate” sign for figure skating lessons. That didn’t take, but her coach suggested that her speed and energy would work well in speed skating. And there, at age 5, began the journey that has sent her now to PyeongChang, South Korea.

Upon qualifying for the Olympics, Biney shared the importance God plays in her life. She wrote “I want to start off by thanking God.  I am so sure that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Him. If God hadn’t given my dad the strength to wake up, and take me to practice, I wouldn’t be here today. I also want to thank God for giving me the passion to do this.” It is this last line that catches my attention. God has given us all passion to do different things. What is your passion? How can  God use you for His purposes?

The almost constant smile of Maame Biney

The other part of her story that I kept coming back to was something her father said to her after she felt she had a bad result at a skating event. He said “No matter what happens tomorrow, whether you get last or whether you get first, just know that I love you not because you’re a speed skater but because you’re Maame and you’re my daughter,” I love that because it is similar to how God views us. No matter what happens tomorrow, He loves us – not because of what we accomplish, but because we are His creation. What a great place to rest in – His perfect, unending love.

Seun Adigun – Nigeria Bobsled team captain

Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga are making history as the Nigerian Bobsled team

Seun represented Nigeria in the 2012 Olympics in the 100m hurdles. She had sustained a leg injury and was not at 100% for those 2012 games. As you can read in this article from TMC she was not content with the results failing to qualify from her opening heat, so she tried out for Team USA bobsled in hoping to redeem her Olympic experience.  She is a duel citizen of USA and Nigeria and her bobsled training experience, partnered with the fact that 2 of her friends in Houston were also track and field athletes and also duel citizens from Nigeria, to put together the first ever bobsled team from an African country.

The Nigerian Bobsled team is the first African entry in the Olympic Bobsled competition.

She built a makeshift bobsled out of wood, to “simulate the bobsled in Lake Placid, where I trained with the U.S. team“. And while she is still adjusting to the Winter weather – she talks about numb hands and frostbite – she has accomplished her goal of putting together the first Bobsled team from an African Nation. Oh, and she also completed her doctorate. When asked how she balanced her schedule and accomplished all this, she says “When you ride on faith, you’re able to live in that element of selflessness. You’re able to live in that moment of fearlessness. I don’t attribute any type of individual success to myself, but more so to God’s will to put me in places to allow things to flourish or opportunities to present themselves,

What opportunities are presenting themselves in your life? How can God help you flourish in those opportunities?

 

Simidele Adeagbo – Nigerian Skelton

Nigerian Skelton competitor Simidele Adeagbo.

If Seun and the other bobsledders were hoping to inspire other with their historical efforts, they don’t have to look very far to see that they have. Meet Simidele Adeagbo.  When she heard about the Nigerian Bobsled team, she was inspired to chase her own Olympic dream as well. She had been pursuing her hopes to make the Olympics her whole life, as a Track and Field athlete. She had not been successful, and finally saw her opportunity present itself in an unexpected way – in the Winter Olympics.  You can read about it in this interview from Punchng.com.  She learned about the bobsled team and it inspired her to take up a new sport – Skelton. She has only been active in the sport since last September.

Adeagbo only picked up the sport of Skelton last September. To qualify for PyeongChang is an amazing accomplishment.

The interviewer from Punch asked “who is Simidele Adeagbo? Her answer? “Simidele Adeagbo is a creative force, she is very determined, a pioneer, a business woman, an extraordinary athlete and a Nigerian. She is a sister, a friend, a Christian and she loves God and through this journey, God has even shown her how faith is most important because faith made this possible.

Faith is most important. It can lead us down roads we never would have dreamed of. Where is God asking you to trust Him and step out in an exercise of faith? Are you ready for the adventure that awaits?