Stanley Cup Special – Life’s not fair – Mike “Doc” Emrick – NBC Broadcaster

The Stanley Cup has a great way of reminding us that life is not fair.

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Phil Housley’s 1495 games is the most without winning a cup in NHL history

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John Adams’ got his name on the Cup before he played his 1st NHL game.

Let’s prove that point.  John Adams was the third string goalie for the 1970 Boston Bruins.  He was on the roster but wouldn’t play his first NHL game until 3 seasons later. He would only appear in 22 NHL games in his entire career.  But when the Bruins won the cup in 1970, Adams’ name was engraved on the Cup.  Contrast that with Phil Housley.  He played in 1495 NHL games with 8 different teams without playing for a Cup winning team.  That is the record for most games without a Cup.  It just doesn’t seem fair.

Mike Emrick  is a voice that hockey fans in the U.S.A. know well.  He is the primary voice for NBC’s hockey coverage so his voice is familiar.  But it was in a different setting recently where he used his voice to share another example of perceived unfairness.  Here is a message he preached at his home church in St. Clair Michigan as recorded on the Hockey Ministries International website.

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Mike “Doc” Emrick is the voice of hockey in the U.S.A. He is the primary voice for NBC’s hockey broadcasts.

Emrick shares the story of Brad Stuart who in 2008 was traded from the Los Angeles Kings to the Detroit Red Wings.  He played in only 9 games with the Red Wings in the regular season, but was with them for their playoff run in which they successfully won the Stanley Cup.  As the Stanley Cup winnings were divvied up and the rings handed out, Stuart received the same portion as those who had been on the team all season.  No one complained, no one really gave it a second thought.  Emrick compares that to the parable from Matthew 20 where a land owner agrees to pay some workers for a full day of work.  He goes back throughout the day to hire more workers.  At the end of the day, he starts by paying those who were latest to arrive a full days wages.  Those who put in a full day then expected a bonus.  When they were paid what they agreed to, they complained.  It is an interesting take on the story and a great demonstration of how the ultimate reward is shared equally among all who participated, regardless of their participation both in heaven and in hockey.

Continuing, Emrick shares the story of a boss of his who “was a big, bombastic man. He was not known by any of us as a Christian  At the boss’ funeral, he shared the story of his boss’ acceptance of Jesus as Savior in his last days.  It was met with many surprised, even disdainful looks from those in attendance.  And I know that we are all capable of the same.  It is hard to grasp a grace that extends to those who lead a rough or hard life, but come to faith in God after their indiscretions or in their final days.  I am guilty, too.  I know that writing this blog, I have come across the stories of athletes who have a checkered past, but have come to a true and genuine faith in God.  I am tempted to doubt the legitimacy of their faith or at least expect that I am somehow due a higher standing than them.  But that is flawed thinking.  I mean, are they deserving of any less reward than I am? No way.  I have my own checkered past, too.  I am a sinner who needed grace to be extended to me.  I still need it every day.  The plank in my eye clouds my vision and seems to magnify the specks in the eyes of others so it looks much larger than mine. (Matthew 7.3)

I appreciate the reminders like this message from a hockey sportscaster which reminds us to not get caught up in comparing ourselves to others or questioning who God offers grace to, and instead celebrate that we serve a God that is powerful enough to change all hearts and extend grace to everyone.

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Emrick’s love for his job comes from it being a calling from God

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Emrick preaching a challenging message at his church

Here are some points to ponder.

1- Our Great Savior – The amazing thing about Jesus is that He died to offer grace and forgiveness to all people.  I heard singer Derek Webb talk about having an awareness of our sin and when we come to terms with the depth of our sin, we begin to understand the greatness of our Savior.  Let’s be real with ourselves and understand the desperate need that we have to be saved from our rebellion, bad choices and mistakes.  As we understand our own desperate need for Him we can really celebrate that He DID pay the price and offers freedom from our sin. And whether we come to this understanding at a young age or in our last breaths, His offer remains vaild for ALL who chose to believe in Him.

2- Do you Love what you Do?  –  In this article from Geneva College, Emrick talks about doing a job that he loves.  He says A man is very lucky if God gives him a job he enjoys.’ I am lucky, that’s for sure. I know if it weren’t a calling, I would have probably found something else along the way. It is a wonderful job and I am grateful for it.  I wanted to do his job.  My dream in high school was to be a hockey broadcaster.  God however had different plans for me.  But I am OK with that. He has brought me to a job that I really enjoy and in the process he has brought out gifts and interests that I wouldn’t have guessed were in there.  What do you do? How has God led you to that place.  How can He use you for His purposes in the place he has put you?  God’s plan is the best and if you trust it and see it develop, be grateful for how He is at work!

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A Dream Come True – Malcolm Subban – Boston Bruins

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Malcolm Subban made his NHL debut with the Bruins last night

Last night, Malcolm Subban made his NHL regular season debut.  Even though I have never played organized hockey at any level (other than floor hockey at my church), I did grow up in Canada and had the dream of what it would be like to play in the NHL, so I’m sure that Subban has long imagined what it would be like to suit up and play at the highest level of professional hockey in a meaningful game.  And while the game didn’t go quite like I’m sure it did in those dreams – he surrendered 3 quick second period goals and was pulled from the game for a stretch before returning in the third period – the fact that he made it is an accomplishment, and the challenges he faced will motivate him I’m sure to keep working hard to be even more successful in future outings.

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Subban against the Blues last night

I am a lifelong bruins fan and since starting this blog, I have had the joy of sharing the faith stories of a couple of key players on my favorite team.  Tim Thomas was a focus during the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship season, and Jarome Iginla was featured here last year.  I love to share the faith stories of any player I read about, but it carries an extra joy when it is a member of a team I already cheer for.

So to that end, I welcome Malcolm Subban to the NHL with my beloved Bruins.  Malcolm was a first round draft pick in 2012 and played his junior hockey with the Belleville Bulls.  It was during his time with the Bulls that Subban came to realize the importance of faith in God.  As you can read in this interview with hockey journal, chapel is an important time for Subban. When asked what the best advice he ever received was, Subban said “Know(ing) that He (God)is always there and there for you to talk to. Always have faith in God and keep your faith strong.”

He has chosen to reflect that faith on his goalie masks as well.  Check out last year’s full mask pictures here and this year’s here.

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Subban’s 2014 mask Grim Reaper and Psalm 23

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Subban’s 2013 mask Grim Reaper and James 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My takeaways from Subban’s story:

1- Meet them where they are at –  I want to thank and acknowledge all the chaplains at all levels of sport.  What an important and fantastic work God is doing through you. The sporting world is busy especially at the pro levels with travel, public appearances, practice, games and media.  Even is high school, college and in Subban’s case, Major Junior hockey, these chaplains bring God into the business and offer athletes, coaches and referees a chance to connect with the Creator of the Universe.  I pray for reminders to take God to the world around me so that they can encounter Him and see Him transform their life.

2- God is with us and his enemy is after us – Subban’s masks show the angel of death, or grim reaper.  Also included on the mask are bible references or verses that talk about God being with us in the midst of harship, challenges and attacks.  It is good to remember that the devil is on the prowl, “looking for souls devour”  but also that God is with us and He will bring us strength and comfort.

Fears Relieved – Jarome Iginla – Boston Bruins

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Boston Bruins forward Jarome Iginla

Today, I stick to my allegiances.  I’ve been a Boston Bruins fan since I was about 4 years old.  It brings me an extra measure of joy to write about a Bruin.

In many earlier posts, I’ve talked about names – my own name inspiring the title of this blog.  Jarome Iginla’s name is a memorable one, simply for its complexity.  His given birth name is Jarome Arthur Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla.  And each of those names has a purpose as you can read in this project created by a young fan of Iginla’s.

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Iginla has had a very successful career in the NHL

Iginla has had a long and well honored career.  He is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist (2002, 2010), and NHL MVP (2002), an All-Star (6 games and 3 end of season All-NHL teams),  a two-time Rocket Richard trophy winner (top goal scorer) to name a few.  And while he has never been on a Stanley Cup Champion team, I am hoping that this year will be the year.  Go Bruins!

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Known for his contagious smile and joyful attitude which is due to his faith in God.

Often referred to as a happy guy with an ever-present smile, Iginla enjoys playing hockey.  He credits his grandparents with supporting him when he was younger and encouraging him. And while his upbringing consisted of a many different religious influences (his mom is Buddhist, his dad was raised Muslim and later converted to Christianity, Iginla’s school days were spent at a Catholic school), he believed that God existed in some form.  But it was a question raised by a junior hockey teammate when Jarome was a teenager that caused him to do some thinking and soul-searching of his own.  His teammate asked “What if there is no God?” After struggling with this for a while, scared that there may not really be a God.  He told his dad about his fears.  His dad instructed Jarome to pray for peace and if he felt peace, he would have proof of God’s existence.  Jarome did, and his fears were eased.  And from there, Iginla has forged a personal relationship with God.

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Iginla with the Canadian 2010 gold medal Olympic team.

My takeaways from Iginla’s story:

1- Amazing Grace – God is patient with us, allowing us to question His very existence and giving us the choice to accept or reject Him.  And yet, when we ask Him to show Himself, He is faithful to let us know He is real, and so is His love.  I often feel drawn to people who grow up in church, and learn to go through the motions of Christianity, but without really stopping to consider and believe for themselves that He is real.   Who is God to you?  Do you really know and believe that He is real?  What difference is it making in your life? Is your relationship with Him your own, and not simply something you believe because your parents, grandparents or friends believe it?  God offers his amazing grace to each of us, no matter what we are facing or what fears we have, He desires for us to know Him and the comfort He offers in the midst of those fears.

2- Blessed Assurance -What happens when we die?  That is a question that we all struggle with at some point of our lives.  Maybe, like Iginla, we have a general understanding that there is a God, but what do we really know about Him.  As we come to know Him and understand who the true God really is, we choose whether we will accept Him and live as He calls us to, or reject Him and live for ourselves.  If we choose to follow God, even though it is a hard road to follow, we can be assured that our sins are forgiven, our penalty served and our place with God for eternity is secured.  When we know this, we, like Iginla, can be known for our smile and for the joy in our lives.  We can live joyfully because the life we live doesn’t need to overwhelm us, God is with us and there is nothing that He is unable to do.  And life will get even better when we die to this world and move to an eternity with the Lord of all Creation.

The More we Try to Fix it, the Worse it Seems to Get – Dan Ellis – Florida Panthers

imagesIn the 1990’s there was a very popular TV show called “Home Improvement”.  It starred Tim Allen as a handyman and TV show host who would try to use his skills to do a project, either a repair or a build.  And almost every time, the project would go awry and often lead to a spectacular fail.  And the more effort he would put into fixing the problem, the worse it seemed to get.  And we would learn quickly that this same problem presented itself in life outside his TV show.  When he would face problems in his marriage, parenting , friendships, planning, or many other areas of life, it would also not go as planned and would often lead to more turmoil.

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Dan Ellis was dealt from Dallas to Florida at the trade deadline

Dan Ellis, newly acquired goaltender for the Florida Panthers talked about this truth happening in his life too.   Check out the article from Chad Bonham at Inspiring Athletes.  Ellis talks about life spinning out of his control and how he, in a human reaction we can all relate to, would try to take control and fix the situation.  And the end result would be a reminder that he was not in control at all and had to lean on his faith in God to work out the best solution – and often God’s solution was better than seemed possible in the midst of the problem.  He sums it up by saying “Things that don’t make sense don’t need to because God the Father has a plan for us.  As we put our faith in Him, we will see that plan through and be better off than we ever could have imagined” 

Check out Ellis’ story from CBN:

Ellis’ career has been a journey.  Today’s trade means that Ellis will suit up for his 6th different NHL team in

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Ellis (in pads) at FCA camp in Omaha

his 11 year career.  But the 33 year old goaltender is glad to be in the NHL at all.  In high school he got into drugs and partying and that impacted his grades and his hockey game.  That meant there were no colleges offering scholarships, there was no major junior team looking at him.  He played junior hockey for the Omaha Lancers – not a common place for NHL scouts to hang out.  He says it was a way to travel around the U.S. for free before it was time to get a job.  But instead a scholarship offer came, and from that, he was drafted and has been in and around the NHL ever since.  He even holds the Nashville Predators record for longest shutout streak (233 minutes 39 seconds – just short of 4 games worth of shutout hockey).  I enjoyed reading his story.  God has been doing amazing things in Ellis’ life and continues to work out His plan.  Ellis enjoys sharing about his faith in God too, at events like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes hockey camps

Here are my takeaways from Ellis’ story.

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Ellis – here with the Hurricane – is in his 11th season.

1- We are terrible Handymen! –  And yet, even though we have failed so many times to right our situations on our own, we keep trying.  We are so hesitant to surrender control and lean on God for help.  We try to make things happen in our own time and by our own effort and then seem surprised when they fail or fall apart.  I pray that we can learn to trust God in all parts of our life.  His plan is always the best.  I shared the story of Jonah to a group of kids this week and it seems applicable to this story as well.  Jonah tried to carry out his own plan and it was a spectacular failure, but God’s plan ultimately prevailed and lives were changed for the better because of it.

2- Who do we strive to please? –  In the video above we hear this:

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Ellis pays tribute to his 2 kids and his faith in God on his hockey masks

The more he studied his Bible, the more he realized following Christ was the only way.  “The other way of living wasn’t helping me in any way.  It was maybe making me accepted with my friends but being accepted with your friends doesn’t really make your life work out. ” 

And yet we care so much about what others will think about us and the choices we make.  We are so nervous about fitting in and not rocking the boat, lest we find ourselves on the outside looking in.  But in reality, the worst “outside looking in” we can experience is missing out on the reward of heaven that awaits us for living for God.  He is the only one that we need to concern ourselves with and He is waiting and willing to help us live for Him.  It all comes down to surrender.  Are you willing to give up living for yourself and live for Him?  It is a challenge that will face us every day of our lives.  I pray that we will learn to surrender control and lean of God to fix our issues.  He is the ultimate handyman!

How does the World see you – Peter Budaj – Montreal Canadiens

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Habs Goalie – Peter Budaj

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Budaj’s mask featuring Ned Flanders

With the Olympics done and the NHL set to return to the hockey spotlight, I will try to tie to two together with this story of Peter Budaj and his eye-catching mask.  It started off innocently enough.  He was new to the NHL.   He was a back-up goalie for the Colorado Avalanche and was making the important decision of what artwork he would put on his mask.  An equipment manager for the Avalanche, who may not have had the best understanding of what true faith in God looks like, went to the best reference that he could think of.  He suggested Ned Flanders – the do-good, devout Christian neighbor of the Simpsons on the popular tv cartoon.  While Flanders may be a caricature of how the world views Christians, the point is not to be missed.  Even early in his career, Budaj had made his faith known enough that teammates and those associated with the team knew that it was an important part of who he is.

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Budaj was on Team Slovakia in 2014 – his 3rd Olympics

And though Budaj is not a fan of the Simpsons – according to this article from Living Light News, he has only seen about 15 minutes total of the show in his life.

Budaj, a three time Olympian for Slovakia – and the first Slovak goalie to reach 100 career wins was raised in a Christian home.  His dad told Peter just before he left to play hockey in Ontario, Canada at the age of 16 the decision was his – would he like to have a relationship with God or not.  Peter chose to hold tight to his faith and it has helped guide his life and career to this point.  He knows he has not lived a perfect life.  Like all of us, he slips up, but he also sees many opportunities to represent God and to help others know Him, too.  And how does he want to represent Christ?  He hopes that people will stop seeing God as a big bad God looking to strike people down, but instead to focus on God’s love and forgiveness, available to all.

Here are my takeaways from Budaj’s story.

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Budaj and Canadiens Teammate/Fellow Olympian Carey Price

1- Live out Loud – Steven Curtis Chapman sings a song by that name, and the point of it is that people should know us by our actions, by the love we have for each other.  Budaj’s actions spoke loud enough that those around him identified him as a Christian and even in an endearing way. We read in the article that he desires to represent God in a realistic and true way.  God is not the mean evil God looking to punish us the moment we stray.  He is a loving God who wants to know us and show his love for us.    How obvious is our faith to those around us?  Are we living out loud for God?  Do we represent God in such a way that those who do not know Him would be drawn to Him?

2- Our Own Choice – In the article, we read that Budaj’s dad challenged him to make his choice to follow God or not.  He was about to enter a world where depending heavily on faith in God would be important to avoid the trappings that come from success, celebrity, money and the world in general.  So when we read later that Budaj is careful in how he is raising his own son, striving to be a Christlike example so Peter Jr. will also be drawn to follow Christ.

We would love to be able to make the choice for our kids or others in this life that we love.  We can’t.  But the way we are living can help others discover who the true God really is.  That is a challenge worth taking on.